A district court has held that the postmark rule did not apply to a late-filed tax return that sought a refund of taxes paid. But the court noted that this is an issue of first impression for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals which might have a different view.
A tax return is generally deemed to have been filed when the IRS receives the return. (Emmons, (1989) 92 TC 342). But, under the postmark rule, a tax return is deemed to have been filed on the date of mailing but only if the postmark date is before the due date for the return. (Code Sec. 7502(a)(2)).
Mr. and Ms. Harrison paid income taxes throughout 2012 via withholding from their wages. They were granted an extension to file their 2012 income tax return to October 13, 2013. They did not file a return then.
Approximately three years later, on October 11, 2016, the taxpayers mailed their 2012 tax return via certified mail seeking a refund of taxes withheld. The return was received by the IRS on October 17, 2016.
The court found, and the IRS did not object to, that the taxpayers' tax return was also an administrative claim for a refund.
The IRS denied the taxpayers' refund claim since no taxes were paid during the look-back period. The IRS deemed the filing date to be the day it received the return, October 17, 2016.
The look-back period then extended back only until April 17, 2013 (three years plus extension).
Since the taxpayers effectively paid their taxes on April 15, 2013 under Code Sec. 6513(b)(1), there were no taxes paid during the look-back period and, hence, no money to refund.
The taxpayers contended that the filing date for their claim was the mailing date, October 11, 2016. This would have extended the look-back period to April 11, 2013.
The district court held that, since the tax return was filed late, the postmark rule did not apply. Therefore, the filing date was the date the IRS received the return and there was no taxes to refund.
The court brought up an issue that it said was a question of first impression for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue was that perhaps there are two different filing dates for the taxpayers' tax return and their refund claim (even though both were done with one document). The return was filed when it was received by the IRS, under Emmons. But maybe the refund claim was filed when it was mailed.
While the district court said it could find no support for this theory (and, in fact, the IRS cited many cases that consistently treated the date that an untimely tax return was received as the filing date of the administrative claim), it said that the 7th Circuit might have a different view.
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