Those hardy persons still reading this blog may wonder why I devote so many blogposts to mailing misadventures. Exemplia gratia, as my classically-educated colleagues would say, “Bless ‘Em All”, 10/14/14.
Well, this is where a great number of Tax Court petitions run aground, relegating taxpayers with colorable claims from the free kick of USTC to the pay-to-play route at either USDC or USCFC. And it’s a danger point for the in-the-trenches preparer who must rely upon others to lug the magic envelope to the posties or the people in purple-and-black (or brown and brown, or yellow-and-red). Here be dragons, indeed.
Yet another case in point, this one from yesterday, 10/22/14. I must have fallen asleep as I prepared the blogpost yesterday night, because my literary effusion vanished into cyberspace. So here it is again.
The case is Joseph Sanchez, 2014 T. C. Memo. 223, filed 10/22/14, opinion by the Judge With A Heart, STJ Armen. But STJ Armen, bighearted as ever, cannot help Joe, who misplaced his trust upon an unnamed third party, and lost by one day his sixty-buck ticket to justice.
“Affixed to the envelope was a ‘stamp’ printed by a third party from her computer using software from Stamps.com and a certified mail sticker. The ‘stamp’ reflected the ‘stamps.com’ logo, ‘$4.70’ of ‘US Postage First-Class’, a five-digit number that presumably corresponds to the ZIP Code from which the ‘stamp’ was generated, and ‘MAR 03 2014’. The ‘stamp’ also includes a string of alphanumeric characters whose meaning is not disclosed in the record.” 2014 T. C. Memo. 223, at pp. 3-4. (Footnote omitted).
Of course, “MAR 3 2014” is the magic last day of the 90, mailing on which would get Joe out of the starting gate at Tax Court and into the race to fight off the $13K of tax and penalty in the SNOD. See again Section 7502.
Except it doesn’t. Joe’s trust in stamps.com, and worse, in his unnamed third-party helper, avails him not.
Joe’s correspondence doesn’t show up at 400 Second Street, NW for a week. It bears a USPS postmark, clearly legible, as follows: “Salt Lake City UT – TUE 04 MAR 2014 – 841 PM”. Joe is therefore a day late and much more than a dollar short.
Joe used certified mail, and that helps, but the date of mailing must be evidenced by a USPS postmark, and only if same be lacking or illegible may extrinsic evidence be introduced. See Section 301.7502-1(c)(1)(iii)(B)(3), Proced. & Admin. Regs. Where there are dueling postmarks, USPS wins.
Worse, Joe’s factotum sinks Joe’s boat.
“In support of his argument petitioner provided a statement by the third party who prepared the petition for mailing and then delivered it to the post office. In her statement the third party describes how on Monday, March 3, 2014, after being ‘given documents to mail’, she printed postage using Stamps.com software, added extra postage for certified mail, and then took the petition to the U.S. Post Office…for deposit into the mail. The third party candidly states that in order to ‘avoid the long lines’ at the post office, she dropped the petition off without having a certified mail receipt stamped by a Postal Service employee and that as a consequence ‘the sender has no documentation showing * * * [the post office] received the certified package’ on March 3, 2014.” 2014 T. C. Memo. 223, at p. 6.
I would point out that, in post offices where there are automated postal machines that dispense postage and receipts maintained by USPS, it might be tempting to rely on the machines. I myself have suggested that; see my blogpost “Going Postal”, 2/4/13. After Joe’s debacle, though, I’m not so sure. After all, the technophobes and Luddites still reign, and the posties may have the magic touch, after all.
And I also point out that maildrops inside post offices aren’t cleared as often as one might wish.
Finally, in my local post office there’s a sign on the maildrop as follows: “Items delivered after 5 p.m. will bear the next day’s postmark.” I wonder if such a sign appeared in Joe’s local post office.
Many years ago, in its pre-USPS incarnation, the post office had a slogan: “Mail early in the day, It’s the better way.”
Just ask Joe.