ENGLEWOOD — It took Chris Murtha only an hour to help Dr. Carlo DeRosa file his taxes Monday.
Most of the work was the tedious 10 hours spent compiling the information before going to Murtha to run his numbers, DeRosa said.
Accountants like Murtha, who runs his own firm in Englewood, worked through the April 15 surge of on-time tax returns and extensions.
“We’re a nation of procrastination,” Murtha said. “From the opening bell, it’s been pretty hectic.”
Smitty Barco, owner of Barco’s Accounting & Tax Service in Englewood, said his staff only had two Sundays off since Jan. 18.
“My wife and I come in at 4:30, 5 a.m. Randy and my son come in about 7-7:30 a.m. The last two weeks is usually the most hectic, but that’s part of the job,” Barco said.
Murtha predicts business is up 30 to 40 percent over last year.
Business is also up for Jamie Bunkley of Tax Savers in Port Charlotte.
Despite the growing popularity of free, easyto-use online tax-filing providers such as TurboTax, local businesses don’t seem to be hurting.
Tax Savers was “slammed” Monday.
“We got a ton of new business this year,” Bunkley said, and there’s no sign of business letting up.
Carolyn Spradlin, president of Spradtax in Englewood, said, “We’re tired, but we’re very grateful to our clientele. We’re happy that we’re busy. Near the end of January, it starts picking up and we doubled our activity since February and March.”
Barco said technology has made things a lot easier and user-friendly. They now spend 45 minutes on average with a client where they used to spend up to an hour and a half.
“Back in those days, you couldn’t be in Costa Rica on filing day, because they’d have to be here physically to sign,” Barco said. “Now they can be anywhere. We can send the 8879 (tax form) via email. They can sign it, take a picture of it on their iPhone and send it back to us.”
Changes in payroll and medical taxes may have contributed to the spike in business, some accountants said.
People were surprised with the changes in payroll taxes, according to Barco.
“Instead of getting back $1,000, they owed money and that’s shocking a lot of people.”
Murtha said another issue he often gets asked about is the Affordable Health Care Act that goes into effect in 2014.
“A lot of people are still having concerns and doubts about it,” he said. “It’s difficult to answer the questions because it hasn’t been finalized. Some of the states are still fighting over it.”
Mike Lowe, a CPA in North Port, said some clients wait until the last minute to file because of procrastination, or they have had a significant life event (death in the family) or they owe and are afraid to find out.
“A number of our clients cannot file their personal returns because they have already filed an extension on their business returns,” he said. “Until the business return gets done the personal return is on hold.”
Those who missed the April 15 deadline may be subject to failure-to-file and other penalties.
“The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late,” Lowe said. “The penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes, so the secret here is to get the return done soon as possible to keep the penalty to only 5 percent.”
At Holiday Park in North Port, the AARP tax preparation team shut down early because they didn’t have customers.
“This year people seemed to get their 1099 forms later and later,” Jim Lapham said. “Some people are still afraid of getting their taxes done.”
Most of Phil Pickrell’s customers asked for extensions before Monday.
“People need to remember the extension is on time to file, but not an extension of time to pay unless arrangements are made through the IRS,” Pickrell said.
Liberty Tax Service in Port Charlotte was busy Monday. Manager Bruce Berryman said people are still waiting until the last minute to file.
Staff writers Elaine Allen-Emrich and Adam Kreger contributed to this report.