The due date to timely file or extend a 2015 Form 1040, “U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,” is April 18, 2016. In order to avoid substantial penalties, taxpayers need to properly document when they filed their return. Tax returns can be lost or improperly processed by the IRS, and the best way to defend against a penalty is proper documentation
Electronically filed federal income tax returns are considered timely filed if they are filed by 11:59 p.m. on April 18 in the taxpayer’s time zone. If an electronically filed return is rejected, taxpayers generally have a five-day period to resubmit the tax return. Proper documentation of timely electronically filing a return is either an electronic postmark, which is provided by most tax return software providers, or an electronic acknowledgment provided by the IRS.
Paper-filed federal income tax returns generally are subject to a “mailbox rule” that treats the postmark date as the filing date for tax returns (and other tax documents). The IRS normally will accept only a certified mail receipt or an authorized private delivery service receipt as proof of the postmark date.
If using certified mail, make sure the certified mail receipt includes a postmark on or before the due date for the tax return. A certified mail receipt from a self-service mail kiosk without a postmark may not be considered sufficient documentation. Taxpayers using a designated private delivery service should use one of the current IRS-approved services and keep a copy of their receipt. The IRS recently updated the list to include several new options from DHL Express in addition to those provided by UPS and FedEx.
Private delivery services generally satisfy the “mailbox rule” only for federal income tax returns. Unless a state specifically allows the use of private delivery services, taxpayers should use certified mail for proof of filing if the return is not submitted electronically.