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Darlene Scott sat patiently for about an hour Wednesday at the Lancaster County Community Center, waiting to see someone who could prepare her tax return.
This year, the Lancaster resident decided to use AARP’s free tax service. She figured she’d end up owing taxes this year and didn’t want to spend more money paying a tax preparer.
Because she thought she owed money, Scott waited to the last day to file. She wasn’t alone.
Wednesday was Tax Day, the last day to file your returns for the 2008 tax year or to request an extension.
People around the county rushed to gather their needed documentation while the tax preparers made sure their work was finished by the midnight deadline.
“I really procrastinated,” said Scott, who has done her own taxes in the past.
Given the slumping economy, Scott believes automatic extensions should have been given to everyone this year. She said the ordinary working person gets the short end of the stick.
“They’re bailing out banks and everybody else,” Scott said. “Why can’t you help taxpayers?”
Jason Craig, who lives in Kershaw, let AARP tax aides complete his tax return as well.
“The economy’s bad and I have no money,” he said. “I might as well come up here and save $30 or $40.”
Stellar Witherspoon of Witherspoon’s Accounting & Tax Service said her business served more than 100 clients from Monday through Wednesday. Several others came in to file an extension.
She said a lot of people were late simply because they couldn’t find their W2s and related paperwork.
“We have a lot of that,” she said.
Witherspoon also believes some waited until the last minute just to prolong having to pay taxes. She has seen several people withdraw money from 401(k) and other accounts prematurely, resulting in fees – all in an effort to make ends meet.
The post office
On Tax Day, post offices are usually busy, but Steve Place, acting postmaster at the Lancaster location, said there wasn’t a larger-than-normal crowd.
“It’s gone very smoothly,” Place said. “Traffic has been steady but never overwhelming.”
Place said there was always a postal worker at the window Wednesday. The Lancaster post office also had a special way of sorting tax-related mail designated for Atlanta, Columbia, Raleigh, N.C., and other locations.
Place said it was a lot calmer here Wednesday than other places he’s worked – namely the post office in uptown Charlotte, which is always crowded on Tax Day.
Unlike some locations in Charlotte, the Lancaster post office did not extend hours Wednesday.
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 283-1152