HERMISTON - It's "tax day."

Today is the deadline to file income tax forms with the state and federal governments.

For those last-minute filers wanting to drop their taxes in a post office box, only the Pendleton post office is accepting mail until midnight.

That extension may help Wayne Bedard of Pilot Rock.

"I usually cut it pretty close," he said of making tonight's deadline.

Under IRS regulations, taxpayers must have returns postmarked annually by April 15 or have filed for an extension.

Late filers that want the April 15 postmark on their returns must use the post office drop box directly across the street from the Pendleton post office at 104 S.W. Dorion Ave.

Trucks leave all other post offices in the 978 zip code area and take mail to the Pendleton hub for processing by their usual 5 p.m. pickup times today, according to the Bend regional office of the U.S. Postal Service. That includes Hermiston, Umatilla, Pendleton, Heppner, Boardman, Stanfield, Irrigon, Lexington, Ione, Echo and Milton-Freewater.

Some residents avoid the last-minute rush by applying for an extension.

Elizabeth and Michael Griego paused Thursday night while stocking shelves at Grocery Outlet in Hermiston to talk about why their tax returns were not in yet.

"Well, this year was more complicated for us," Michael Griego said, noting they needed more time to fill out the paperwork. "We sold and bought a house and moved from Arizona to here, started a new job and that made it more involved."

Various factors make it difficult to pin down an average time for preparing a tax return, according to tax preparer Sherie Britt at H & R Block in Hermiston.

"An average, boy, that is so hard to pin down," she said. "I would say for a simple tax return without a lot of major changes with the family it takes us 30 to 45 minutes."

Britt said having a baby, starting a business and having multiple investments can add to the time for preparing the average tax return.

Extensions have to be approved by the IRS.

According to its Web site, www.irs.gov, people can push back their due date until Aug. 15. This is for Form 1040,1040A or 1040EZ. If extensions are denied, applicants are still given until April 20 to correct taxes and submit their returns.

Britt said while their five preparers have been busy this week, February is generally the busiest time.

"That's when everyone gets their W-2s and knows if they have money coming back so they want to file right away to get it," Britt said.

That was the case for three Hermiston residents.

"I get it is soon as I can," Dave Horn said.

"I get money back, so of course I'm going to be on top of it," Jacque Foos said.

Angel Juarez also filed early to get a refund and said it wasn't hard to complete his tax forms.

"I had my brother's girlfriend do them," he said. "She knows all that tax stuff and I just didn't want to mess with it. She was finished one day later and I just put the stamp on and mailed them in."

Want to file your taxes on-line?

Here are a list of the major companies that offer Internet filing:

www.hrblock.com

www.taxbrain.com

www.turbotax.com

www.expresstaxrefund.com

www.taxreliefassociates.com

www.secure.tax-engine.com

www.jkharris.com

www.taxesbyexperts.com

www.24hourtaxrefund.com

www.buyerzone.com

www.taxact.com

www.bigfatrefund.com

www.cktax.com

Source: Internal Revenue Service

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