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Despite Tax Deadline Extension, Many Still Waiting Until Last Minute to File

WHEELING — The traditional federal tax filing deadline of April 15 was delayed for three months, with this Wednesday being the new deadline for the filing of taxes for 2019.

COVID-19 caused setbacks in almost every aspect of life, and financial matters are chief among them. In the crunch of acclimating to the new normal, many people may have let filing their taxes fall on the backburner. But with just a couple of days to go, some people may now be scrambling to get them done.

John Starkey, a tax preparer with Jackson Hewitt in Wheeling, said the lead up to July 15 has been, and will be, a hectic time for the tax preparation firm.

Chief on people’s minds, Starkey said, are concerns and questions about the April stimulus check, which was distributed to many Americans – though not all, for various reasons.

“We’re getting a lot of questions from stimulus checks — it’s been a crazy year. Lots of things we’ve never had to handle before,” Starkey said. “In between the calls of people who want to file, we have people wanting to know about their stimulus checks, some of whom aren’t even our clients. ‘Where’s my stimulus? When’s the next one coming?’ … It makes it a little bit tougher.”

Several families have called in with questions about claiming dependents for tax purposes, when the people involved had received their own stimulus checks. Others were upset that their own checks hadn’t arrived, leaving Jackson Hewitt to serve as an impromptu guide through the entire situation.

“(One family) ended up getting $600 in the tax return by claiming the kid. Now they want to go back and claim them, and the kid gets their own,” he said. “We had one woman who called us and said she didn’t know her son had been claiming her (as a dependent). Well, she lives with him, and he supports her. She’s mad she didn’t get her stimulus check. Now she’s arguing that she should have gotten her return.

“You get some interesting calls. We’ll be happy when Wednesday ends.”

Starkey added that many people habitually wait until the last minute for tax returns in other years, and those old habits die hard.

“There’s a lot of people who waited until the last second,” he said. “We had plenty of people who called and said, ‘Just change my appointment from April 10 to July 10.’ It happened a lot.”

While many tax filings are a simple matter, the procrastinators occasionally find themselves stuck in uncomfortable situations. Starkey recounted one previous year’s client who needed financial information from a business in Houston, Texas — where a tornado had just blown through, closing that business while people took shelter.

“One year, we had a client who waited until (April) 15th to file. She told us, ‘Well, I need to get a fax back from Houston. They had a tornado in Houston and they evacuated the building, and we spent three hours waiting for that fax. Thank God they had someone open the building back up after the tornado went through.

“That’s why you really don’t want to wait that long,” he added. “If you just have a W-2, that’s one thing. If you need records, you really don’t want to wait, because then you’ll have to file an extension.”

Starkey added that several clients have filed extensions for their individual taxes, pushing their deadlines back to October — halfway through the following tax year.

For all the last-minute stress, Starkey said he doesn’t mind the added pressure — after all, having a busy day makes the time go faster.

“My day’s going to be done when it’s done. We know when it’s going to be bad.”

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