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Think You Can Mail Your Taxes At Midnight? Think Again, Gramps

Mailing your taxes in just before midnight: That's so 2002.
Tim Boyle
Getty Images
Mailing your taxes in just before midnight: That's so 2002.

One of the least imaginative, but always popular, stories for an editor to assign in years past was the annual Tax Day frenzy at the local post office.

Younger Two-Way readers may not know this, but before e-filing was the thing to do, many procrastinators would wait until the last possible moment to finish their federal tax returns. And many post offices would keep staff on hand until midnight so that those returns could be postmarked before April 15 turned into April 16.


"Post offices no longer stay open late on tax day," is one of this morning's typical headlines. As Michigan'sMacomb Daily writes:

"Local post offices used to take on a circus-like atmosphere on April 15 when many people would file their taxes up until a midnight deadline amid tax protestors and consultants on hand, often with some dressed up as Uncle Sam.

"But those days are gone.

"Since so many taxpayers now file electronically, most post offices no longer stay open late on tax day.

" 'We really stopped extending hours at our postal locations because there really isn't a need to any more,' said Elizabeth Najduch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service's metropolitan Detroit region."

The New York Times' City Room blog laments that:

"Way back when, it was one of the city's hottest nightspots.

"There were lines out the door and frenzy within. Amid the excitement, deals were made and hearts were broken.

"We speak, of course, of the mad scene at the city's main post office on Eighth Avenue as the clock ticked toward midnight on Tax Day. ...

"Now with over 80 percent of taxpayers filing electronically, most of the magic is gone."

Even where post offices do seem to be trying to accommodate those who prefer paper and prefer to put things off until the last minute, things just aren't that wild anymore.

"Thirteen post offices in the Denver metro area will be accepting returns until midnight for last minute tax filers," says TheDenverChannel.com. But 12 of those locations "will have self-service kiosks for customers needing stamps. Only one post office will be staffed until midnight."

Now, though there no longer seems to be much news in the last-minute rush to file, some other annual stories still do seem to be getting attention on Tax Day:

-- "Free Cookies! Free Massages! Here Are All the Best Tax Day Freebies." (Time)

-- "Tax Day! Now Comes the Great Refund Rip-off." (The Wall Street Journal)

-- " 'Marriage penalty' takes a bite out of working families." (The Washington Post)

By the way, we have a question aimed at finding out just how well-prepared — taxwise — Two-Way readers really are. You have until midnight ET to respond. No extensions will be granted.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.