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Timely filing requires a USPS stamp of approval

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Why trudge down to the post office for stamps, lease a pricey postage machine or use a private delivery service like FedEx, when you can get the same postage by downloading software to your computer? There is a difference, according to the Tax Court, which ruled that a petition mailed with downloaded postage wasn’t timely filed. The taxpayer’s petition was, therefore, properly dismissed. (Sanchez v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2014-223, U.S. Tax Court, 2014)

Official postmark trumps software. Under the tax code, you have 90 days to file a petition in Tax Court to dispute an IRS assessment. The IRS considers tax returns and other documents timely filed, even if  it or a court never receives them, if you use the U.S. Postal Service or designated services of private delivery services. This is called the timely-mailing-is-timely-filing rule.  

Responding to a notice of tax deficiency, a taxpayer mailed his Tax Court petition on March 3—the 90th day. The petition arrived at the Tax Court in an envelope bearing a USPS postmark dated March 4. Affixed to the envelope was a computer-generated “stamp,” bearing a March 3 date.

The IRS asserted that the petition was untimely and sought to have the case dismissed.

Taxpayer: The petition was timely filed because the software log showed that the petition was processed on March 3. The Tax Court ruled for the IRS.

Tax Court: Third-party postmarks must be disregarded if the envelope also bears an official USPS postmark, which is the case here. Because the petition wasn’t delivered or deemed delivered to the court on time, the taxpayer’s case must be dismissed, the court concluded.

Mailing rules. If you don’t want to wait in line at the post office, you can use a private delivery service, but you don’t have carte blanche. The following delivery services count under the timely mailing rule:

  • FedEx: Priority Overnight, Standard Overnight, 2Day, International Priority and International First
  • United Parcel Service: Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air, 2nd Day Air A.M., Worldwide Express Plus and UPS Worldwide Express.

PAYROLL PRACTICE TIP: The IRS mailing address may be different if you use a private delivery service. To find out, go to www.irs.gov and enter “private delivery service” in the search box in the upper-right portion of the screen.

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