John R. Bullis: Prove mailing of items to IRS
November 21, 2016
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob amended their 2009 Individual Income Tax Return, form 1040 and mailed it to IRS in December 2011.
IRS claims they did not ever receive the amended return and refused to pay the refund.
A 1996 tax case established the common law "physical delivery rule" that said a tax filing is not complete until the document is "delivered and received." However, two statutory exceptions exist. If a return arrives late but is postmarked before the due date, it is treated as timely filed (and delivered). And if there is a post office registration or certification of a mailing of the return it will be treated as timely filed.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs testified they did not remember filing an amended return for 2009. Also, there was no evidence presented that their attorney filed it. The mailing practices of the law firm were not presented and there was no detailed, specific and corroborating testimony it was filed.
So, the IRS was ruled to be correct to not pay the refund that was claimed.
Another case had testimony that a friend of the taxpayer saw him enter the post office and come out of the post office without the envelope (that had the item being mailed to IRS). That was enough evidence to find it was mailed timely, even though IRS had no record of receiving it.
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In yet another case the taxpayer presented testimony by a post office employee who had a specific memory of the item being mailed and the court ruled that was enough to prove timely filing.
The main learning here was to mail items to IRS in a way that you get proof of when it was mailed.
Many income tax returns are now filed electronically. There are various items then that show when it was filed and when it was received by IRS. If a return or response to a Notice or IRS Letter is mailed, it is best to use the Priority Mail so you have proof the Post Office received it and you can get proof of even when it was delivered to the IRS.
Then if you have a problem where IRS says they have no record of receiving the item, you can present other evidence and/or testimony of it being mailed timely.
It appears Mr. and Mrs. Jacob did not present any evidence of mailing the amended return and so the court ruled the exceptions to the main rule did not apply.
Did you hear? "I'm not saying that my generation was smarter … but in my day, envelopes did not have printed instructions on where to place the stamp." (Cited in Positive Living magazine)
John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser who has served Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs.