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Certified Receipt & E-Signatures

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#1
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After reading the recent Robin J. Fowler v. Commissioner (155 TC No. 7), I have two questions...

First, is there ever a reason to use, or advise a client to use, Return Receipt in addition to Certified Mail Receipt? Treas Reg §301.7502-1(e)(2)(i) tells us:

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.

It would seem to me that Return Receipt is wholly unnecessary based on the above. That a postmarked certified receipt, and maybe a scan of the addressed envelope before it is sent would be sufficient. What are your thoughts?

Second, in Fowler, the petitioner's CPA firm mailed in a paper filing for which petitioner e-signed the return ("Second Submission"). The e-signature stamp was attached to the return. The court did not examine whether this second submission constituted a signed and properly filed tax return, as they found the first submission did. Therefore, examining the second submission was unnecessary.

Is the above an acceptable method for a client to sign a paper filed return?
 

#2
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The certified mail can now be tracked online, so you can easily prove where it was delivered (as far as proving the address was correct on the envelope).
I used to recommend certified/return receipt, but given my experience with the post office, you are hit or miss on getting the return receipt back, so there is no guarantee you'll get it to be able to prove anything so I don't waste the money on it.
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NY just passed legislation that allows an e-signature on certain forms. Not sure about a paper filed form.
I had a 1040NR sent back to a taxpayer in Italy because they signed, scanned and sent me the file, and it was rejected as "not an original signature". Anything that needs to be signed and mailed to the IRS now I always request them to sign in blue ink so they can see its original. I thought the IRS did allow e-signed docs, but I am not up to date on the latest research.
 

#3
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Thanks for responding.

I'm asserting online tracking, and return receipt, are wholly unnecessary. Per the cite in the OP.

Have you seen anything to the contrary in guidance or practice?

Interesting about NY, but I'd like to keep the discussion on the federal level.

I guess it comes down to what the IRS considers an "original" signature. Have you seen any guidance?
 

#4
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Off topic, but how does a taxpayer prove filing with the new fax procedures?
 

#5
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With Certified Mail tracking (and a copy of the Certified Receipt showing the mailing address/postmark), return receipts are useless and a waste of money. Thus, I no longer use them. I have yet to have the IRS argue anything about not having a return receipt--they want a copy of the actual certified receipt when things of this nature arise. I have yet to have one disputed by IRS.
 

#6
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CornerstoneCPA wrote:With Certified Mail tracking (and a copy of the Certified Receipt showing the mailing address/postmark), return receipts are useless and a waste of money. Thus, I no longer use them. I have yet to have the IRS argue anything about not having a return receipt--they want a copy of the actual certified receipt when things of this nature arise. I have yet to have one disputed by IRS.


I agree, no reason to use the receipt. Once the package is delivered, I go to the USPS and save the tracking history to PDF. It's great!
 

#7
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Thanks for responding Cornerstone and missingdonut.

That matches my sentiment.

A fun fact -- the recipient must sign for the item when one uses Certified Mail Receipt. They just don't give you confirmation of said signature unless one uses Return Receipt, which we seem to agree is unnecessary either way.
 

#8
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The tracking receipt on the USPS website is only there for ninety days. If you forget to check for delivery and save a copy of the page, you are screwed.
 

#9
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SumwunLost wrote:If you forget to check for delivery and save a copy of the page, you are screwed.


How so?
 

#10
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SumwunLost wrote:The tracking receipt on the USPS website is only there for ninety days. If you forget to check for delivery and save a copy of the page, you are screwed.


Proof of delivery still does not really address anything concerning IRS. They care about proof of timely filing, which is the primary purpose of Certified Receipt.

I just looked up tracking on a Certified Receipt dated 120 days ago, and one with a postmark date of April 12, 2019. Both had tracking details. The site keeps the information far longer than 90 days.

Even in absence of tracking info, that postmark stamp and printed postmark date on the Certified Receipt is the holiest thing of all besides having correct address. I have used scanned copies of the Certified Receipts two years after postmark date to argue timely filing with IRS, never any question about tracking/delivery since the postmark is proof it left my hands or the hands of my client(s).
 


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