Arthur Bennett, of Belleville, was one of the many local residents rushing on Sunday to get their income tax return filed before Monday's deadline.
Bennett beat the deadline with the help of a tax adviser with H&R Block in Swansea. He said a hectic work schedule and a recent move from Maryland had kept him from filing sooner.
While Bennett could have waited until midnight to file online Monday, H&R Block tax adviser Laurel Ruhmann strongly cautions against procrastinating to avoid rushed mistakes or stiff penalties for missing the deadline.
"One thing about doing your return the last minute is people make mistakes and miss deductions," Ruhmann said. "You don't want to leave money on the table. It's better in your pocket than with the federal government."
It is especially important for residents without health insurance to file their income tax return, Ruhmann said. This year's returns will be used in determining qualifications for those eligible to receive health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act in 2014.
The self-employed, those with multiple dependents, low-income households and those who have had "life changes" in the past year, such as marriage or a new child, should also seek refunds by filing their return.
H&R Block offices have extended business hours to accommodate last-minute customers and welcome walk-ins, but encourage clients to schedule appointments to avoid waiting.
Ruhmann said the office plans to stay open until at least 10 p.m. Monday. "We will stay until all the customers are taken care of," Ruhmann said. "If it's midnight, then we'll stay until midnight."
The company and others have a heavy load on their shoulders to help with the hundreds of thousands of local returns. More than 237,000 tax returns were filed in St. Clair, Madison and Monroe counties in 2009, the latest available record from the Internal Revenue Service. Residents in those counties filed income taxes totaling more than $9.8 million in local wages and salaries.
Statewide, more than 5.3 million returns were filed encompassing more than $239 million in wages and salaries.
Need more time?
Six-month extensions to avoid penalties are available by filing a Form 4868 online at IRS.gov, using tax-preparation software or by filing a paper form available at most public libraries and post offices. The extension gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file a return, but you must pay 90 percent of the expected amount due with the extension.
What if I don't pay my taxes?
The IRS can use your refund to pay your bill, file a federal tax lien against your property and seize your salary or other accounts through a tax levy.
What if I can't pay?
The IRS has an installment program to allow you to pay back the taxes over time instead of a lump sum. Also, in some cases the taxpayer can settle for less than the actually amount owed.
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at email@example.com or 618-239-2501.