Tax Time Provides Insight Into Human Nature

Tax payers and tax preparers have toiled since January 1 in gathering the critical data needed to pay Uncle Sam. But while this group rummaged through shoeboxes and 1040 forms, social scientists sat back and observed, looking for clues into human nature.

What do they see, these scientists who look at taxpayers the way a doctor observes a virus in a microscope? The Washington Post reported that there is a multitude of information that can be gathered based on when you file your tax return.

Among the lighthearted findings:

  • Between January 2 and February 8 - Just under 21 million tax returns filed in 2001. People who file early tend to be lower income taxpayers as well as younger taxpayers whose returns aren't too complicated. Also in this group are the "holier-than-thou" filers who sit down with tax software and bang out their returns while everyone else is still talking about the Superbowl.

  • Between February 9 and March 31 - Consistent returns come in to the IRS at a rate of about 800,000 a day.

  • Between April 1 and the Friday before the final deadline - The average number of returns received by the IRS increases by 50% to about 1.2 million per day. These procrastinators number about 18 million, and have the extra benefit of their plight usually being highlighted in the media with reminders that "last minute filers" are hard at work.

  • The Saturday before April 15 until the deadline - 27 million returns were filed in 2001, bringing the average up to over 5.4 million a day. Among this group are taxpayers with K-1 forms that arrive at the last minute, the self-employed, those who aren't receiving a refund, and those who owe the government additional taxes. Also in this group are those who are very, very disorganized. Their time management tendencies inevitably are highlighted by local news reporters broadcasting live from the front of the line at the post office at 11:00pm on deadline day.

Then, there are the truly hopeless, says the Washington Post. They would deserve pity if they weren't such a reliable comic troupe.

"I'll have guys come in here at 4:40 p.m. on April 15 and I'll say the only thing you can do is file an extension," a tax preparer from Maryland said. "Which goes to Aug. 15. Then, on Aug. 15, they'll do the same thing, which takes them to Oct. 15, and many times, the same thing will happen."

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