If you mail your Form 941 or any other tax-related document on the date it’s due, you’ll be considered to have timely filed it according to the tax code’s timely-mailing-is-timely-filing rule. The same is true if the document isn’t delivered because the post office mangled it during processing, the Tax Court ruled, but you must have proof of timely mailing in the first place. (Van Brunt v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, T.C. Memo 2010-220, U.S. Tax Court, 2010)
We deliver for whom?
The tax code gives you 90 days from receipt of a notice of deficiency to contest that deficiency in court. In Van Brunt, the taxpayer’s lawyer mailed its petition to the Tax Court on the 89th day. However, it was so badly damaged by the U.S. post office that, nearly three months after it was mailed, it was returned to the lawyer in a plastic bag with a red sticker that stated, “WE’RE SORRY THAT YOUR ARTICLE WAS DAMAGED DURING PROCESSING.”
The petition was refiled with the Tax Court, but since the 90-day filing deadline had elapsed months before, the IRS asked the court to dismiss the case. The court refused to do so, stating that affidavits from the attorney and the clerk at the store from which the petition was mailed were credible, as was the lawyer’s postage log, which tracked clients’ mailing details.
Court: The tax code doesn’t require that the qualifying envelope (i.e., the envelope that was timely mailed, properly addressed, with the proper postage) be the envelope in which the petition is received, nor does the tax code forbid the use of the timely-mailing rule if the document contained in a qualifying envelope is returned to, and remailed by, the taxpayer.
WAIT A MINUTE, MISTER POSTMAN: You don’t have to take such elaborate steps when mailing tax documents. To create a postmark trail, use certified or registered mail. Warning: The timely-mailing rule doesn’t apply to privately metered mail.