MANATEE -- Last-minute tax filers looking to drop by a post office to postmark taxes minutes before midnight will be out of luck in Bradenton.
No post offices in Bradenton and Sarasota will be open until midnight Tax Day, said Enola Rice, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. Only two post offices in Bradenton will stay open beyond 5 p.m.: Bradenton Palma Sola Branch, 115 75th St. W., is open until 5:30 p.m. and Bradenton River Branch, 4112 53rd Ave. E. is open until 6 p.m.
"If filing on April 15, mail early in the day at any post office," Rice said. "Be sure to verify post office hours of operation."
About 9.8 million Floridians are expected to file a tax return this year, said IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinski. The average nationwide refund is $2,792, he added, and about 75 percent to 80 percent of Americans are expected to receive a refund.
The IRS processed 161,896 returns for Manatee County residents in fiscal 2011, according to the most recent data available from the IRS.
Sarasota's main post office, 1661 Ringling Blvd., will have an employee in the lobby helping customers at the self-service kiosk until 7:30 p.m., Rice said.
For those looking for a little extra time, the main Tampa post office, 3501 Bessie Coleman Blvd., will be open late, closing at 10 p.m. Some contract post offices, inside stores might have late hours, too. If dropping off at a drop box, check the collection time to make sure the letter will be postmarked April 15 to avoid getting penalties for filing late.
The number of people filing electronically means there is less urgency for the post offices to stay open late. As of April 4, 90 percent of people filed their returns electronically, Dobzinski said. Since folks seem to be in a rush to file, Dobzinski encourages people to proof their taxes.
"Regardless if you file it by E-file, electronically or by paper, make sure you print out a copy for yourself before you hit the send button or mail it in," he said.
Common mistakes, often by paper, include missing signatures, wrong Social Security numbers for either dependents or the person filing, math errors and picking the wrong tax from the tax table, Dobzinksi said.
If people need more time to file, an extension can be requested by filling out a 4848 form, which should be available through tax software or at your local IRS office.
And make sure your taxes have enough stamps. A one-ounce letter costs 49 cents and 21 cents for each additional ounce. For an 8½ x 11 envelopes, postage is 98 cents for up to 1 ounce and $1.19 for 2 ounces. Any mail that weighs more than 13 ounces and only has postage stamps has to be handled by a post office retail counter employee.
AARP is also offering free tax help for low- to moderate-income taxpayers at Braden River Library, Freedom Village Lifecare Community, Bayshore Gardens Community Church and Rocky Bluff Library. Some locations require appointments and hours vary; calling ahead is suggested.
IRS forms can be picked up at area libraries or at local IRS offices at 5971 Cattle Ridge Blvd., Sarasota, and 9450 Koger Blvd., St. Petersburg, or online at IRS.gov.
"The best place for last-minute information is IRS.gov," Dobzinski said. "If you call the IRS hotline, it will be tough to get through or there will be a long line of calls ahead of you."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.