Drop a tax return in the mail on the day it’s due and it’s considered timely filed, under the IRS’ timely-mailing-is-timely-filing rule. But you must still have proof that you mailed it—a registered or certified mail receipt, for example—since the IRS usually doesn’t keep envelopes.
A taxpayer who couldn’t present a receipt was out of luck for his refund, ruled a federal appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down his petition to hear the case, which means that the refund is lost forever. (Stocker v. United States, Sup. Ct. Dkt. No. 13278, 2013)
The $64,000 question. A taxpayer mailed a return on the date it was due. He claimed a $64,000 refund. His tax preparer filled out a certified mail receipt, but mistakenly kept the customer copy of the receipt, rather than giving it to the taxpayer. Upshot: The taxpayer wasn’t able to have the post office date stamp the receipt. There was some doubt about whether the return was timely mailed. The IRS disallowed the refund, claiming that, based strictly on the postmark, the return was mailed four days late.
A federal trial court upheld the IRS’ decision and the taxpayer appealed.
On appeal, he argued that he should be able offer evidence beyond the receipt that he mailed his return on time. Evidence offered: His testimony that he went to the post office. An appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision. Appeals court: A postmark is evidence verifiable beyond any self-serving testimony of a taxpayer who claims that a document was timely mailed.
Postmark rules. If you don’t want to trudge down to the post office every quarter to mail your Forms 941 certified or registered, you can use a private delivery service, such as FedEx. Warning: Only the following mailing options offered by private delivery services qualify under the IRS’ postmark rule:
- DHL Worldwide Express: Same Day
- FedEx: Priority Overnight, Standard Overnight, 2Day, International Priority and International First
- UPS: Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air, 2nd Day Air A.M., Worldwide Express Plus and Worldwide Express.