Tax filers rush to beat clock

April 15, 1997


Staff Writer

With the midnight tax deadline just hours away Tuesday afternoon, people streamed into the post office to mail their returns.

Others were still calculating their taxes.

Hagerstown resident Lenny Hudler scooped up a dozen forms from a table in the lobby of the post office on West Franklin Street.

"I didn't know what form to pick, so I'm getting them all," he said.

Hudler's excuse for waiting until the last minute was the same as that of many taxpayers who filed through the post office Tuesday: procrastination.


Even taxpayers who will receive a refund from Uncle Sam were not immune. Hagerstown resident Gary Grimes said he is happy to be getting a refund - even if he'll have to wait a little longer than if he had filed earlier.

"It's easier to get it than it is to pay," he said.

For Gary Piercy, Tax Day 1997 was an adventure that began at home in Arlington, Va., where he moved last year. Piercy needed forms from three states - Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the headache of filling out part-year resident forms, Piercy said he also sold some stock, which required additional paperwork. Due to the complexity, he said he paid $125 to have his taxes professionally calculated.

"It was any ugly year for taxes - an expensive year to get them done," he said. "One day, I'll break the procrastination."

Baltimore resident Mike Lavin, who works in Hagerstown, said he had to write a check to the government on Tuesday. Even though his money earned interest until the last possible day, he admitted that was not the real reason for the delay.

"I didn't really look at it that way," he said. "I was just so busy."

For many accountants, the tax crunch will continue, at least for another few weeks.

Taxpayers are not the only group relieved to see the end of tax season. Several accounting firms celebrate by closing their offices the first Friday after the tax deadline.

Accountants who handle business clients will remain busy until the end of the month. They'll be preparing tax filings that businesses must make at the end of the first quarter.

After that, however, most can relax.

"Tax season rolls all the way through April," said Jef Bohn, a partner with Smith, Elliott, Kearns & Co. "Then, basically, it's golf season."

After three months of 60-plus-hour weeks, Bohn said a group from the office takes a week-long golf trip to North Carolina. This will be the 10th straight year for the trip, he said.

Bohn said this was a banner year for the firm. He said tax preparers handled a record number of tax returns. And while February, March and April are extremely hectic, Bohn said they are also the months when the firm brings in the most money.

"Tax season is like harvest for the farmer," he said.

Accountant Jeffery Fehlauer said he is looking forward to not having to work 10 to 12 hours every day.

"You go from crazy work hours - 55 or 60 hours a week - down to normal hours," he said.

Just one indication of how busy accountants are: Frank Park said he has put in 40-hour weeks since February even though he has been semi-retired since merging with Bachtell & Co.

Still, he pointed out, he did not have to work most weekends or holidays and even got a two-week vacation in February.

"I'm the unusual of the CPAs," he said.

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