The mailbox rule says that documents properly addressed and deposited in the U.S. mail by taxpayers are presumed to have been physically received by the IRS at the time such a mailing would ordinarily take to arrive. Under the mailbox rule, courts have allowed proof of mailing to be established by testimonial or circumstantial evidence.
In 1954, Congress enacted IRC § 7502 which provides that a tax document is timely filed if it is:
2. Postmarked on or before the prescribed filing date; and
3. Actually delivered by the U.S. mail.
In Taha v. United States, the taxpayer filed tax refund claims for the years 2002, 2003, and 2004 by regular mail. The refund claims were partially denied and the taxpayer filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims. In response to the IRS position that the refund claims were not timely filed, the taxpayer testified that he timely mailed the refund claims to the IRS. The court held that although the taxpayer’s testimony regarding mailing was credible, the 2011 regulations limited proof of timely filing to certified or registered mail or by use of a duly designated private delivery service. Since the taxpayer did not comply with the regulations, the court ruled in favor of the IRS. The taxpayer has appealed the decision to the Federal Court of Appeals arguing that IRC § 7502 was not intended to do away with the common law mailbox rule and that the regulations are not consistent with the intent of IRC § 7502.
There is a simple lesson to be learned from the situation in which the Taha taxpayers find themselves, i.e., taxpayers should always use certified or registered mail when sending a document to the IRS, especially a tax return or refund claim. Failure to do so, increases the risk the IRS will raise the timely filing question.
For questions regarding this blog post or any other civil or criminal tax related matter, please feel free to contact Joel Crouch at (214) 749-2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.