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How Do I Make Sure the IRS Receives My Federal Tax Return on Time?


How Do I Make Sure the IRS Receives My Federal Tax Return on Time?
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Question: How Do I Make Sure the IRS Receives My Federal Tax Return on Time?


You worked hard on your tax return and you want to make sure it gets to the IRS - on time, of course. Check the tax return due date for your type of business taxes, and remember that the exact date changes each year, depending on whether the due date falls on a weekday or a holiday/weekend. You must be sure the IRS accepts that your return was sent by the due date.



When Does the IRS Consider My Return "Mailed?"
The IRS says that the postmark rules. The date of the postmark is the date your return was "mailed." But the IRS has some additional criteria:

  • The envelope must be properly addressed, and
  • The mailing must have enough postage
  • If the return is sent by registered mail, the date of registration is the postmark date.
  • If you send a return by certified mail and have your receipt postmarked, the date of the receipt is the postmark date.

So the postmark is what counts, when mailing your business tax return.

What About Private Delivery Services?
The IRS says, "If you use a private delivery service designated by the IRS to send your return, the postmark date generally is the date the private delivery service records in its database or marks on the mailing label. "

The IRS lists DHL, Federal Express, and UPS as designated private delivery services. But only some services of these companies are acceptable. The IRS says:

These private delivery services include only (my emphasis) the following:
  • - DHL Express (DHL): DHL Same Day Service.
  • - Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International First.
  • - United Parcel Service (UPS): UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.


The court cases governing these cases have been inconsistent among the states and using the general rule (i.e. use of the U.S. mails) is the only safe way to ensure that your business tax return will be considered "mailed" by the IRS. The IRS also emphasizes that private delivery services cannot deliver items to PO Boxes; and that you must use USPS to mail to IRS PO boxes.

What about Electronic Filing?

The best way to make sure your tax return is received by the IRS is to e-file; your return is immediately transmitted to the IRS, with a record of transmission. Your tax preparer can take care of this for you, or you can use one of the e-filing options from the IRS.  

If you use IRS e-file, your return is considered filed on time if the authorized electronic return transmitter postmarks the transmission by the due date. The electronic postmark is a record of when the authorized electronic return transmitter received the transmission of your electronically filed return on its host system. The date and time in your your time zone controls whether your electronically filed return is timely.

Some suggestions:

  1. Copy the envelope. If you can take a digital photo of the envelope on it or run the envelope through a copier (after it is postmarked, of course), you can verify the postmark in case of a question.
  2. Send Certified. I always send my business tax returns by certified mail. It costs a little more, but you get a receipt with a postmark on it, and you can go to the USPS website and enter the receipt number to verify that your return was received.
  3. Or do both. Whatever you do, be sure you can prove your postmark or e-file date for your return.


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