Posts Tagged ‘USPS’

Why You Use Certified Mail When Mailing Items to Tax Agencies

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

My mother passed away last year (after a long and fruitful life).  I filed her final tax returns–and money was due to both the IRS and California.  I could not use IRS Direct Pay, nor could I have the funds debited from my bank account; thus, I mailed checks (and vouchers) to the tax agencies.  I sent these on Monday, April 17th using certified mail.

Today, Thursday, April 26th, the IRS payment was received (it has not cleared my bank account yet, but should in the next day or so).  Yes, it took nine days to be received.  Here’s the tracking for it:

As to why it sat around for four days in Cincinnati, you’ve got me.  No matter, because the payment deadline is a postmark deadline I’m fine and my mother’s tax to the IRS for her final return was timely paid.

Meanwhile, Sacramento is a lot closer than Cincinnati; you’d expect the payment to California to have already been processed.  Well, no:

The payment’s been somewhere in Sacramento since April 19th and is still somewhere other than with the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), California’s income tax agency.  Again, I have no answers for the postal service’s ineptitude but sooner or later (perhaps that should be later or later) the payment will make it to the FTB.  Because I mailed it certified mail–and have that proof–even if the payment is lost I’ll be fine.

Each of these envelopes cost $4.78 (total) to mail; that’s $4.15 more than first class mail.  The late payment penalty and interest would be in the hundreds of dollars for each of these payments.  If I had not mailed these certified mail, I could be looking at those penalties. (Yes, the tax agencies are supposed to look at postmarks but I’ve received plenty of mail without postmarks.)

There’s one other issue: The IRS (and other tax agencies) need to lengthen the time period for responding to notices.  These mail delays are typical–and the IRS needs to build in current realities to mailed responses to notices.

Your Check Might Not be in the Mail

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

I used to live in Orange County, California. Earlier this week a US Postal Service caught fire as it was heading toward an airport after leaving the Santa Ana mail sorting center. So if you mailed something on Monday, March 3rd from ZIP Codes starting with 926, 927, 928, 906, 917 and 918, it might have been burnt to a crisp. All the mail the truck was carrying was destroyed (an estimated 120,000 pieces). (No one was hurt in the accident.)

If you happen to have mailed a tax payment or tax form hopefully you used certified mail. When your payment doesn’t show up–and you should check to see if the check cleared–tax agencies will normally consider the certified mail receipt as proof of filing. The USPS is offering documentation of the fire (if the news stories aren’t enough).

This is the third incident like this in recent years that I can remember. Back in 2005 a truck carrying payments leaving the San Francisco Post Office Box where IRS payments go made a right turn on the Hayward Bridge (across the San Francisco Bay). There’s a reason why there’s a bridge and you don’t make right turns while on a bridge. Those payments went to the fishes. In 2012, a truck carrying mail to New Jersey government offices went up in flames.

Most likely, this incident will have minimal impact on taxes as it is early in Tax Season. Still, this is a good reminder why if you do mail a tax form or tax payment that you use certified mail, return receipt requested. That way should there be a problem it’s an inconvenience rather than one leading to costly penalties.

The End of Procrastination Season Is Upon Us

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Monday is October 15th. Individual tax returns on extension are due. What do you do if you haven’t done anything except procrastinate? It’s time to file your return.

The IRS website has all the forms. Dig up all of your paperwork (W-2s, 1099s, etc.) and get working on it. If you’re lucky, you will find a tax professional who isn’t buried with his or her own procrastinators. If not, you can still find software to help you. But don’t wait until October 16th; your extension will be invalid and you will owe the failure to file penalty–5% of the tax due per month late (to a maximum of 25%).

So let’s say it’s 7:00pm and you’re now ready to file your paper return; how can you get it postmarked with an October 15th postmark? That’s far easier than it used to be. Many post offices have Automated Postal Centers (there’s even one in the supermarket I go to). If you select certified mail (which you can do with the machine–it will even print out the certified sticker and the return receipt), and pay for the postage at the APC, the stamp label printed by the APC will note the date of purchase. At 11:50pm on October 15th, it will say October 15, 2012…and your return will be considered timely filed.

Of course, if you file electronically you don’t have to worry about the post office. As long as your return is filed by 11:59pm on October 15th, it is considered timely filed. If you are going to use the Postal Service, spend the money for certified mail, return receipt requested. You will get proof that you mail your return timely and proof that the tax agency received it.

Finally, next year consider not procrastinating. Your tax professional will appreciate it.