Post Office Gears Up for Tax Latecomers

Times Staff Writer

It’s April 15. Do you know where your tax returns are?

Midnight tonight is the income tax deadline, and the post office is ready.

“This happens every year. Same thing, same people . . . we’re expecting lines all day Tuesday,” said Gerald Vega, San Diego County’s public affairs officer for the U.S. Postal Service.

Vega said that three Postal Service locations in San Diego County will accept and postmark returns until midnight tonight. They are:

San Diego Main Post Office, 2535 Midway Drive; the Main Post Office in El Cajon, 401 W. Lexington Ave., and the Main Post Office in Oceanside, 211 Brooks St.

Those post offices will close at 5 p.m., but anyone coming after that time can drop their tax returns off until midnight at a drive-by location in front of each post office, he said.

And if you’re one minute after midnight?

“That’s too bad,” Vega said.

Shirley Nakagawa, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service, said late filers must pay 5% of their overdue balance every month as a penalty, up to a maximum of 25% of the unpaid balance. In addition, interest at 10% annually must be paid.

In case anyone thinks he can relax and watch the debt rise without paying a penny, Nakagawa said, the IRS “doesn’t just forget about them,” but sends repeated notices and, if necessary, will initiate a lien on one’s property or take other procedures to recover the balance.

For the taxpayer who is expecting a refund but is late filing a return, there is nothing to worry about.

“If you’ve got money coming back, we’re not going to penalize you. We’d prefer you didn’t file so that we don’t have to give you that money,” said Steve Santa Ana, an IRS employee.

Finally, Vega said, the IRS will not pay postage on returns mailed with insufficient postage.

“To minimize delays and any resulting penalties for late filings due to IRS refusal to pay charges for mail with insufficient postage, customers are urged to mail early and, if necessary, to check with postal clerks to ensure proper postage,” he said.