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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 7, 2007

Done your taxes yet?

By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

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It's coming down to the wire for filing your 2006 federal tax return. Here are some tips:

  • Get started sooner rather than later. The IRS estimates it takes the average form 1040 return filer 30.3 hours a year to keep records, do tax planning, complete forms and submit them. The form completion portion of this is 3.7 hours.

  • If you use a tax preparer, try to set up an appointment. If they are booked up, you'll have to walk in and wait.

  • Tax forms can be downloaded and printed out from the irs.gov site.

  • If your adjusted gross income was $52,000 or less you can prepare and electronically file federal returns for free using the IRS' Free File program. You can access the program by going to the irs.gov Web site and clicking on the Free File link at the top of the page.

  • The U.S. Postal Service will have late mail pickup on April 17 at 25 post offices on O'ahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kaua'i, Moloka'i and Lana'i.

  • You can drop off state returns until midnight April 20 at the state Department of Taxation offices at the corner of Punchbowl and Halekauwila streets in Honolulu.

  • If you need more time, get a form 4868 for a federal return extension. If you owe taxes, you'll have to pay the estimated levy when you file the form. But you'll get six months to complete your return. For state returns, the form number is N-101.

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    The one-time federal telephone excise tax refund can be claimed as a standard refund amount ranging from $30 to $60 if you don't want to total up how much tax you paid.

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    The earned income tax credit is worth up to $4,536 depending on income and family status. This credit is available to low- and moderateincome taxpayers.

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  • The federal income tax deadline this year is April 17 because April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is a holiday in Washington, D.C.

  • The state income tax deadline is April 20.

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    Anyone who is due a refund for 2003 will lose it if it is not claimed by April 17, 2007, says accountant David Ramirez.

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    Tax procrastinators, you're not alone.

    That may be little solace to people staring at a stack of tax papers and wondering if they'll be finished by this year's midnight April 17 deadline.

    About 215,000 Hawai'i taxpayers probably have waited until the last two weeks to file their returns this year, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The tax agency said a substantial number of taxpayers nationwide drag their feet in filing their 1040 and other annual tax reports.

    What's more, about 63,500 are expected to file for the automatic six-month tax extension to send in the returns. In all, the IRS projects it will receive 655,300 individual income tax returns from Hawai'i this year.

    "On a national scope, about one-third of taxpayers send in their returns in the last two weeks," said IRS spokeswoman Judy Monahan. "I'm sure Hawai'i fits in with that."

    You don't need to tell local taxpayers it's crunch time. David Ramirez, owner of Tax Relief Services and Jackson Hewitt locations on O'ahu, said his appointment book for the remainder of the tax season was filled three weeks ago. He said that still his office tries to help people walking in off the street with their tax documents, part of a seeming trend of waiting later to do taxes.

    "It seems like they're waiting longer and longer every year," said Ramirez, who had four people outside his office waiting for tax help on Friday morning.

    "We seem to have a lot more people trying to make appointments in the last couple weeks."

    One extreme example of tardy tax filing happened several years ago at Hank Erwin's Taxbusters office. He said someone showed up at 10 p.m. on April 15 as he was trying to finish up the last of his clients' tax returns. The man waited for Erwin to complete the work and his returns were finished with little time to spare.

    "He ran out out at 11:20 to get to the post office," Erwin said. He said that in most years the work is done by 8 p.m. on the deadline day. People either pick up the returns and rush off to one of the post offices still handling mail, or have the return zipped electronically to the IRS.

    Erwin anticipates his six offices will shift into overdrive next week and that walk-ins will fill his lobbies on April 17.

    "No matter what, it's going to be a busy week next week," said Erwin.

    Some people won't be able to get their returns completed by the deadline.

    In those cases, Ramirez files an extension for the taxpayer and completes the work later.

    People also face a deadline of midnight April 20 for getting their Hawai'i state returns completed and in the mail.

    Like Ramirez, Erwin said most people who are owed refunds file earlier in the year, and those who owe Uncle Sam money wait longer to have their taxes done. Erwin said that even though some people who are owed money come in late, the amount of the refund is generally smaller than those filing earlier in the season.

    Ramirez's office will be open Saturday and Sunday next weekend, while Erwin said he'll have Saturday hours.

    "I don't open on Sundays ever. That's just me."

    Reach Greg Wiles at gwiles@honoluluadvertiser.com.