Delayed tax day is mixed blessing

Delayed tax day is mixed blessing

April 15th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

STILL HAVEN'T FILED?

Because of a Washington, D.C., holiday, tax day falls on April 18 this year. The IRS estimates 600,000 Tennesseans waited until April to file their tax returns, but there's help for those scrambling to avoid late-filing penalties.

• Individuals whose household income was less than $58,000 can use free tax software and file online at IRS.gov.

Anyone who is 60 or older or whose household income was less than $49,000 can get free tax preparation and e-filing at the following locations:

• 5740 Uptain Road on weekdays until 6 p.m., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

• Northgate Mall on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 18 from 1 to 6 p.m.

A Washington, D.C., holiday this year pushes tax day back to April 18, giving taxpayers an extra three days to file their returns and accountants an extra weekend of work.

For accountant Adam Stafford, that extension means a full 72 hours of extra work as his office stays open 24/7 Friday through Monday's filing deadline.

"We have a little slumber party to make sure everyone gets a chance to get their taxes in," said Stafford, the district manager of Liberty Tax Service's offices in Ringgold and Dalton, Ga.

All three of the company's offices in that area will be fully staffed during most hours, complete with a sign-waver dressed as the Statue of Liberty stationed out front.

Last year, Stafford and company processed 62 returns during their three-day marathon filing, and they hope to beat that number this weekend.

Lots of taxpayers put off returns until the last possible day worrying they will owe money, Stafford said, but their concerns often are unfounded. Thanks to itemized deductions and new pay credits, filers normally end up seeing a return.

"Everybody gets a little bit nervous when they go to prepare their tax return and file it. It's complicated, it's expensive and it's just a time of reckoning that we have to deal with each and every year," Certified Public Accountant Henry Hoss said.

Accountants at Barto, Hoss & Company said this is their busiest time of year, but their hope is to avoid the Saturday and Sunday work Liberty employees are looking forward to.

"Our goal, our plan, our focus is to have all the extensions filed and all the returns finished by Friday at 5 o'clock," Hoss said.

The two weeks before the individual tax return deadline are always the busiest of the year, according to CPA Kimberly Hutchinson of Hutchinson & Wells. Her firm does about 65 percent of its annual business during those weeks.

The firm has about 1,400 clients, and each return averages about three hours of work. Several of the 10 staff members have been working 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. schedules all week as they scramble to finish returns before Monday's deadline. Some even plan to work straight through the weekend.

"We're all grateful for the work. This is how we feed our families," Hutchinson said. "You can probably hear a little tiredness in my voice, but at the same time all of us are jubilant."

Because of the weekend work, Hutchinson said the extension is a "mixed blessing."

"Some of our clients decided to come in a little late and then say, 'Well, you have an extra weekend. Couldn't you get it done?'" Hutchinson said. "I almost would have rather that we had the extra days and not had it publicly broadcast so that we knew and no one else."