How Do I Make Sure the IRS Receives My Federal Tax Return on Time?

Resources for Tax Return Mailing and Delivery

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You worked hard on your tax return and you want to make sure it gets to the IRS - on time, of course. Check the tax return due date for your type of business taxes, and remember that the exact date changes each year, depending on whether the due date falls on a weekday or a holiday/weekend.

Here are the due dates for 2016 business tax returns:

  • For sole proprietors and single-member LLC's filing Schedule C along with their personal tax returns for 2016: April 18, 2017
  • For partnerships, S corporations, and multiple-member LLC's, the partnership return Form 1065 for 2016 is due March 15, 2017 and don't forget to include your Schedule K-1 along with your personal tax return. (Your 2016 personal tax return is due on April 18 in 2017). NOTE: This is a new earlier filing deadline, beginning with the 2016 tax year (filing in 2017). 
  • For corporations with a December 31 year end, your 2016 corporate tax return is due April 17, 2017. Corporations file Form 1120 and S Corporations file Form 1120-S. If your corporation doesn't have a December 31 year-end, the return is due on the 15th day of the fourth month after your year-end date. (Note: This is a new later filing deadline, beginning with the 2016 tax year (filing in 2017). 

When Does the IRS Consider My Return "Mailed?"

You must be sure the IRS accepts that your return was sent by the due date. The IRS says that the postmark rules.

The date of the postmark is the date your return was "mailed." But the IRS has some additional criteria:

  • The envelope must be properly addressed, and
  • The mailing must have enough postage
  • If the return is sent by registered mail, the date of registration is the postmark date.
  • If you send a return by certified mail and have your receipt postmarked, the date of the receipt is the postmark date.

    So the postmark is what counts, when mailing your business tax return.

    What About Private Delivery Services?

    The IRS says, "If you use a private delivery service designated by the IRS to send your return, the postmark date generally is the date the private delivery service records in its database or marks on the mailing label. "  The address to which private delivery service tax returns must be sent is different from the address for your personal tax return. This IRS article details the addresses for private delivery services. 

     The IRS lists DHL, Federal Express, and UPS as designated private delivery services. But only some services of these companies are acceptable. The IRS says: 

    These private delivery services include only (my emphasis) the following:

    • - DHL Express (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
    • - Federal Express (FedEx):  FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2 Day, FedEx International Next Flight Out, FedEx International Priority, FedEx International First, FedEx International Economy
      .
    • - United Parcel Service (UPS):  UPS Next Day Air Early AM, UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, UPS Worldwide Express.

    The court cases governing these services have been inconsistent among the states and using the general rule (that is, use of the U.S. mails) is the only safe way to ensure that your business tax return will be considered "mailed" by the IRS. 

    The IRS also emphasizes that private delivery services cannot deliver items to PO boxes; and that you must use USPS to mail to IRS PO boxes.

    What about Electronic Filing?

    The best way to make sure your business tax return is received by the IRS is to e-file; your return is immediately transmitted to the IRS, with a record of transmission. Your tax preparer can take care of this for you, or you can use one of the e-filing options from the IRS.  

    The IRS makes e-filing easier each year. 

    If you use IRS e-file, your return is considered filed on time if the authorized electronic return transmitter postmarks the transmission by the due date.

    The electronic postmark is a record of when the authorized electronic return transmitter received the transmission of your electronically filed return on its host system. The date and time in your your time zone controls whether your electronically filed return is timely.

    What about filing an extension application? 

    You can e-file an extension application or mail it in to the IRS. There are two application forms - Form 7004 for corporations and partnerships and Form 4868 for other business types and personal tax returns. 

    Some suggestions for making sure your tax return gets to the IRS on time

    1. Copy the envelope. If you can take a digital photo of the envelope on it or run the envelope through a copier (after it is postmarked, of course), you can verify the postmark in case of a question.
    2. Send Certified. I always send my business tax returns by certified mail. It costs a little more, but you get a receipt with a postmark on it, and you can go to the USPS website and enter the receipt number to verify that your return was received.
    3. Or do both. Whatever you do, be sure you can prove your postmark or e-file date for your return.