Timely mailing is timely filing. This “postmark rule” applies to documents sent to the IRS or Tax Court via the U.S. Postal Service, and to certain services provided by IRS-designated private delivery services.
Warning: If you’re going to use a private delivery service, be sure that the IRS has sanctioned that particular service. One taxpayer found out the hard way when a Tax Court petition was dismissed as untimely because the IRS didn’t approve a particular FedEx service. (Scaggs v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2012-258, U.S. Tax Court, 2012)
Don’t be late. The IRS mailed a notice of deficiency to the taxpayer on April 8, 2011. The 90th day to file a petition with the Tax Court was, therefore, July 7, 2011. However, the petition was received on July 12, 2011. The taxpayer used FedEx’s Express Saver Third Business Day service.
The IRS asked the court to dismiss the petition as untimely filed. The court agreed, rejecting the taxpayer’s plea to expand the deadline, based on equitable principles of fairness. Court: The result may be harsh, but the taxpayer isn’t out of luck. The taxpayer may pay the tax, file a claim for a refund and, if the IRS denies the claim, sue for a refund in the appropriate federal district court or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Choose right the first time
The IRS allows you to designate private delivery services, such as FedEx, as the exclusive means by which you can prove that your tax returns or other documents were timely filed, even if the recipient never actually receives them. But not every service from FedEx, for example, passes muster. The IRS has approved these services from these providers:
- DHL Express (DHL): Same Day Service
- Federal Express (FedEx): Priority Overnight, Standard Overnight, 2Day, International Priority and International First
- United Parcel Service (UPS): Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air, 2nd Day Air A.M., Worldwide Express Plus and Worldwide Express.