Rush to file routine

Amy Westfeldt and Amy Westfeldt

NEW YORK — Like thousands of Americans lining up at post offices yesterday, Tom Petrany said he had a good reason to wait until the last minute to file his tax return: He wanted to hang on to his money for as long as possible.

“Not much of a (federal) refund this year — and on the state you’ve always got to pay something,” said Petrany, 41, standing at the city’s main post office and leaning over his tax forms. Across the country, the annual rush was in full swing as Americans scrambled to file their tax returns by the midnight deadline.

Of 132 million returns filed nationally, 28 million are filed the week before the deadline, Internal Revenue Service spokesman Kevin McKeon said. That includes some of the 47 million people or so who are now filing their returns by computer, he said. Waiting in line at an Indianapolis post office, Scott Miller wasn’t sure why he always waits so long to file.

“I’ve been doing it on the last day for 30 years,” said Miller, 48. “I did them a week ago, but I’m just dropping them off today. It’s just tradition, I guess.”

In downtown Chicago, illegally parked cars began lining up outside of the main postal facility around noon.

“I had my taxes done last Friday, but I procrastinated,” said Art Gutierrez, with one eye on a refreshment stand offering free popcorn and soda. “I don’t know why. I always say I’ll change and file earlier, but I don’t.”

If taxpayers are still procrastinating, at least some aren’t waiting in line any more. In the Latham post office outside Albany, N.Y., officer-in-charge JoAnne Swint said more people have been doing their taxes electronically, shortening the lines there.

Some who don’t like the way the government spends money urged people not to pay. Members of the War Resisters League stood outside an IRS office in New York, handing out fliers with pie charts listing how much tax money is spent on the military, schools and social services.

Priscilla Backman, 80, said some members submit returns that subtract the part of their federal payment that they estimate would go to defense.

In Los Angeles, 72-year-old Marilyn Alex cited a similar reason for filing on April 15 for the first time in her life. “I’d just as soon not give Mr. Bush another penny for his war,” she said.