The 52 Cent Mistake: Will You Do It Again?

The 52 Cent Mistake: Will You Do It Again?

With regard to your tax return filing, it could be the big mistake you would ever spend 52 cents on. Many people send their income tax return through general mail by sticking a 52-cent stamp on the envelope. And every year many taxpayers are committing this mistake. Why am I saying it is a mistake to put your tax return in a mailbox? I will explain. It’s a fact that every year, a fraction of the mail goes undelivered. Even though the postal service does not admit it, this is true. Moreover, in case your return thus sent is delivered, still there is the chance that your tax return might get misplaced by the IRS; the IRS loses a fraction of the paper tax returns every year. What, you don’t trust me? I can never forget one client of mine showing me a letter one day from the IRS which stated the following:

“We deeply regret the loss of your return…even though we received it…”

Whether you believe or not, it’s a fact!

My question is very simple: If it happens to you, what will you do?

In case your tax return does not reach the IRS, or even if it reaches, and then gets lost out there somehow, will you be able to prove later that you actually filed your return and mailed it to them?

You can call the IRS and say that you filed on time and sent the return for sure, but that hardly proves anything, right? It will remain a burden for you to prove that you actually mailed your returns to the IRS.

This dangerous problem can be solved in two ways:

(A) Go for electronic filing.

The benefits of e-filing are as follows:

  • Accuracy: It reduces a lot of human error when you e-file your return, your document has to pass many accuracy tests for security reasons. The returns that are e-filed are subject to this type of scrutiny at the very initial stage.
  • Security: As it is a paperless transaction, a unique electronic signature of the owner is created.
  • Speed: It normally takes around 6 to 8 weeks for a refund in case of a paper return. But in case of an e-filed return, refund can be expected within 10 working days.
  • Acceptance proof: You should definitely focus on this benefit. Within just 48 hours of e-filing your returns, the IRS sends you an electronic acknowledgement of the acceptance of your return.

Great! You’ve received the proof of filing your return. I think it’s enough!

E-filing has nowadays become a preferred method to file your returns. But as most people are still using the paper way of filing returns, this second method of avoiding the problem of “lost return” becomes important.

(B) In case you prefer paper filing, then spend around $ 4.25 in the post office and send your mail through certified mail, requesting for a return receipt.

This will serve two important purposes:

(i) The certified mail costing $ 2.40 provides you proof of mailing the return, as well as proof of date sent.

The IRS considers a paper return to be filed legitimately in cases where it is mailed on time in an envelope properly addressed and which has a postmark dated earlier than the due date. In the case of certified mail, you always receive a receipt that is postmarked by the post office. So, in case of any mishap, like the return getting lost, or at any time if IRS asks whether it was mailed on time or not, you will be able to show documentation to prove it was. Moreover certified mail is easily tracked.

(ii) Another insurance will be your return receipt. For another $ 1.85, the IRS is prompted to sign a receipt at the time of delivery of the letter. Then this receipt will be mailed back to you which will become further proof that IRS received your returns.

Certified mail is enough to prove that the return was mailed. The return receipt gives you an added insurance that the IRS actually received the mail. It will also tell you the exact date of receipt. This means you have the proof of delivery.

Why should you take the risk of your tax return getting lost on the way? Also it is advisable not to take on the risk of your tax return getting lost under piles of papers at the IRS. This is something worth thinking about. There are more than 100 million income tax returns filed each year that are prepared on paper and mailed to the IRS through the post office.

The IRS and the post office staff are only hard-working human beings. And they are always prone to making mistakes. If you don’t want a mistake to be made with your returns, it is advisable not to put your valuable tax returns in the uncertain mailbox.

The best way is to e-file it; otherwise you should send it through a certified mail, request a return receipt. You definitely won’t regret it later.


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2 Comments

  1. frugal living
    Posted March 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t mailed a tax return for many years. I e-file because its easier, I never thought about the fact that mailing it could end up with a lost tax return. Doing your taxes is too important to chance a loss in the mail.

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  2. Posted September 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Hi. Over here in the UK, there’s the option to file your taxes online as well. Not only does it make it more reliable and saves the drama of it getting lost in the post, but the calculations are automatically done for you online too.

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