Wednesday, April 14, 1999

Isle taxpayers
electronic filing

Area post offices await
last-minute rush tomorrow

By Russ Lynch


As post offices and Internal Revenue Service personnel in the islands prepare to work overtime tomorrow, the federal tax-return deadline, Hawaii taxpayers already have rushed to file electronically.

Those electronic filers due refunds are getting them quicker, particularly if they let the government deposit the money directly into their bank accounts, according to IRS officials.

As of Saturday, 69,405 electronic returns for Hawaii were filed by professional tax preparers, up 56 percent from 34,911 returns at the same time last year, said Shawn George, a regional IRS spokeswoman in Seattle. She said 6,360 returns were filed online by taxpayers using their own computers and authorized software, up 135 percent from 2,701 last year.

The only electronic category to slip this year was tele-filing, in which taxpayers using the simple forms use a push-button telephone system to file. Through Saturday, 15,362 returns had been filed that way, down 16.3 percent from 18,363 a year ago.

Total electronic filing from Hawaii was up 62.9 percent at 91,127 returns this year vs. 55,975 at the same time last year.

So far, 257,600 returns from Hawaii were filed on paper so that means electronically filed returns equal 26 percent of the total returns to date.

Still, the U.S. Postal Service is getting ready for the annual last-minute rush.

Last year, 130,000 federal tax returns were dropped at Hawaii post offices on April 15, and Honolulu Postmaster Edward Broglio said he expects much the same this year.

"The number of people who have to pay stays pretty constant and there are also those who just procrastinate until the last day," Broglio said.

Two Honolulu offices will have curbside pickups tomorrow -- the main post office at Honolulu Airport and the downtown station at King and Richards streets. Postal employees will be outside until midnight, picking up returns directly from drivers. As long as they're in the postal workers' hands by midnight they will be postmarked April 15.

Many other Hawaii post offices also will give an April 15 postmark to returns deposited in the outside collection boxes before midnight.

Broglio issued one major caution, echoed by state tax officials: make sure you put enough stamps on the package, or your return will be delayed.

As the state filing deadline of April 20 approaches, Hawaii Department of Taxation employees are also getting ready for the last-minute rush.

State volunteers will pick up returns curbside on the Halekauwila and Punchbowl sides of the state tax office Tuesday, from 5 p.m. to midnight, said June Yamamoto, manager of taxpayer services.

She reminds taxpayers that the Post Office doesn't stay open late on state tax day, so people should mail early.

"Make sure your address is correct on the return," Yamamoto added. Even if a resident who moved filed a change of address form with the Post Office, refund checks will not be forwarded to that address unless it is the same as the one on the form, she said.

The state tax department will also accept returns delivered by commercial freight carriers Airborne Express, DHL Worldwide Express, Federal Express and United Parcel Service. As long as the freight service signs April 20 as the date it received the package, it will be treated as within the state deadline even if it is delivered later, Yamamoto said.

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