Tax Court reminder: Keep proof of mailing

Tax Hot Topics newsletter The Tax Court relied on testimony and other evidence in Seely v. Commissioner (T.C. Memo 2020-6), to allow a taxpayer’s petition to be deemed timely filed.

The taxpayers in Seely, a married couple, received a statutory notice of deficiency (SNOD) from the IRS on March 28, 2017, relating to their 2013-2015 tax years. The SNOD advised the taxpayers that they had 90 days from the date of the notice to file a petition with the Tax Court for a redetermination of their deficiency. The SNOD also stated that the last day to do so was June 26, 2017.

The taxpayers hired an attorney who filed the petition with the Tax Court, but which was received by the Tax Court on July 17, 2017. The envelope was delivered by the U.S. Postal Service but did not have a postmark. The IRS challenged the petition as untimely and filed a motion to dismiss.

Under Section 6213(a), a taxpayer must petition the court within 90 days after the SNOD is mailed, which, for the taxpayers, was a deadline of June 26, 2017. Section 7502(a) provides the so-called “mailbox rule,” that the date of the U.S. postmark stamped on the mail is deemed to be the date of delivery. In effect, the taxpayers in Seely had until June 26, 2017, to deposit their petition in the U.S. mail, but because the petition did not arrive in an envelope with a postmark, it was unclear whether they did.

The Tax Court took into account all the facts, including the Fourth of July holiday and the attorney’s sworn statement, and ruled that it was more likely than not that the petition was mailed timely, on June 22.

In this case, while the Tax Court ultimately ruled for the taxpayers, allowing the case to proceed, the taxpayers could have avoided this factual determination by simply retaining proof of timely mailing. Taxpayers who have time-sensitive submissions to make to the IRS, such as tax return, extension, or response to a notice, should make such submissions through Certified Mail, retaining proof of timely deposit into the mail system.

David Auclair
National Managing Principal
Washington National Tax Office
T +1 202 521 1515

Shamik Trivedi
Senior Manager
Washington National Tax Office
T +1 202 521 1511

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