Social Security Tax

A Timely Postmark on Your Tax Return May Not Be Enough to Avoid Late-Filing Penalties

Because of a weekend and a Washington, D.C., holiday, the 2016 tax return filing deadline for individual taxpayers is Tuesday, April 18. The IRS considers a paper return that is due April 18 to be timely filed if it is postmarked by midnight. However, dropping your return in a mailbox on the 18th may not be sufficient.

An Example

Let’s say you mail your return with a payment on April 18, but the envelope gets lost. You do not figure this out until a couple of months later when you notice that the check still has not cleared.

You then refile and send a new check. Despite your efforts to timely file and pay, you are hit with failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties totaling $1,500.

Avoiding Penalty Risk

To avoid this risk, use certified or registered mail or one of the private delivery services designated by the IRS to comply with the timely filing rule, such as:

  • DHL Express 9:00, Express 10:30, Express 12:00 or Express Envelope
  • FedEx First Overnight, Priority Overnight, Standard Overnight or 2Day
  • UPS Next Day Air Early A.M., Next Day Air, Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air A.M. or 2nd Day Air

Beware: If you use an unauthorized delivery service, your return is not “filed” until the IRS receives it. See for a complete list of authorized services.

Another Option

If you are concerned about meeting the April 18 deadline, another option is to file for an extension. If you owe tax, you will still need to pay that by April 18 to avoid risk of late-payment penalties as well as interest.

If you are owed a refund, however, it is not necessary to file for an extension: You will not be charged a failure-to-file penalty if you file late but do not owe tax.

We can help you determine if filing for an extension makes sense for you — and help estimate whether you owe tax and how much you should pay by April 18.

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