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Midnight at Post Office--a Tradition for Procrastinators : Income taxes: There are many who wait until the last day to file, but it takes extra planning to wait for the last minute of the last hour.


Mike Cline insists there is no pattern of procrastination in his life.

But in the last seconds of the last minute of the last hour of the last day to file an income tax return without penalty, Cline found himself at the post office--the last person in line for window service.

"This is the one thing I avoid," said Cline, a 35-year-old international business consultant who lives in Manhattan Beach. "I would much rather work all night long. I'd rather do dishes all night long than do taxes. It's a nightmare."

Cline was one of hundreds who packed into the Worldway Postal Center near Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday night clutching their tax forms--not to mention their excuses--to avoid a fine from the Internal Revenue Service.

While it is fairly generous in taking stamped tax envelopes a little past deadline and still giving them an April 15 postmark, the postal service draws the line at precisely midnight for its window service.

Cline insisted it takes thoughtful planning to procrastinate, to time his day to show up at the post office, year after year, seconds before midnight.

"I intentionally avoid filing for as long as possible," said Cline, whose combined state and federal returns came in at a hefty 60 pages this year. "I always push it to the last second because I hate doing taxes so much. I do this every year without fail."

Cline said he delayed even starting his taxes until April 13. Before that, he simply tried "to ignore them."

This year he even planned a trip around the tax deadline, leaving early Friday for a brief Mexican vacation.

"I'm going away for a few days of total relaxation," Cline said. "I would have left earlier but I knew I'd be doing my taxes until midnight."

But was it really a calculated plan to arrive so late, when after further questioning he revealed that he routinely delays paying other bills?

Then came the admission about Christmas cards. It is an annual tradition to be late, he said. And birthday greetings usually suffer the same fate.

But, Cline explained, he gets his car registration in on time. And unlike many procrastinators, he has never run out of gasoline. Those tasks make sense, he argues; "paying capital gains taxes" does not.

Cline said it could have all started in his college days at UCLA, where last-minute cramming was not uncommon to the man last in line on tax day.

"There was one time when I had a term paper, then I had a morning final and then an afternoon final all within two days. Between studying and writing, I stayed up 62 hours," he said. The results? Two As and a B.

"After that I slept for 16 hours straight. And that's just what I'm planning to do now."

With another tax deadline come and gone, a bleary-eyed Cline reflected on his behavior--and finally conceded that there may be a problem.

"I guess the pattern in my life is avoiding these obligatory things," he said. "Things I have to do rather than things I want to do. Basically, I hate being told what to do, especially how to spend my money."

Besides, Cline said, procrastinating has its benefits.

"I use the pressure as an incentive. It gives me energy," he said.

Of course, like a true procrastinator, Cline left for last the admission that he had not actually finished his tax returns. He had filed for an extension.

Excuses, Excuses

There's always an excuse. Here are some reasons people gave for waiting to the very last minute to file their income tax returns:

"My tax preparer was late. I gave it to him two weeks ago."

--Rocky Madan, 43, of Long Beach, a data processing manager. "I forgot the date. I just got back from Palm Springs."

--Bobbie Fazekas, a nutritionist. "I ran out of time."

--Herbert Fuller, 35, of Inglewood, financial services adviser. "My dad always does it for me. I heard on the radio today taxes were due, so I came down here."

--Amber Palma, 21, of Maywood, a college student. "I was going to turn it in this morning, but I was called in to work."

--Edward Lozano, 23, of Los Angeles, a waiter. "I've been campaigning for office all day."

--Eric Jacobsen, 38, of West Los Angeles, a candidate for the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. "I leave everything for the last minute. Every year this is a tradition. What can I say?"

--Marta Foxx, 39, of West Los Angeles, a language translator.

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