It happens every April.
People around the country wake up, look at the calendar and are
filled a sense of panic instilled by the thought of tax returns.
Thursday was the deadline to file state and federal tax returns on
2003 income, and people in Newport-Mesa who hadn't done so already
converged on tax preparation services and post offices to have their
forms filled out and sent off.
"We are looking out the window right now and people are outside in
the car lined up because they procrastinated until the last minute,"
said the aptly named Dave Tax, a Newport Beach tax preparer.
The main post office in Newport Beach planned for lines of
customers all day, although crowds have decreased in recent years
since online filing has become more popular, Newport Beach Postmaster
Dennis McKeown said.
"It's gotten a little bit lighter because I think the accounting
firms are doing a lot of it electronically," he said. "However,
there's still a lot of people doing last-minute returns and there's
still a lot of people coming in and getting forms."
By the early afternoon, things had slowed at the Mesa Center post
office on Fairview Road in Costa Mesa. The parking lot was full, but
many of the dozen or so customers inside were mailing packages rather
than fumbling with tax forms.
One customer, however, was examining with dismay the table that
held a depleted supply of tax forms.
"I've done my federal [taxes] but I can't do my California [taxes]
because I need a number to e-file," said Jason James of Costa Mesa.
"I just went to H&R; Block, and they won't let you do your state
unless you're doing your federal, too."
He found a state tax form for nonresidents, but little else was
left Thursday afternoon. James said he would probably still try to
file his state taxes online to get them in on time.
Another last-minute taxpayer was Costa Mesa resident Joshua Gray,
who was putting his tax form in an envelope he had decorated with a
"I usually wait till the last minute," he said. "I'm a
procrastinator, plus I owe money."
The Costa Mesa office saw a steady stream of people buying postage
to mail their taxes, but it wasn't overwhelmed with customers,
station manager Dennis Whipple said.
Because of decreasing demand at many locations, just two Santa Ana
post offices keep extended hours, but McKeown said local branches do
have extra staff on duty and they offer stepped-up service, emptying
mail drop boxes more often and sorting the tax returns into federal
and state groupings before sending them off.
McKeown said many customers have their tax forms ready to go, but
they choose to wait in line for a personal assurance that someone is
taking care of such important mail.
"A lot of people, they'll have their envelope ready and they'll be
stamped, and they just want to hand them to somebody," he said.