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Tips for filing your tax return on time

Real Estate Tax Talk

For those of you who wait until the last minute to file your taxes — which this year are due by Tuesday, April 17 — here are some tips to make sure you send your returns on time:

Filing paper returns on time

1. Postal mail. Your paper return is filed on time if it is mailed in an envelope that is properly addressed, has enough postage, and is postmarked by April 17. The post office keeps many of its offices open until midnight on tax day so returns can be postmarked by this date.

If your envelope is lost by the post office or Internal Revenue Service, you’ll have no way to prove it was mailed. This is why it is always a good idea to send in a paper return by registered mail or certified mail. This costs more than regular postage, but is well worth it.

If you send your return by registered mail, the registration is proof that the return was delivered to the IRS. The date of the registration is the postmark date.

If you send a return by certified mail and have your receipt postmarked by a postal employee, the date on the receipt is the postmark date. The postmarked certified mail receipt is proof that the return was delivered. Be sure to keep the receipt.

2. Private delivery services. If you use a private delivery service designated by the IRS to send your return, the postmark date generally is the date the delivery service records in its database or marks on the mailing label. The delivery service can tell you how to get written proof of this date.

The following are IRS-designated private delivery services:

  • DHL Express: DHL Same Day.
  • Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International First.
  • United Parcel Service (UPS): 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.

Filing electronic returns on time

If you file electronically with IRS e-file, your return is considered filed on time if the company that electronically transmits the return to the IRS postmarks the transmission by April 17. The date and time in your time zone controls whether your electronically filed return is timely.

The electronic postmark serves as proof of when the authorized electronic return transmitter received the transmission of your electronically filed return on its host system.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books, including "Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants," "Deduct It," "Working as an Independent Contractor," and "Working with Independent Contractors." He welcomes your questions for this weekly column.

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