At some Baltimore-area tax preparation offices, deadline day was proving anticlimactic.

The big rush had come not on Tax Day but in early February, said Vince Williams, manager of Liberty Tax on East Coldspring Lane.

The deadline for both federal and Maryland income taxes is Monday.

"It's been a weird tax season," Williams said Monday morning. "Everyone started late because of the fiscal cliff."

Because of the last-minute tax deal to avert the fiscal cliff, the Internal Revenue Service was delayed in releasing some tax forms. As a result, taxpayers couldn't file before Jan. 30 this year.

But after business peaked in February, it became more steady, Williams said.

When he opened the doors Monday, an elderly couple was waiting for him to prepare their taxes. They been among the procrastinators, Williams said, even though they would get a small refund.

"Most people wait until the last minute because they owe," said Williams, who has been doing taxes for 20 years. "I expect a few people will be coming in here last minute."

Some of the 26 Jackson Hewitt offices in Baltimore and Baltimore County were busier than others, said Sherby Worthington, a district manager.

Starting in late morning, customers at many locations, some in Walmart stores, faced waits of a half hour to an hour to have their taxes professionally prepared.

"A lot of people are coming in today," Worthington said, noting that Sunday was busy, too, with business up 50 percent compared with the Sunday before Tax Day last year.

She surmised that taxpayers might have waited because they've become accustomed to having time beyond the April 15 deadline. Last year, people had two extra days to file returns because April 15 fell on a Sunday and Monday was a local holiday in Washington.

"I think they got spoiled in the past couple of years," Worthington said. "This year, they don't have that luxury."

This tax season brought the usual late nights and seventy-hour workweeks that many accounting firms have come to expect.

This year was "more challenging," said Alan Fox, a partner in Fox and Fiorino in Reisterstown. "There's more compliance and more complexity."

He said that's been the case almost every year he and business partner Mike Fiorino have run the 21-year-old firm.

"There is more complexity and more regulation and more requirements," some having to do with reporting stock transactions and capital gains transactions, he said. "That's why people come to us."

Fox's last-minute work Monday included making a trip to Washington in the morning to meet with a "valued client."

For those who procrastinate, or who are still missing information as time runs out, "we do all the necessary calculations so they can get an extension," Fox said.

Williams, at Liberty Tax, said he picked up some business this year from people who found preparing on their own too confusing.

Michael Hartley, who is retired and lives in Rodgers Forge, has been bringing his tax preparation work to H&R Block for the last two years for that reason.

"I was doing TurboTax, and it wasn't working," he said Monday morning as he left the tax preparer's office in Towson. "My line is, if it's a hassle, I'm gone."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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