By M. K. Ramadoss, CPA—San Antonio
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeal from the Ninth Circuit in Baldwin v. United States settles the law: certified or registered mail (or equivalent private delivery services) are the sole method of proving timely mailing of documents to the IRS.
Most CPAs routinely send documents to the IRS by certified mail or specified private delivery services. With this decision, the issue is finally clarified.
The issue involved whether a taxpayer could only show timely mailing of their document by producing a certified or registered mail receipt stamped by a U.S. Postal Service employee or whether they could resort to other evidence showing the document had been timely mailed. In 1992, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Anderson v. United States that other evidence could be considered. Other circuits had held that provisions Congress enacted in Section 7502 for proof of timely filing of documents were meant to be the sole method of proving such timely mailing.
This split in the circuits led the IRS in 2011 to revise regulations under Section 7502, taking the side of the circuits that held that the section was meant to be the sole method of proving timely mailing of the document, superseding the common law mailbox rule. The relevant provision now reads:
“(i) Registered and certified mail. In the case of a document (but not a payment) sent by registered or certified mail, proof that the document was properly registered or that a postmarked certified mail sender's receipt was properly issued and that the envelope was properly addressed to the agency, officer or office constitutes prima facie evidence that the document was delivered to the agency, officer or office. Other than direct proof of actual delivery, proof of proper use of registered or certified mail, and proof of proper use of a duly designated PDS as provided for by paragraph (e)(2)(ii) of this section, are the exclusive means to establish prima facie evidence of delivery of a document to the agency, officer or office with which the document is required to be filed. No other evidence of a postmark or of mailing will be prima facie evidence of delivery or raise a presumption that the document was delivered.”