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The 'Mailbox Rule' in 2023

USTC rules e-filed documents filed when received, not sent

Years ago, before e-filing of tax returns, it wasn't unusual to find staff accountants waiting in line on April 15th at the USPS regional processing office in South San Francisco where the service counter is open late into the night. They were there to beat the filing deadline.

The so-called 'Mailbox Rule' says that documents filed with the US Tax Court, the IRS, or the Treasury Department generally, are filed as of the date the documents were mailed. The date is determined by an official USPS postmark on the envelope. However, the US Tax Court recently ruled that e-filed documents are considered filed when received and that receipt is determined by reference to where the US Tax Court is located, in District of Columbia in eastern time zone, not the taxpayers' location or local time zone.

As result, a deficiency petition which taxpayers filed at 11:05pm on last day of the petition-filing period in central time zone, but which was 12:05am in Washington DC, was untimely and had to be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

To that end, the Court noted that Code Sec. 7502's timely mailing/timely filing treatment was available only for physically mailed documents, not e-filed documents; and that both Tax Court Rule 22(d) and Court's own website instructions set out 11:59pm eastern time as the deadline for e-filing. The Court held that this is consistent with other federal rules and case law.

Therefore, although it was still last day to file by the taxpayers' local time, the Court found that it would be impermissibly extending the deadline if it accepted the taxpayer's petition as timely because the deadline for filing had already ended in District of Columbia.

Roy A. Nutt, et vir. v. Commissioner, 160 TC No. 10