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Tax preparers work to shepherd returns on deadline day

At one office in New Hyde Park, tax preparers expected to file close to 50 returns on April 15.

Michael and Michelle Catalano of Little Neck were

Michael and Michelle Catalano of Little Neck were among the taxpayers at H&R Block in New Hyde Park on tax deadline day on Monday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Complications from having his appendix removed kept Michael Catalano from filing his income tax returns until Monday’s deadline, but he was happy to hear that he and his wife, Michelle, are getting a refund.

“I usually do them much earlier,” Catalano said at the H&R Block office in New Hyde Park. “Last year I did the taxes online in March, but we’re late this year because of my health. I’ve been in and out of the hospital since December.”

The couple from Little Neck, Queens, was among 27 clients who had been seen at  the H&R Block office on Hillside Avenue between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday. Another 20 or so were expected before the office was to close around 10 p.m., according to office manager Gary Tateosian.

Those taxpayers were among hundreds of Long Islanders rushing to file their federal and state income tax returns by midnight Monday. Many were adjusting to the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which reduced taxes for some, but also capped deductions of state and local taxes, or SALT, at $10,000.

“With all of the changes in the tax laws, we wanted to come in and work with someone to make sure everything is correct,” said Michael Catalano, who is retired. “I’m relieved because we’re getting back $1,000.”

According to tax preparers, the 2017 federal tax law has been a factor in late filings because some people are worried about having to write large checks due to SALT.

“There has been a delay because of the new law. … People are hearing stories about owing money,” said Shirley Feldman, a certified public accountant and Block tax preparer for 18 years. “A lot of people are paying this year because of SALT. And I am spending more time explaining the law to my clients, helping them to prepare for the future,” she said.

Feldman prepares about 1,000 returns annually; as of Monday afternoon, she had completed 912 so far this year. She advised against waiting until the last minute.

“Come in and do your return early,” Feldman said. “If you owe, you don’t have to pay immediately, you just have to pay by April 15. You will reduce your stress if you don’t wait until the end," she said.

Jeany Mordente, a retired secretary from New Hyde Park, had hoped to have her tax returns filed before Monday, but she said medical appointments got in the way.

“My sister and I got distracted with medical issues,” she said during her first visit to the Block office. “But it was a very good experience. It was nice and easy.”

Mordente said she will be receiving a combined federal/state refund of $1,300, which she plans to use for an overnight visit to the Jake’s 58 casino in Islandia to mark her sister’s 80th birthday.

“It would be nice to celebrate instead of using the money to pay doctors' bills and hospital bills,” Mordente said.

At 5 p.m. Monday an additional tax preparer joined the four already working in the Block office. Up to seven preparers would be helping clients as the filing deadline approached.

"We're expecting the waiting room to be filled in a couple of hours," said Tateosian, the office manager. "And we're prepared for the last-minute rush."

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