By Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — One in four Americans waited until the end of tax season to file their returns and a majority think they pay about the right amount in federal taxes, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll released Monday, a day before the tax deadline.
The taxman cometh Tuesday, and those Americans who filed their returns well in advance are in the majority. A full 76 percent of respondents to the McClatchy-Marist Poll, which covered the period from April 7 to April 10, said they’d already filed their tax returns.
There’s a logical reason for that, said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
“People who are expecting to get money back are more eager to file earlier,” he said.
Similarly, there’s generally a good reason that last-minute filers send in their tax returns in the final hours.
“Those who have to write another check for their tax bill are more likely to wait until the last minute,” Miringoff said.
Irrespective of when they file, 61 percent of those surveyed said they expected tax refunds this year, while 36 percent didn’t expect to get checks back from the Internal Revenue Service. Nearly 7 in 10 men expected refunds, while just 54 percent of women expected money back from the IRS.
A majority of the adults surveyed — 56 percent — think they pay about the right amount in federal taxes. That finding is surprising, since it contradicts some earlier research from other pollsters that found about half of Americans thought they were paying too much.
Another 42 percent of respondents in the McClatchy-Marist Poll said they paid more than their fair share and just 1 percent said they didn’t pay enough in taxes.
The poll broke the numbers down by political party. It found that 50 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Republicans said they paid more than they should, while 48 percent said that what they paid was about right. Forty percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said they paid too much, and 43 percent of those who said they were independents thought they paid too much in federal taxes.
In another somewhat surprising finding, about 1 in every 2 tax filers turned to specialists to prepare their tax returns, while only 15 percent responded that they use retail software packages to do their own taxes. Another 17 percent of respondents said they turned to family members for help, while 18 percent said they did their taxes on their own without the help of experts or software.
As for sending those tax returns to Uncle Sam, considerably more Americans reported that they filed electronically, even if only a small number said they used retail software packages. Three in 4 Americans responded that they send their tax forms to the IRS by electronic means, while 25 percent said they filed by traditional mail.
Photo: Casey Konstantín via Flickr