Two extra days make procrastinators happy

LAWRENCEVILLE - Look at the date at the top of this page. It says April 15.

There was something you meant to do by April 15, wasn't there? Oh, that's right - taxes are due!

If you've forgotten tax day this year - and it's more likely that you've been trying to ignore it than that it's escaped your memory - don't panic. Because today's Saturday (that is why you're still in your pajamas, isn't it?), one of the most notorious dates on Americans' calendars has been delayed two days.

Thank goodness.

For you procrastinators out there, that means no mad rush to the post office tonight to mail off your tax return. Instead, the lines that snake around the building will be saved for Monday, as 13 metro Atlanta post offices will keep their doors open until midnight to make sure everyone gets that all-important April 17 postmark.

In Gwinnett, only the Boggs Road Postal Store will be open late. The Duluth post office, at 1605 Boggs Road, will be staffed from 9 a.m. until midnight.

It's been a few years since April 15 fell on a weekend. Michael Miles, communications director for the Atlanta district of the U.S. Postal Service, said some people don't know about the altered due date. Still, he expects to get more than 2 million pieces of mail through area post offices Monday, his busiest day of the year.

"I've gotten some calls that suggest that people aren't necessarily aware of the deadline," he said. "I'm really surprised. April 15 is a date that gets on all the calendars."

Lines were moving quickly at the Patterson Road Post Office on Friday afternoon, and most of the people there had already mailed off their taxes. Cheryl Skelton thought she'd get a refund, and has been done since February, while Angie Hendrickson did hers online Thursday.

But Mary Pugh, Ricardo Ferrari, and 30 percent of all taxpayers had not filed their taxes by the middle of last week, according to a survey by tax preparation and consulting service H&R Block.

Heather Albert, a local district manager at the company, said filers tend to be divided into two groups: those who are anticipating a refund file their tax returns early, while the procrastinators often don't want to acknowledge that they owe the government money.

"If they think they owe and they don't want to face it, they put it off and put it off," she said. "The majority of people have a feeling. If they're pretty sure they're going to owe, they put off finding out their destiny until the last minute."

Albert said the Easter weekend, when even procrastinators want to spend time with their families, will only add to the rush at the end. H&R Block will be open Sunday, she said, and until 10 p.m. Monday, or until the last filer comes through.

Miles said he has even seen people show up at the post office on filing day looking for forms and filling them out as they stood in line. The same habits that cause people to delay until the 15th each year will cause them to wait until the 17th instead.

"It's human nature," he said.

The governor's office is trying to ease the pain with some new tax breaks - a $15,000 retirement income exemption for taxpayers over 62 and a $250 teacher tax cut for the purchase of school supplies - but even the governor's claim that Georgia taxpayers have one of the lowest state tax burdens in the nation doesn't make local residents keen on paying their taxes.

Skelton said she wished there was more accountability for the money the government spends, and Pugh, who mailed her taxes Friday, said she wouldn't mind paying if she thought the money was being used wisely.

But even though she usually waits until nearly the last minute to send them off, she isn't trying to avoid it, Pugh said - a busy life just gets in the way.

Hendrickson said taxes are just a necessity.

"It's the only thing that's constant in this world," she said.

Well, not exactly. After all, if it was constant, you'd be changing out of your pajamas and rushing to the post office, tax forms in hand. After all, it is April 15.