E-filing tax returns are the norm by far; 90% of tax returns are electronically filed these days and the number keeps climbing. But with close to 100 million returns processed each year, that’s still close to 10 million returns that will be placed in an envelope, carefully addressed, and dropped off to get sent through the mail. And regardless of the reason that your tax return can’t be e-filed, we want to provide you with some important tips about how to send and monitor your filling. 

Can I use UPS or other services to file my taxes? Or is USPS the only option?

While most tax returns get sent via the US Postal Service, what if you want to ensure that it gets there faster? Or be able to track it to make sure that it doesn’t get lost? Is UPS or another option available? The answer is yes. The IRS refers to these alternate shipping methods as Private Delivery Services (or PDS). And you can access the addresses where your return should be mailed using this link. It’s a good idea to use the link below to know the general service center you’re sending to based on your state (eg Austin vs Fresno). Once you know the city, you can use the PDS list to see the mailing address to use with that service. 

How do I know where to mail it if I DO use USPS?

If filing a paper return and sending via the USPS, use this site to look up the address where your return should be mailed.

Does it matter which type of USPS delivery or mailing service I use to send it?

A USPS postmark is deemed as the filing date for a tax return, so as long as your return is postmarked by the due date, your return will be considered filed on time. Beyond that, the speed at which it’s getting there is up to you. But one thing that we deem non-negotiable for our clients: you have to get a receipt for the mailing that indicates where you mailed it to, and the date it was sent. Ideally we ask clients to send us back the image of that receipt. That way, we can throw it in our file and be able to reference it in case of any issues.

What about folding… is it OK to fold my paper-filed tax return?

Yes. Fold it in half, or if you really need to in thirds. The IRS is much more concerned about the completeness of the return than whether it’s folded or not. The only request is that you don’t staple things together. That just adds more work and time to processing. 

Is there any way to track the progress of my return being processed? 

So you’ve packaged it up, checked all the signatures, provided any necessary attachments, chosen your mailing method, and have a receipt of when you sent the return. Now what? How do you follow your return through the processing flow?

We wish there was a better explanation for this, but the options are pretty limited. And here’s an important current update: since March of 2020 the IRS has been accumulating and then dealing with a significant backlog of returns sent in. (Picture a parking lot full of mail trucks, each truck filled to the brim with returns and filings to process, at each processing center.) While they’ve worked to reduce the backlog consistently, the time it takes to process a paper-filed return is still about 8 weeks on a good day. (As of the date of this original post.) That said, here are a few options for following up on your return:

  • If you know there’s a refund coming your way, the IRS Where’s My Refund tool will confirm whether a return was received, is in processing, and whether that refund was issued or not. 

  • If you aren’t expecting a refund, you’ll want to wait at least 4-6 weeks from the date you sent the return and then can call 800-829-1040 to speak with an agent and ask them to confirm whether the return was received. 

  • Or if you’d like to try the IRS Transcript tool, you can create a login, and request a transcript of that year’s return to see if it was processed already or not.

  • And the IRS has gotten into the app game and has IRS2GO which you can also use for refund tracking, etc.

Because of the delays and difficulty in tracking processing, it’s always preferable to e-file your return. But hopefully, by following some of these guidelines you’ll give yourself the best process possible.

If this was helpful, or if you have any tips of your own to share, drop a note in the comments!

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