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Taxing job: Racing to beat filing deadline
Liberty Tax Services Kelly Mai-Tran helps a client with her taxes on Monday morning. - photo by James Burns

Most days, Irma Hernandez feels like a therapist or a teacher.

Not a tax preparer.

The office manager at Liberty Tax Service looked the part on Monday morning, too.

Wearing black-framed glasses and using her pointer finger as a guide, Hernandez had just one goal for the busiest day of the tax season – to comfort the uncomfortable.

And on national Tax Day, there were plenty.

Monday was the last day to file federal taxes without an extension. Those filing state taxes are granted an automatic six-month reprieve, Hernandez said. Extensions cover only time and paperwork – not payments.

“It gets pretty crazy,” she said of Monday’s blitz. “We have appointments and walk-ins. We’ve got people missing this or missing that. It’s best to have all the information.

“People might think it’s a simple return, and when they’ve come down they’ve sold stocks. It might look easy, but we need all the information.”

Hernandez believes it’s her duty to educate and inform customers, as well as ease their anxiety.

On Monday, her skill set was put to the test.

As the walk-in sign-up sheet began to fill and customers waited outside the North Main Street office, Hernandez greeted the rush with the patience and poise of a school teacher.

She swiveled her computer monitor around so that the morning’s first client could better understand the process.

Hernandez has learned to multi-task. In a half-hour window on Monday morning, she worked closely with a client, greeted those that walked through the front door and even solved a snafu with the office fax machine.

Care for a snack while you wait? Liberty Tax Services had that, too.

The business remained open for at least 12 hours on Monday to accommodate the rush.

“The customers tell us when we close our doors,” Hernandez said on Monday morning. “We’ll be here till probably midnight.

“One lady called me (Sunday night) and I was doing paperwork. We don’t lock our doors, and because I was sitting here, I was like ‘OK, come down.’ We don’t want to push anybody away.”

Tax preparers around the area felt the crunch of Monday’s Tax Day.

Diane Haynes of D. Haynes Tax Service had already filed six extensions before noon, and though she wasn’t accepting any new clients on Monday, Haynes was settling in for a long night.

And an even longer tax season.

Set back by the fiscal cliff proceedings in January, Haynes said many of her 550 clients waited longer than usual to file for their returns.

“This is the worst season ever because of the IRS not settling anything until January and people waiting to file,” she said.

“We’ll probably see the most extensions in my 30 years, which means it’s going to extend my season.”

Nicole Creek, the manager at Jackson Hewitt’s Manteca office, declined comment. She was simply too busy to speak.

Even the post office made special accommodations on Tax Day.

The United States Postal Service extended the hours at some of its locations to make filing possible for some. Federal tax returns must be postmarked with Monday’s date to qualify for timely filing.

There was just one problem. Those filing on Monday evening after business hours had to do so outside city limits.

The lobby at the Manteca office closed at 6 p.m. and stopped collecting mail at outside boxes around town at approximately 5 p.m.

The Arch Road office in Stockton remained open until midnight, along with the main plant off of Industrial Boulevard in West Sacramento.