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How to Prove to the IRS You Filed Your Taxes on Time

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April 15 is just days away. If you're one of those last-minute tax filers, you don't have to worry about leaving time for your return to get from your mailbox to the appropriate Internal Revenue Service office. However, you do need to know how you can prove to the IRS that you weren't late in delivering your tax return -- in case something happens to it in transit and you get audited for unpaid tax, interest, and penalties.

The General Rule: When You Mail Is When You File

As most last-minute filers already know, the general rule for the IRS is that as long as you meet the appropriate requirements, the date that you mail your return and tax payment to the IRS is treated as the date that you filed or paid your taxes. This rule applies to returns and other required documents for which a specified date or period is given in the tax laws.

For example, for filing a tax return, the April 15 deadline qualifies for the mailing-date rule. But if you were already late and were trying to get taxes filed in order to avoid further extra payments for failing to file, then the mailing-date rule won't stop the clock from running on interest and penalties.

In order to have a return or payment qualify as having been mailed, you have to use a properly addressed envelope and send it by mail in a timely manner. Moreover, the envelope must have a postmark from the U.S. Postal Service that is no later than the date the return is due.

So if you put your return in a mailbox on April 15, but it doesn't get postmarked until April 16, you're treated as having filed late. To avoid this problem, you can use registered or certified mail to establish that it has officially been mailed. Your postmarked receipt establishes when you filed, even if your return subsequently gets lost.

If you don't want to use the U.S. Postal Service, you have a few other alternatives. Certain private-delivery services, including DHL Express, FedEx (FDX), and United Parcel Service (UPS), qualify for the mailing-date rule. But in general, you have to use next-day or second-day delivery services; standard ground rates won't qualify for the rule. The IRS maintains a list of qualifying delivery services.

The Benefits of Electronic Filing

Electronic filings are treated as having been filed on the date of the electronic postmark: The record of the date and time that your return gets transmitted.

You won't necessarily get proof of e-filing right away. According to the IRS, the tax professional who files your return electronically will get confirmation within 48 hours that your return was accepted, or if it needs corrections and retransmission. That confirmation should bear the original date and time that you filed it.

You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google+. He has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends FedEx and United Parcel Service. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days. ‚Äč

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Gabrielle Kaminski K

I just received a letter from the IRS that I have been assessed for fines due to my taxes being filed late. I have a receipt from the USPS stating the opposite and after getting the run around and many long holds, I was informed that the IRS no longer guarantees the postmark on USPS and only that of UPS. According to the person I spoke with, it's on "page 4" and I have to pay $390 because although I mailed it on April 12th, they did not log it in there system until May 4th, thus the "lateness". I do not know how to battle this. It's just wrong.

June 26 2015 at 11:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you are sending in your tax payment--use certified mail--return receipt--otherwise you may end up in a pickle. The U.S. postal service either lost the letter--or the idiots at the IRS misplaced it, and I was told I owed penalties and interest. When I produced the receipt of mailing the quit harassing me, but never apologized. They put me on a list which automatically audited me the following year. When I asked why I was being audited their response was "that's none of your business be here for the audit, and bring all tax receipts. I had to take the day off of work, and go answer questions--when I got there the IRS idiots didn't know why I was being audited. I asked why this couldn't have been handled over the phone--and I could have worked. They had no answers, and audited me again the following year because I deducted the loss of 1 day of wages. They are both rude and incompetent, and now we find not to be trusted!

April 15 2014 at 4:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to kabube's comment

I was audited for the 2001 tax year and received a letter and one of their people came to my house to look at the receipts. I had everything I needed and never heard from them again.

April 15 2014 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to merstockgto's comment

I didn't think they could audit a person past 7 to 10 years, but you got audited as far back as 2001 ??? Thats 14 years. Is that possible we can get audited as far back as 14 or more years ??? If so, I need to build-on another room, just for my reciepts.

April 15 2014 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Most tax offices are required to send tax forms electronically as of 2014, so sending anything thru "snail mail" is no longer necessary. If you have a refund comeing you can recieve the payment by check or auto deposit, thus eliminating the post office, mail box and chance of id theft.

April 15 2014 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

today is april 15th - but you state April 15th is just days away?

April 15 2014 at 8:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to virtualblair's comment

It's huffpost they can't be expected to know what day it is.

April 15 2014 at 4:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

They took a page from Obama----------and lied.

April 15 2014 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Send it certified, return receipt requested.
The post office date is stamped on the part they return to you, at the time of posting.
The rturn receipt comes back to you, at a later date, with a signature that it was received.
Attatch both, including the post ofice receipt for the pstage, to your copies of your documents at home.

April 11 2014 at 10:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

When you select print from "tools" you will have the option of print preview( to the left, don't click print till you see print preview. Click that. All the pages will be viewable from the preview and when you select print then you will be able to pick which pages you want to print instead of all of them

April 11 2014 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why do I need to copy six (6) full pages to obtain only three (3) pages of this article. EVERYONE I mention this to does not review your site or copy anything because of your lousy article recopying
situation. PLEASE ADVISE YOUR VIEWERS ON THIS COMMENT PLEASE.....This comment continuing comes up and we never see a response from Daily Finance.

April 09 2014 at 12:05 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply