Most of us rely on digital services to get us through our days. The Internal Revenue Service has taken advantage of this addiction tendency, making it easier -- and in some cases requiring -- that our federal tax agency interactions be electronic.
But some old-school filers persist. Even if they use computer software to complete their tax returns, they insist on printing out the forms and sending the dead-tree docs to the IRS.
Such traditional taxpayers have two options. They can snail mail their documents, or they can send them via a private delivery service, or as the IRS calls FedEx et al, a PDS.
Here are some tips for you few, you brave paper tax form filing devotees.
Playing post office: Good news you late-filing tax filers who use the U.S. Postal Service. The price to send something via first class mail dropped on April 10, the first decrease since 1919.
Now instead of 49 cents, it costs just 47 cents to send a letter.
Of course, you'll likely need more than one stamp to get your Form 1040 and attachments to the IRS, but at least that added postage this year will cost less.
Once you're through celebrating your savings, here are some other snail mail tax tips.
Make sure your post office is open.
Back in "the day," which is geezer speak for that era before almost everyone had a cell phone, much less a smart one, at least one post office in every town stayed open past its usual closing time on Tax Day. Now you're just lucky if you can find a post office within 10 miles of you; ours is 16.7 miles from our home, which explains why our home delivery times are sometimes so late. But I digress.
Check the U.S. Postal Service office locator for your nearest branch and then call it to find out how late it will be open on April 18. More importantly, find out its latest collection time that day. You want your IRS-addressed envelope to get an April 18 postmark. That's how the tax office determines that you mailed it, and therefore filed it, on time.
Mail your return first class.
Don't skimp on postage, especially since it's a bit cheaper now. Send it first class and for added confirmation of your timely filing/mailing, send it certified mail. That extra payment is extra assurance that your return won't be bounced back to you for insufficient postage. If that happens, you have automatically filed late, meaning you'll face penalty charges.
Send your return to the right IRS office.
Remember "the day" in which some of us used to live? Back then we also got 1040 packets from the IRS that included envelopes in which to mail our returns. The more digital and cash-strapped IRS has cut this out, meaning we have to find our own mailer. And we have to make sure it goes to the correct IRS campus for processing. The IRS has a web page with links for each state showing where to mail your 1040. Be sure to note that there are difference addresses for filings that include a payment of due taxes and those with no payments.
Put your return address on your envelope.
Just in case there's a problem with delivery, you want to get your return back. Yes, that will mean your filing is late and subject to penalties, but a few days of those is better than your letter sitting in a dead letter box for months.
Going private: You feel more comfortable with a driver for a private delivery service (PDS) hand delivering your 1040 etc. to the IRS and are willing to pay more, go for it.
Here are some things to consider in PDS tax situations.
Use an IRS-approved service.
The IRS has approved three private delivery services: Federal Express (FedEx), United Parcel Service (UPS) and DHL Express (DHL). That doesn't necessarily mean that you can't use Jack's Special Delivery, especially if Jack is your brother-in-law and it will make your wife happy. But if Jack screws things up, you won't have as much recourse or IRS sympathy in arguing for relief than you would by using one of the approved PDS options.
Get your taxes out in a timely manner.
Deadlines still matter here, but the good news here is that you don't have to get your tax material to the PDS the day before so that it can be dropped off at the IRS on Tax Day. The IRS has extended the same timely mailed, timely filed treatment as tax forms sent via the U.S. Postal Service.
As with the prior tip on checking post office hours, check with your preferred PDS to make sure you get your tax docs to the service, or picked up by it, so that it's marked as sent by April 18. The service can tell you how to get written proof of the mailing/delivery pick-up date.
Send it to the correct IRS facility.
And again as with snail mailings, make sure you put the proper IRS address on your PDS envelope. They are not the same as the places you snail mail returns, primarily because IRS addresses typically show a P.O. Box or no address, just a city.
The IRS says private delivery services should deliver returns only to the following Submission Processing Center street addresses:
Other paper tax reminders: Regardless of how you get your paper tax filing material to the IRS, here are few more tips.
Staple your W-2 to your 1040 or 1040A or 1040EZ.
Don't, however, staple your check if you're sending a payment.
The reason for the attach/don't attach differences?
The IRS wants to keep your income supporting document handy to double check what you report on your form. However, before it even does that, it wants to deposit your money and that's easier to do when it doesn't have to pull the check off your form.
Finally, don't forget to sign your tax form.
This is something that's done digitally when you e-file, but when you're sending an actual, real return, you -- and your spouse if you're filing jointly -- need to take a pen and put your signature(s) on the paper.
If you forget to sign the form, the IRS won't accept it and that will throw you into potentially costly late-filing penalty status.
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