Filing season tip: leave tracks when you file.

April 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

No Tax Roundup today, for reasons easily guessed by many readers.

20130415-1As a green 25 year-old staff accountant, I was assigned to deliver a 1040 with a six-figure balance due to a local captain of industry who happened to be the biggest client in the local office of one of the national accounting firms. It was April 15. I was to collect his signature and his check and get the return to the post office.

One of the first things you learn at a national public accounting firm is the importance of covering your backside. After collecting the return and check I went down to the old Capitol Square post office and got the returns postmarked “certified mail, return receipt requested.” After getting a burger and malt at the late, lamented Stella’s, I went back to the office and carefully put the postmarked receipt in the client file.

Two weeks later the partner in charge calls me into his office to show me a penalty notice from the IRS saying the Captain of Industry’s return had been filed late. The postmarked receipt kept me from being fired that day, and I got to keep my job when the IRS reversed the penalties after we sent them a copy of the receipt.

Which is a long way of making a short point: document your return filing.

If you paper file at the post office, use Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. Get the postmarked paper receipt, because the postal service purges its computer records after two years. Certified mail adds $3.30 to the postage; the paper return receipt costs another $2.70. $6.00 isn’t usually too much to spend to save your job.

If you use a private carrier, use one of the IRS authorized private delivery services (be sure to use one listed by the IRS), and hold on to your shipping receipt. Be sure to send it to the proper street delivery address, as private services can’t deliver to post office boxes.

If you really want security, e-file. You get delivery confirmation quickly, and you don’t have to worry about the mail going astray, or a mail truck or delivery truck going up in flames.

Come back tomorrow for our last 2014 filing season tip!

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