Proving That A Tax Return Was Timely Filed

Just filed your income tax return in California?

New reasons continue to crop up to use a California tax attorney for tax help in potential tax controversy situations. I have heard that the IRS may no longer be accepting certified mail return receipts as proof of timely filing of a return. The reason is that some taxpayers have been mailing empty envelopes to the IRS and I guess accusing them of losing the returns and then showing their mailing receipt as proof of mailing.

However, I think the Treasury Regulations are still in place to the effect that an officially postmarked certified mail receipt is still good evidence of mailing, as long as the postmark on the receipt was actually placed on the receipt by the post office, not by a private party.

There seems to be two issues: (i) What was mailed to the IRS? and (ii) When was it mailed? (Under the “mailbox rule”, a return is timely filed if it is placed in the mail on or before the due date, even if it delivered thereafter.)

To prove that more than an empty envelope was delivered, perhaps printing the certified mail number on the first two pages (including signature page) of a return and copying the package in which it’s sent which would show a certified mail number that matched the one on the return pages.

A more elaborate procedure could involve having a witness (unrelated to the taxpayer) watch the taxpayer putting the tax return into the envelope. Then copy the face of the envelope as the witness watches. The witness then accompanies the taxpayer to the post office to see that adequate postage was purchased and attached to the envelope. Then have the witness prepare a memo reflecting their observations.

Maybe you can send a “packing slip” listing the contents of the envelope and ask the IRS to return the packing slip as an “Acknowledgement of Receipt Only”.

Another approach might involve including a small check with the tax return whether or not tax is due. The cashing of the check (which is done immediately upon receipt and which he can verify online with his bank) confirms that the return was received.

As for the issue of timing, the IRS can claim it will no longer accept certified mail, return receipt requested as proof of filing, but until the Treasury Regulations are changed, and the Courts hold the Regs are correct, there is no basis for the IRS to win such an argument. It is still case law as well as statutory law.

If you have concerns about this issue and other tax controversies and tax problems, please call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259 to discuss the tax help you need.