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A cheaper and easier alternative to certifed mail is a "certificate of mailing" that one can get from a clerk at a window. Besides the date that goes on the envelope, you take home a piece of paper proving that you mailed something to the recipient on the date shown. I don't think certified proves anything other than the delivery of an empty envelope, although I might still pay the extra amount if I were feeling paranoid.

Big problem that isn't worth the money saved. There have been many tax court cases that consistently rule that if you send a return to the IRS by certified mail (or any other approved traceable delivery method), the IRS must prove that there was no tax return enclosed. If you mail the return any other way, the burden of proof is on the sender to prove that there was a tax return enclosed. The "certificate of mailing" does not meet the standard which shifts the burden of proof to the IRS.

When asking that very question, I have been told by IRS staff that they consider postmarks to be valid on their face, and assume that every envelope has a tax return in it, so if it were lost or delayed it would be their fault. Of course, it's possible that I was speaking to the only reasonable person in the IRS but anyway that's what she said.

Right, if envelope is lost or delayed AND you can prove it was mailed the IRS will assume that there was a return inside. The problem is that the standard of "proof of mailing" is prescibed by regulation and comprises only a subset of the methods that a rational person might consider would provide proof of mailing.

Finally... this also only works if you live near an IRS location, but one can walk into the IRS office here and get a date stamp right on the return, at a desk by the doorway. They will also put the same date stamp on a duplicate of your 1040 (or whatever) if you bring one with you. This really removes all doubt, and for some people, depending on location, may not be any more trouble than actually going to the Post Office.

If I recall correctly, the IRS did away with this service as of 1/1/04, which is a shame, because it really was a great way to document that returns were filed timely.

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