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Electronic filing means smaller crowds on tax day in New York

By Anna Hiatt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Taxpayers lined up at New York City's main post office to mail their returns on Monday, but the crowds were a far cry from the days when masseurs once offered back rubs and stilt walkers entertained last-minute filers.

The growing popularity of electronic filing means calmer tax days at the James A. Farley Post Office in Midtown Manhattan, which used to offer 24-hour service, postal authorities said.

"Things have changed a lot. It was a circus-like atmosphere," said Jose Ortiz, Sergeant for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

He attributed the smaller crowd on Monday to electronic filing, which the Internal Revenue Service introduced in 1990.

Stilt walkers, masseurs and companies giving away free samples of pain killers used to gather outside the main post office on April 15.

People would sit on the post office floor filling out their forms, and postal employee Erik Knapp recalled an accountant who used to walk through the crowd, offering his help.

"I haven't seen him in awhile," Knapp said.

Last year, 148.3 million individual tax returns were filed electronically, according to the IRS.

Nonetheless, some people still lined up to mail their taxes the old-fashioned way.

"It's too complicated," said Nicole Russo, a singer. "I don't have the time to figure it out."

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)

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