For at least four decades, Sonoma County taxpayers have hurried to post offices on the night of April 15 and managed to mail their income tax returns on time.

But the late-night accommodations, which in earlier years attracted demonstrations and pie-throwing benefits, are history.

None of the county's post offices will collect tax returns Tuesday night. To get an April 15 postmark this year, procrastinators must mail their paper tax returns during normal business hours or drive to San Francisco.

The change comes as the paper returns are going the way of film cameras and travelers checks.

The U.S. Postal Service already had curtailed hours this year at county post offices as part of a money-saving move. But the greater reason for ending the after-hours tax service is that nine out of 10 taxpayers now file electronically, spokeswoman Deborah Brady said.

"That's the big one," Brady said.

The late-night service has been going on here at least since 1975, and possibly longer. Two decades ago, postal officials estimated that nearly 2,000 people in Santa Rosa stood in line during the extended hours.

At the 1982 tax night, supporters of the county's Peace Network held a candlelight vigil at Santa Rosa's downtown post office. As taxpayers mailed their returns, the demonstrators handed out fliers protesting hikes to defense spending and cuts to social programs under the Reagan administration.

In the 1990s, the tax night included fundraisers at the downtown post office where taxpayers donated a dollar each to throw pies at the faces of IRS agents. The community-spirited agents raised hundreds of dollars for local youth organizations and for the family of a slain sheriff's deputy.

But the late-night service has wound down as more residents turned to electronic filing. The last time the Santa Rosa downtown post office remained opened until midnight was 2004. By 2009 that location had stopped even its after-hours curb drop-offs.

The Petaluma post office on McDowell Boulevard continued the midnight drop-off service that year. But for the past two years that service has ended at 8 p.m.

This year, the Santa Rosa downtown post office will stay open Tuesday during regular hours of 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Petaluma post office on McDowell will be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The closest after-hours location Tuesday is 1300 Evans Ave. in San Francisco, which will collect stamped mail until 10 p.m.

(You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or

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