Preparers go on lookout for those who file early

Tax preparers are bracing for a busier than usual early tax season.

"In the economic downturn, people are looking to put money into their pocket," said Darcel Walker, director of growth at Rhodes Financial Services Inc. "So we are expecting a lot of people to take advantage of filing their tax returns earlier this year than they normally would."

Mr. Walker said it is "all hands on deck" at the 18 Rhodes-Murphy tax-preparation centers across the region.

"Even though it is early, we are manned and trying to lower wait time," Mr. Walker said.

Jan. 16 was the first day people could file a tax return with the IRS.

W-2s do not have to be mailed out until Jan. 31, but there are still thousands of early birds.

In January 2008, Georgians filed 296,911 tax returns, said IRS spokesman Mark Green.

With the IRS offering free electronic filing this year, that number could grow.

And those numbers don't count the people who use their final paycheck stub from 2008 to get a refund anticipation loan from tax-preparation or financial companies.

Mr. Walker said the clients who are seen this early are usually those who have only one W-2 or are self-employed.

And they're all getting a refund, he added. Typically, those getting a refund will file their tax return early, and those who owe the government will wait until the April 15 deadline is closer.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

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