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Tax procrastinators make every minute count

By Bob Freund

The Post-Bulletin

No matter what figures might eventually appear on your income tax forms, it’s now time to think about the number "4868" — that is, if your federal return isn’t started.

That’s the number of the "Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return" form. The short form gives taxpayers until mid-October to finish filing their annual duty to Uncle Sam.

There is one important caution, though. "We tell them it’s an extension to file, not to pay," said James Stewart, tax resolution representative for the Internal Revenue Service office at Rochester.

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Of course, many tax procrastinators still can beat tonight’s deadline for 2006 returns — which is 11:59:59 p.m. — by computer.

Not that procrastination is always a problem. In fact, it’s been a great year for procrastinators with a purpose, such as Sid Melder of Dodge Center. He planned to wait until close to the last day, "because I owe (taxes)," he said at the Rochester Post Office about noon Monday. He and others writing checks were able to keep their money two days longer than the typical April 15 deadline because of some IRS-recognized holidays on the East Coast.

Another mailer at the post office Monday said she had stayed up until 2 a.m. Monday morning working on her returns.

Customer service manager Randy Lindman said traffic at clerk counters was particularly brisk Friday, Saturday and Monday. He said they expect to have a large amount of patrons today and are geared up for it.

At the same time, electronic filing has cut the numbers of mailed-in returns. At last count, 79 percent of federal returns filed by Minnesotans — or just less than 1.3 million,— had arrived electronically, the IRS figured.

Lately, Stewart says he and another representative have been aiding between 40 and 60 people a day face-to-face at the Rochester IRS office. Today "We may get a lot of people dropping off returns," he said.

The last opportunity in Rochester to meet the IRS deadline by mail will be at the Postal Service’s processing center, 3939 Valleyhigh Road. Returns dropped off there by midnight will be postmarked on April 17, manager Dave Krage said.

Many handy returns

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Many tax returns are too thick to be handled by the automatic stamp canceling machines at the U.S. Postal Service regional mail processing plant in Rochester. Workers cancel between 6,000 and 9,000 pieces by hand each day on average. "Tonight (Monday), we’ll probably have 11 or 12,000 hand-cancels," or as many as double the normal flow, Rochester mail processing manager Dave Krage said Monday.

He estimated the plant on the city’s northwest side would cancel 140,000 to 150,000 pieces of letter mail Monday and about 130,000 today. That’s up from 110,000 on Friday.

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