Revised 1040-ES takes new 2018 tax law into account
Tax Day pushed to April 18 due to IRS system problems

5 mailing or delivery service tips for paper tax return filers

Crowded post office

It's been years since U.S. Post Office branches in Austin have stayed open for Tax Day. I suspect that's the case across much of the United States.

Most of us e-file our 1040s. Through April 6, the Internal Revenue Service had received almost 96 million electronically filed returns. It's expecting millions more electronically delivered returns as we rush to make today's filing deadline.

So the mail service isn't swamped like in olden days when some offices had special pre-midnight festivities for taxpayers to drop off their returns.

This shift means that if you're still committed to mailing a paper Form 1040, you need to check with your local office to make sure you get your envelope there in time for it to get the April 17 postmark.

And that's the first of this year's five tax tips for traditional paper tax return filers.

1. Make sure your post office is open.
The U.S. Postal Service offers some help here, electronically of course. Its "Find Locations" page at USPS.com lets you enter your location and find your nearest post office and its hours of operation. You also might want to call the office and ask when it's last pickup for postmark purposes is.

That timing is key because an April 17 postmark is what the Internal Revenue Service accepts as validation that your tax return was timely filed. If it gets stamped April 18 or later, you'll face late-filing penalties and interest charges on any tax you owe, even if you included with your filing.

2. Mail your return first class.
In addition to getting the postmark, it's generally a good idea to send your tax return via first-class mail. If you want added assurance, send it certified mail, return receipt requested.

Also double check the postage you need. If you're sending a lot of forms, schedules and supporting material to the IRS, it will cost you more than the now 50-cent Forever stamp.

Don't pinch pennies here. If your return can't be delivered because of insufficient postage, your return will be late, meaning you'll face late-filing penalties.

3. Send your return to the right IRS office.
In its never-ending quest for efficiency, the IRS has reorganized offices to make sure its campuses carry proper workloads. That means some service centers now handle returns from different parts of the country.

The table below from the 2017 tax year Form 1040 instructions shows the mailing addresses. You also can check the IRS.gov page with state-by-state links on where to send your 1040.

Where to file your tax return Form 1040 Instructions 2017 returns

Lots of folks are leery of the Post Office. I get it. Just this week, half our mail was addressed to a neighbor a block over. It made me wonder if someone else got some of our letters.

So some taxpayers who've experienced similar delivery issues are more comfortable using and paying more for a private carrier.

If you want to send your return today by a private delivery service, the IRS accepts the "timely mailing treated as timely filing/paying" rule here, too … as long as you use one of its accepted deliverers. They are:

  • UPS: UPS Next Day Air Early A.M., UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus and UPS Worldwide Express.
  • Federal Express: FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2 Day, FedEx International Next Flight Out, FedEx International Priority, FedEx International First and FedEx International Economy.
  • DHL: DHL Express 9:00, DHL Express 10:30, DHL Express 12:00, DHL Express Worldwide, DHL Express Envelope, DHL Import Express 10:30, DHL Import Express 12:00, DHL Import Express Worldwide.

Returns sent by these, and only these, private delivery services, should be sent only to the following Submission Processing Center street addresses:

Austin
Internal Revenue Submission Processing Center
3651 S IH35
Austin TX 78741

Cincinnati
Internal Revenue Submission Processing Center
201 West Rivercenter Blvd.
Covington, KY 41011

Fresno
Internal Revenue Submission Processing Center
5045 East Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93727

Kansas City
Internal Revenue Submission Processing Center
333 W. Pershing
Kansas City, MO 64108

Ogden
Internal Revenue Submission Processing Center
1973 Rulon White Blvd.
Ogden, UT 84201

And hang onto that delivery service receipt. It's your proof of timely tax return submission.

4. Put your return address on your envelope.
If there's a problem delivering your return, this is the only way you'll get it back. Sure, your filling will be late, but not as late as it might be if there's no return address and it just sits for months (or forever!) in a dead-letter pile.

5. Be patient.
You might have more tax procrastinating neighbors than you realize. And you all might be in line at the same post office today. If that's the case, take a deep breath and deal with it graciously. At least you're in the final stretch of filing your taxes.

And if your snail mailed return results in a refund, be ready to also wait a while for your tax cash.

The IRS says most folks who e-file and have their refunds directly deposited will see their money within 21 days. Taxpayers who submit paper returns, however, could see those days turn into weeks.

That turnaround time might prompt more taxpayers next year to hit "send" on their keyboards instead of "print."

An earlier version of this tax tip was posted on April 18, 2017.

You also might find these items of interest:

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Comments

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Kay Bell

David, did you initiate the call with the IRS or did you get a notice from them asking about your return? The IRS standard operating procedure is to pull any payments and take care of them first. Then they process the return.

It does seem like a long time to process a return, but paper ones get put at the back of the line, so it could be in the system.

Did you get a proof of mailing? That will help if the IRS eventually says it can't find your paperwork. Also have your copy of the return handy in case you need to resend it. If you paid all your tax bill, you should be OK. Penalties are assessed on unpaid or underpaid amounts.

Kay

David

Enjoy your blog. I have a question. I mailed 2017 return on April 14, a Saturday, with the check. The IRS deposited the check on the 19th. For 2016 issues, I was on the phone with the IRS in late April. The very nice man noticed I had not filed 2017, but then saw that I had sent a check. So, essentially, they stripped the check from the one inch thick wad of paper and then lost the paper. Perhaps the clip broke and the return scattered all over the floor.

I sent a letter asking them to please find the original return, enclosing a copy. As of this week, they have not yet scanned the copy and have not found the original. I am fearful I am going to get screwed.

Any thoughts on what I should do next?

Kay Bell

Josh, I don't think e-filing is a greater cause of tax ID theft or fraud than, unfortunately, any other digital transaction. Most crooks don't steal tax returns themselves, although that is a problem where they've successfully targeted tax professionals' databases. Rather, they steal the information elsewhere and then use it to file fraudulent returns for fake refunds. But if you feel more comfortable filing by paper, do so. I've used tax software before to fill out my form, but then printed and snail mailed my taxes. And sadly, you are right. It is apparently very difficult despite IRS improvements to the process to get your stolen tax identity cleared up quickly. If you are getting a paper tax check, I do recommend direct deposit. My postal carrier is awful, with our and our neighbors' mail misdelivered all the time. That's why I started getting all my bills electronically. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for asking and thanks for reading. Kay

Josh

What is your take on the security risks associated with e-filing? I've always paper filed in an effort to reduce my chances of fraud. I've known a handful of people had their identites stolen resulting in someone filing on their behalf prior to their authentic return being received. In this instance the IRS actually makes it very difficult for you to prove that fraud occured. My policy has always been to file asap and paper file. Do you think this is a bigger risk than e-filing? Thanks!

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