Rush to beat later-than-usual tax deadline

Maria Menacho files her taxes at the Freeport

Maria Menacho files her taxes at the Freeport library on Monday. (April 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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Even with two extra days to file their tax returns, procrastinators remain.

Federal and state taxes are due Tuesday, two days later than usual, because April 15 fell on Sunday, and because of Monday's observance in Washington, D.C., of a local holiday, Emancipation Day.

"There are people that if the deadline was June 30, we'd be doing this on June 30," said Peter Wunsch, an East Northport certified public accountant.

Local tax professionals say they expect a steady flow of last-minute filers Tuesday. The reasons run the gamut. Some have been consumed with life's emergencies. Others say they had to wait until they had money to pay the government.

Maria Menacho, 51, came to the Town of Hempstead's Freeport e-file site at the public library Monday, where IRS-certified volunteers provide free tax preparation for low- to moderate-income taxpayers. Menacho, who does jobs like cleaning and baby-sitting, usually files and pays her taxes in February and March. Work has been slow, so she didn't have the money to pay until now, she said.

And then there's Danielle Armstrong, 25, of Huntington, a full-time student who decided this was the year she would claim her independence and file separately from her parents' return.

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"I got all of the paperwork together early on," she said as she sat at a Hicksville H&R Block on Friday, and " . . . I just forgot."

Some people, tax professionals say, are just plain "taxophobic."

Some of the fear may be unwarranted: Millions in deductions and credits go unclaimed by low- and moderate-income families, said Robert Suarez, assistant vice president of community development for Bethpage Federal Credit Union. Bethpage's IRS-certified free tax preparation program brought back about $1.8 million in refunds to the Long Island economy in 2011, he said.

Tax preparation can help clients learn how to plan their finances and, in many cases, achieve financial stability, tax professionals said. Preparing taxes early allows time to plan payments if they do owe, said Carol Lodigkeit, an enrolled agent at the Hicksville H&R Block.

As of Monday morning, about 166,000 returns, or less than 2 percent of tax returns statewide, were outstanding, said Geoff Gloak, spokesman for the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Of returns that have been filed, about 91 percent were submitted electronically.

Those who are just starting to gather their paperwork might do better to file an extension, said Craig J. Wild, a Woodbury certified public accountant. "People forget documents, forget potential tax deductions because they are under pressure to get this done, as are the preparers."

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