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Send Your Tax Return Via Certified Mail

By Stuart Schultz

Whether you call it T-Day, D-Day, or it's the day that you flee the country, one thing is for sure: Tax Day is upon us. And while we hope that you have already completed your returns, if you haven't sent them out yet, there's one tip you should have:


Remember that episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in which Will and Carlton rent a car, opt out of the $5 insurance, and then send the rental sailing off a cliff? Moral of the story: don't cheap out on insurance because Murphy's Law is very real.

How can Murphy's Law apply to taxes? You complete your return, throw it in an envelop addressed to the IRS, put it in a mailbox, but then it gets lost in the mail. Or, you send your return, the IRS receives it, but then they lose it in their never ending sea of paperwork.

In either scenario, several months later, after having assumed the envelop reached its intended recipient, you get a huge penalty and a ton of paperwork from the IRS for stiffing the government on your taxes. So you tell the IRS that you did send them your return, but they say BS, you have no proof, and you're stuck with the fees and paperwork.

Yet like rental cars, there is insurance to protect you against a doomsday scenario: in this case, it comes in the form of certified mail and return receipts. For just $5 (the cost of sending certified mail with a return receipt), you can buy proof (insurance) that you did in fact send your return (certified mail) and that it was received by the IRS (return receipt).

So how do you purchase certified mail and a return receipt? Mosey on down to your local post office and attach the following two forms to the envelop that contains your tax return:

Certified Mail Form

...and the...

Return Receipt Form

The instructions are pretty self explanatory, but even so, I would fill out the forms and let the attendant at the post office apply them to your envelop for you. Sometimes they're picky about placement and there's no reason to mess this one up.

All this being said, you can of course opt to not send your tax returns via certified mail, but why would you want to risk the chance (albeit low) of it getting lost, in order to save just $5?

And don't even try it. Try what you might ask? Sending an empty envelop via certified mail with a return receipt. Utilizing certified mail and return receipts affords you the chance to resend your tax return (at no penalty) if the IRS never receives it; not the super-ability of just not paying taxes.

So head down to the post office, certify your mail, and enjoy the experience. On tax day, it's always a hoot.

Bonus Tip: Go at an off hour. The post office is going to be packed today.

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