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Five days left to file taxes with Uncle Sam
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Carol Crawford anxiously drives to her mailbox every afternoon looking for one piece of mail in particular.

Ever since she filed her income tax return forms in late February, Crawford has been anticipating the check from the United States Treasury that she plans on using to catch up on her mortgage and pay down some of the debt she’s incurred since receiving her last income tax refund 13 months ago.

Such is life in the era of a weak economy and a housing crisis that continues to plague homeowners trying to adjust home loans in order to keep a shingled roof over their head.

“Compared to other people that I know, I’m not in that bad of shape,” Crawford said. “That check is definitely going to make things much easier for me, but fortunately it’s not going to put me out onto the street if it doesn’t come in right away. But it’s that time of year for people.”

With five days left to file both federal and state income tax forms – which will be accepted as on-time as long as they’re postmarked at 11:59 p.m. or earlier on Monday, April 18 – professional tax preparers have been getting their usual deluge of customers who wait until the last possible minute to get their documents filed.

The three day reprieve after the traditional April 15 deadlines is because this Friday is a federal holiday - Emancipation Day - in Washington, D.C.

According to Liberty Tax Service Office Manager Carol Hart, most of those who wait until the final days are trying to save up the money they owe or they need to get their taxes completed by a professional. The tax preparing industry has been hit by the recession as people tighten their belts and cut budgets for non-essentials.

“Right now we’re getting busier and busier, and we’ve had to bring in extra tax preparers,” Hart said. “Almost all of the people that we get in this time of year owe money or think that they’re going to owe money, or they don’t have the money for the preparation until now.

“With the recession people might not have the money they had last year at this time, so we’re working with people and offering special pricing for people who may need it.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, Hart says that there are people that file their taxes almost immediately after they receive their W-2 for after the first of the year.

“We also have the people that file at the end of January and the first few weeks of February that already know that they’re getting a refund back,” Hart said. “Most of those people have qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and those refunds are sizable.”

Jeff Franz, who filed his paperwork back in February, already got his refund back and opted to use the money to purchase a new television for his living room and new cabinets for his kitchen.

Spending the refund check instead of using it to pay down debt, he said, helps spur the local economy.

“I thought about paying off some debt, but I don’t really have that much and I figured that the money would do more to stimulate local businesses if I went ahead with what I‘ve been wanting to do for some time now,” Franz said. “The flat-screen is just for me, but I thought the cabinets would help increase the value of my home, and that’s never a bad thing.”