GREENFIELD — Forget Christmas in July. Christmas comes April 16 for accountants and tax preparers who are swamped with last-minute filers.
With just a few days left before the April 17 filing deadline, tax professionals are staying open extra hours to get through the onslaught of last-minute preparations.
“It’s been very busy,” said Timothy Plunkett, owner of Liberty Tax Service in Greenfield.
Plunkett’s office is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and is even open on Sundays. It’s the only way to finish all of the returns yet to be filed.
“We work a lot of hours those four months,” Plunkett said.
Many of those extra hours are to accommodate procrastinators, like Della Turnbill.
On Wednesday, Turnbill was having her taxes done at the temporary Jackson Hewitt station set up inside Wal-Mart. Turnbill said she normally does the taxes herself but had too much going on this year to do it. Instead, she sought professional help.
“Doing it yourself is cheaper, and I’ve always done it that way, but this year, it was worth it to have them done,” Turnbill said.
Turnbill said she waited until the last minute because she knew she wouldn’t be getting any money back.
“I always have to pay,” she said.
Filers who owe taxes make up the majority of those waiting until the last minute, said Plunkett. He said his office was busier earlier in the tax season than in years past, primarily with people anticipating refunds.
“People needed the money back quicker,” he said.
For the inevitable procrastinators, a two-day extension to the April 15 filing deadline has been granted. Internal Revenue Service statistics show tens of thousands of people have yet to file – a pace similar to last year.
More than 30 percent of taxpayers filed the week before Tax Day or later via extensions in 2011. Six-month filing extensions are granted automatically, giving taxpayers until Oct. 15 to get their taxes figured. But for those who owe, you still have to pay by April 17.
If you do know you owe, Plunkett suggests not waiting until the last minute to have your taxes done.
“If you owe money and come in February, you have two months to figure out how to pay it,” he said. “If you come in with a week left, you have a week to figure out how to pay it.”
Leslie Smith already knows how she’ll be paying up. Smith said that until she can claim an exemption for her English Bulldog named Radar, she and her husband will be paying taxes, not getting them back.
“We make too much and don’t have any kids,” she said. “We’ve been saving up, but we’re just not going to pay them until the last minute.”
If you, too, have waited until the last minute, there is still time. If you’re having taxes professionally prepared, Plunkett suggests calling ahead. It will reduce wait times and ensure a preparer knowledgeable of your situation is waiting and available.
For those doing taxes online, use a reputable software. It should walk you through trouble spots, and many now offer assistance by phone or online.
For those who qualify, the state is offering free filing for federal and state taxes online. For available software and qualifications standards, visit irs.gove/freefile.