SANTA ANA — Postal workers stood in the middle of Susan Street as drivers handed over their income tax returns. Cars lined up in the nearby post office parking lot as though waiting for valet service. Inside, taxpayers filtered past clerks, as if on an assembly line.
But all was quiet at Federal Express and the United Parcel Service, which delivered tax returns for the first time this year.
Taxpayers chose to send their 1040s the old-fashioned way despite the convenience of using private postal carriers, who will pick up the packages. They said there was no reason to rush such an unpleasant experience, and certainly no point in paying extra for it.
"Why spend 15 bucks?" asked Dave Thrush, as he dropped off his return at the post office. "There's no need to."
After all, the tax returns don't have to arrive at the Internal Revenue Service by April 15, they just have to be postmarked by then.
Judith Golden, a spokeswoman for the Internal Revenue Service, said it was too early Tuesday to tell how many filings went by way of Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL Worldwide Express and UPS.
"People that would do it typically are people who are last minute," Golden said.
The IRS received 746,000 filings over the weekend. The agency expected 500,000 to come in Tuesday and another 500,000 today. The most filings, about 1.5 million, should arrive Thursday, Golden said.
Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), who sponsored the bill that allows taxpayers to use private mail services, said in a news release that the public didn't know it was an option because the IRS waited until Thursday to announce it.
"The IRS dragged their feet on this from the get-go," said Paul Wilkinson, spokesman for Cox. "The carriers were planning to advertise, but the IRS was so late in certifying them that they couldn't make an effective campaign."
Federal Express and UPS said the companies have not had a significant influx of deliveries this tax season. Most people don't realize it's an option, they said.
"It's all so new," FedEx spokeswoman Darlene Faquin said. "But, it's early yet."
At the FedEx service center in Newport Beach, fewer than 20 of the 350 packages were destined for the IRS Tuesday afternoon.
But the companies remained optimistic.
"It's a first step for all of the carriers," UPS spokesman Bruce MacRae said. "It's showing the credibility of all the carriers, and we're excited about it."
But the customers weren't.
"I don't care when the IRS gets it," said Jane Bojenkamp, as she weighed her tax return at the Santa Ana post office. "I just care when it's postmarked."
She did, however, send her taxes certified mail to assure she had a record that the IRS had received it. Even certified mail is about $10 cheaper than private carriers, although it arrives in normal postal service speed.
DHL spokesman David Fonkalsrud said the benefit of sending tax returns via private carriers is convenience.
"If you have traditionally waited in line at the post office to send tax filings by certified mail, you can avoid that," he said.
Taxpayers can also avoid long lines by going to private postal companies like Mail Boxes Hallmark in Tustin, where you can pick the method of sending. However, of the 250 filings received Monday, manager Tom Allen said none were sent through a private carrier.
"I don't think the public knew that service was available, but even if they did we wouldn't recommend it," Allen said. "If they wanted to track it, we'd say send it certified. There's not a lot of sense in sending it overnight. It's expensive."