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IRS Cautions Against Filing by Mail as Tax Deadline Looms—Here's Why

The agency urges people to "choose electronic filing whenever possible."

With less than a week to go before taxes are due, anyone who hasn't already filed is running out of time. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can help compile your information, check for any mistakes, and send everything in electronically. But if you're still planning on sending in your forms on paper, you might want to be aware of the latest warnings from the IRS against filing by mail so close to the tax deadline. Read on to see why it's so risky and why you might want to consider another option.

RELATED: IRS Issues Urgent New Warning About "Shady" Tax Return Preparers.

Some areas have reported significant mail delivery delays.

A USPS mail truck

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has no shortage of issues to deal with as the cash-strapped agency contends with rampant theft and operational problems. Even as the agency undergoes a significant overhaul to try to address the problems, some customers are reporting significant delivery delays.

The Atlanta area is one such place where changes have negatively impacted service. In February, the USPS opened a new Regional Processing & Distribution Center (RP&DC) facility in Palmetto to replace and consolidate four existing processing centers, local NBC affiliate WXIA-TV reported. However, employees now say the center is overwhelmed with mail, with some reporting wait times of more than a month for packages to arrive.

Some local officials in the area have acknowledged the postal problems. In one county, residents were urged to call the local water department to avoid late fees after discovering paper bills sent in the mail may not make it to their destinations in time.

RELATED: 10 Warnings About Using TurboTax, According to Experts.

Now, the IRS is urging people to consider filing electronically instead.

Woman's hand holding pen and filling out tax forms

Now that the April 15 deadline is less than a week away, there's little margin for error. And with many concerned their documents will arrive on time in the hands of the USPS, IRS says it might be best to consider other options.

"Taxpayers and tax professionals are urged to choose electronic filing whenever possible," an IRS spokesperson told WXIA.

Still, the agency acknowledges that there are some who are still forced to send in hard copies of their documents. But those people will still have to make sure to take a few extra steps before they do.

"For those who must submit a paper tax return, it's essential to verify the accurate mailing address either on or in the instructions provided with Form 1040 to prevent processing delays," the spokesperson said.

RELATED: IRS Warns 20% of Taxpayers Don't Claim Major Refund Credit—Are You Eligible?

Your filing won't be considered late if you mail it early enough.

Letters on a sorting frame, table and shelves in a mail delivery sorting centre

The tax deadline looms large in anyone's mind who's still getting their filing together. But the agency also clarified that you're not racing against the constraints of the USPS when you send yours in by mail.

"The IRS considers a tax return filed on time if it is addressed correctly, has enough postage, and is postmarked by the due date," the IRS representative told WXIA. "If that's the case, as long as it's postmarked by the due date, the IRS will process the tax return or payment as timely. The IRS asks that taxpayers not file a duplicate return."

Experts add that it's also best to go a little further and actually drop your mail off inside the post office instead of chancing it with a blue box. For extra security, you can pay for a Certificate of Mailing and hold the receipt as proof you got the documents out in time.

"Go to the post office," Stephanie Loose, a certified public accountant (CPA), told WXIA. "Watch them put the stamp on it yourself."

There are still free e-filing options and extensions available.

A sign outside of the IRS headquarters next to a red stoplight that reads Internal Revenue Service

Whether you're concerned about postal delays holding back your filing or simply still waiting for that last form you need to complete before sending it off, there are still other options. In a press release on April 2, the IRS issued a reminder that electronic filing options are still available. These include Direct File, which allows taxpayers in 12 states to file their federal returns for free.

Those who still need more time to get their information together can also request an extension by filling out Form 4868 through IRS Free File. However, this request must be submitted before the April 15 deadline, and it does not give an extension on the time to pay what you owe. The agency suggests paying an estimated amount to avoid any penalties or interest, according to the press release.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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