Proof of Filing

The post office lets you pay for a Certificate of Mailing which shows you have mailed your tax return. Is this sufficient to prove you have filed your return? Or do we need to pay for a Signature Confirmation option?

Thank you, Ken

The most common way to obtain proof of mailing for paper forms sent to the IRS is via United States registered or certified mail. Section 7502(c) of the Code establishes that the postmark date on the mailing receipt for these United States Postal Service (USPS) options will serve as evidence of the mailing date.

The post office lets you pay for a Certificate of Mailing which shows you have mailed your tax return. Is this sufficient to prove you have filed your return? Or do we need to pay for a Signature Confirmation option?

Certificate of Mailing is not sufficient proof for the IRS. 26 CFR 301.7502-1(a) establishes that the postmark on the envelope determines the date of payment/filing if the date is timely. If the postmark on the envelope is applied later than the due date or is illegible, the taxpayer must prove that the mailing was delivered to the post office timely.

However, 26 CFR 301.7502-1(c)(2) provides an exception to this rule. A letter mailed by certified or registered mail is deemed filed as of the date stamped on the receipt issued by the post office at the time the mail accepted for mailing. No mention is made of any other (USPS) class of service.

The fine points to all this are that, in the case of ordinary first class postage, if something goes wrong, the taxpayer has to prove that the envelope was mailed timely AND that it contained the document in question. With certified/registered mail, it is presumed that the document was within the envelope and the IRS has to prove otherwise. There are tax court cases where the taxpayer has lost over failure to precisely follow the regulation.

Signature confirmation is only proof that something was received by the IRS, but not what was in the envelope received.

Note, there are similar regulations covering delivery by means other than the USPS. Again, only certain specified classes of service are acceptable proof of timely filing.

Ira

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Certificate of Mailing is useless. You could have mailed an empty envelope.

With certified/registered mail, it is presumed that the document was within the envelope and the IRS has to prove otherwise.

“presumed” … That’s kind of pointless, as there is no way of knowing. Seems that the only utility in doing that is to jack up the mailing fee.

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Certificate of Mailing is useless. You could have mailed an empty envelope.

With certified/registered mail, it is presumed that the document was within the envelope and the IRS has to prove otherwise.

“presumed” … That’s kind of pointless, as there is no way of knowing. Seems that the only utility in doing that is to jack up the mailing fee.

This. I don’t get it. How can one presume that whatever was mailed to the IRS was what you say it was if you use Certified Mail, but the standard doesn’t apply to a different proof that something was mailed, by the same agency (USPS)? Neither case is any more or less to be a blank envelope.

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This. I don’t get it. How can one presume that whatever was mailed to the IRS was what you say it was if you use Certified Mail, but the standard doesn’t apply to a different proof that something was mailed, by the same agency (USPS)? Neither case is any more or less to be a blank envelope.

Because with Certified and Registered mail, there is proof that the envelope was received by the IRS. Since the IRS has received the envelope, it would be up to the IRS to prove that what the envelope contained wasn’t what the taxpayer said it contained.

If all the taxpayer has is proof that they sent an envelope to the IRS, and not proof that the envelope was actually received by the IRS, then you can’t expect the IRS to be able to prove what was or wasn’t in an envelope that they may or may not have actually received.

AJ

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If all the taxpayer has is proof that they sent an envelope to the IRS, and not proof that the envelope was actually received by the IRS, then you can’t expect the IRS to be able to prove what was or wasn’t in an envelope that they may or may not have actually received.

So I’m going to take this in a slightly different direction - a direction that applies to me personally. :slight_smile:

For my state taxes, I mailed them in, along with the check for what I owed the state.
I used plain old first class mail.
I know someone received it and cashed the check.
So now if the state says they didn’t receive my return, is that canceled check enough proof that they did get it?
And what are possible downsides for me if it isn’t sufficient proof?

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For returns that can be e-filed, e-filing has solved most of the problems of proving that a return was sent. It is going to take a long time for the IRS to work through the backlog from the last two years. We have login accounts with IRS and our state FTB which can be used to verify tax returns are processed.

I have always assumed that having the check cashed or refund received was proof that the return was received and haven’t ever needed to prove that a tax return was sent. Penalties for not filing are based on taxes due. If taxes are paid there is little risk of penalties if another copy of the return has to be sent.

Those that I know that have had issues with missing tax returns were tax returns file after the April due date.

Things do happen to mail. Including a USPS truck accident that dumped a large number of estimated tax payments into the SF bay. Stories of IRS employees hiding tax returns in the false ceiling of their office.

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I used plain old first class mail.
I know someone received it and cashed the check.

I keep downloaded copies of processed checks which shows the processing information on the back of the check.

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This. I don’t get it. How can one presume that whatever was mailed to the IRS was what you say it was if you use Certified Mail, but the standard doesn’t apply to a different proof that something was mailed, by the same agency (USPS)? Neither case is any more or less to be a blank envelope.

Because with Certified and Registered mail, there is proof that the envelope was received by the IRS. Since the IRS has received the envelope, it would be up to the IRS to prove that what the envelope contained wasn’t what the taxpayer said it contained.

If all the taxpayer has is proof that they sent an envelope to the IRS, and not proof that the envelope was actually received by the IRS, then you can’t expect the IRS to be able to prove what was or wasn’t in an envelope that they may or may not have actually received.

Almost the right answer. With Certified and Registered mail there is proof that the envelope was received by the USPS, not the IRS. Law enacted by Congress states that is sufficient proof of timeliness.

Ira

For my state taxes, I mailed them in, along with the check for what I owed the state.
I used plain old first class mail.
I know someone received it and cashed the check.
So now if the state says they didn’t receive my return, is that canceled check enough proof that they did get it?
And what are possible downsides for me if it isn’t sufficient proof?

While state law addressing this may be different from federal law, for arguments sake, we’ll assume the same rules apply.

A canceled check isn’t proof of anything other than a payment was made. You can send a check without a return - it’s done all the time when people file electronically but pay by paper check.

The downside of the canceled check not being proof of filing is that the state can impose whatever penalties are at their disposal until the unfiled return condition is satisfied.

Ira

Does proof matter if you are getting a refund?

I have not set up an account with the IRS yet. If I do will they update the account once the return has been delivered and accepted or do they wait until it’s processed?

Almost the right answer. With Certified and Registered mail there is proof that the envelope was received by the USPS, not the IRS. Law enacted by Congress states that is sufficient proof of timeliness.

So how is using the cheaper “proof of mailing” any different less valid? It also proves just as much as what you are saying that Certified/Registered proves.

The downside of the canceled check not being proof of filing is that the state can impose whatever penalties are at their disposal until the unfiled return condition is satisfied.

Ira

Yes, which for the IRS and my state are based on the amount of unpaid taxes.

I’ve never had a problem but have always filed and paid taxes due before the April deadline but when you need proof it is too late.

Before e-filing we have had an issue with the information being incorrectly entered but that was easily corrected when they referred their electronic copy of the paper return.

The relative who was frequently late in filing had issues with tax returns being lost by either the feds and state. She started sending all tax returns with proof of mailing.

I have not set up an account with the IRS yet. If I do will they update the account once the return has been delivered and accepted or do they wait until it’s processed?

The processed return is shown. I didn’t see any status during the processing.

So how is using the cheaper “proof of mailing” any different less valid? It also proves just as much as what you are saying that Certified/Registered proves.

Because the law states what constitutes proof, not the USPS. This isn’t a case of what may be logical or rational - it’s the words contained in the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President in office when the law was passed.

Ira

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Well, according to this IRS Enrolled Agent, “The IRS is a total disaster right now on every level” and “There is no such thing as over-submitting to the IRS.”

He said it in the context of disputing a discrepancy letter, but I would err on the side of assuming the IRS will not be on the ball. Unfortunately, that means shelling out for Certified.

https://youtu.be/3vsaydSX4dI?t=922

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Including a USPS truck accident that dumped a large number of estimated tax payments into the SF bay.

My check was on that truck. I still have the letter from the IRS requesting a replacement check.

Tim

Including a USPS truck accident that dumped a large number of estimated tax payments into the SF bay.

My check was on that truck. I still have the letter from the IRS requesting a replacement check.

Tim

Seventy-three men sailed up
From the San Francisco Bay
Rolled off of their ship, and here’s what they had to say
“We’re callin’ everyone to ride along to another shore
We can laugh our lives away and be free once more”

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