ANNAPOLIS – Some 600,000 Marylanders filed their federal and state tax returns Thursday – the last day to file without penalties.
“We’re actually a little ahead of where we were last year,” said Michael Golden, spokesman for the Maryland Comptroller of the Treasury.
A tax cut that meant greater refunds prompted 100,000 state taxpayers to file earlier, easing the burden, Golden said.
About 300,000 people were expected to file their returns electronically this year – up 32 percent, he said.
“As more people acquire home (personal computers) and the word gets out about how efficient e-filing is, the more popular it will become,” Golden said.
“E-filing” cuts processing time at the comptroller’s office and speeds up the time it takes to get a refund, he said. If two individuals filed yesterday – one electronically and one the “old paper and snail mail” way, the electronic filer could have a return by Monday using direct deposit. The other filer might have to wait more than a month.
Regardless of how the taxpayer filed, Golden added, all returns will be processed as quickly as possible and all refunds should be sent out by June.
Taxpayers failing to file their state or federal returns or failing to file an extension by April 15 will have to pay any tax owed plus a penalty. In Maryland that’s an additional 13 percent of the unpaid tax. More penalties accrue the later an individual files. If a Maryland taxpayer refuses to pay, the state can place a lien on the person’s earnings or take them to court, Golden said.
To help last-minute filers avoid expensive fines, main postal offices throughout Maryland extended normal business hours Thursday until midnight.
In Annapolis, postal carriers stood outside – one at Church Circle and one on Northwest Street – to collect returns from people driving by in their cars.
“It’s the one day people absolutely love the Postal Service,” said Annapolis Postmaster Barry Riggins. “That is, they love us until two minutes after midnight!”
Even if people get their returns to the post office one-second before midnight, Riggins said, taxpayers could be assured that their returns would be on time.
“We will be working into the wee hours, but it will have a postmark of the 15th.”
Federal and state tax representatives also set up shop at the Annapolis post office to help procrastinating filers with their questions. Last year, about 129 people completed their tax returns in the post office lobby.
Even with all the added help, some people were still stressed about getting their forms completed on time. Early yesterday afternoon, a policeman rushed into the post office lobby to search through the boxes of forms.
“I’m looking for an extension form, but nobody’s got `em,” he said over his shoulder as he rushed out the door. Other taxpayers took the deadline in stride. Laurie Santoro dropped her returns in the mail slot around noon. She said that it took her longer than usual because she lived in Maryland and Washington last year. “I couldn’t get the D.C. form, so I kept putting them all off,” she said. “But I only had myself to worry about, so I knew I could get it done.” Christian Moser, a student at St. John’s College, sauntered into the post office after midday to pick up a 1040EZ. It wasn’t the first time he had waited until the last day to file, but he wasn’t worried. “I don’t have too much work to do,” he said with a shrug. “I only have two W2s.” -30-