Stamp.com and the Timely Filing Rule


This article is reproduced with permission from Spidell Publishing, Inc.

After being reversed by the Seventh Circuit in one case, the Tax Court changed its opinion regarding the timely mailing rule and postmarks generated by Stamps.com in a second case with almost identical details. Because the postmark was generated before the date the petition had to be filed and was received before the required arrival date, the petition was considered timely filed.

In both cases, the taxpayer’s attorney mailed Tax Court petitions using the USPS, but purchased the postage and generated a certified mail label through Stamps.com. The timeline for both cases was nearly identical, so to make it simple, here are the dates in the second case:

  • The last day to seek Tax Court review was April 22, 2015.
  • The attorney’s staff purchased postage and generated the certified mail label from Stamps.com on April 21, 2015.
  • The staff claimed the envelope was delivered to USPS on April 21, 2015.
  • The envelope entered the USPS tracking system on April 23, 2015.
  • The envelope was received by the Tax Court on April 29, 2015.

The issue was whether to use the April 21 or the April 23 date for purposes of the timely mailing rule under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 7502 and the corresponding regulations. The Tax Court had ruled in the first case that the date of entry into the tracking system was the date to use regarding the timely filing rule; that date was after the last date for filing a petition, and, therefore, the petition was not timely filed. However, in the second case, the Tax Court agreed with the Seventh Circuit that the regulations lay out provision describing “postmarks not made by the United States Postal Services.” A postmark made by Stamps.com was not “made by” the USPS, even though the mail piece would be sent via USPS.

When the Court looked at the details of the Stamps.com mark, it fit within the requirements of the regulations to be considered timely:

  • It bore a legible date (April 21, 2015), and this date was before the last filing date of April 22; and
  • Even though the petition arrived at the Tax Court after April 22, it arrived within the amount of time a document would ordinarily be received if postmarked on the last day prescribed for filing.

The second bullet is important because the Court noted that the critical issue was whether the document was actually put into the mail system on or before April 22. While the attorney’s staff claimed they dropped the document at USPS on April 21, a USPS expert witness testified that most likely it was dropped on April 22. Either way, the mailing was considered timely.

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