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Here in the big city, long lines of people at the main post office are usually going up to tables where USPS employees are ready with APRIL 15 rubber stamps ready. There is no question about the postmark, as they use a lot of bright red ink and great big postmark stampers.

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.

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.

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.

Hope this helps.
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