Just because you send your tax return to the IRS by the correct deadline doesn't mean they'll receive it – or that they can process it. You'll need to make sure you follow a number of steps to make sure your tax filing is received at the right location on time and in the proper format. Reviewing the steps for submitting your tax return will help you avoid penalties and fines.
Read More: What Happens if You Don't File Taxes?
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What Is My Deadline?
If you're going to mail your tax return via the U.S. Postal Service or use a private delivery service, your letter or package should be postmarked or dated by April 15, unless you've requested an extension. Talk to your tax preparer about what your options are for an extension, which gives you extra time to file your taxes. The IRS doesn't have to receive your tax return by April 15 as long as it's postmarked by April 15.
Where Do I Send My Return?
You can find annual tax forms at the IRS website, taxpayer assistance centers, libraries, the post office and other locations in your area. You can also call 800-TAX-FORM to get copies mailed to you. The annual tax booklet will have the address for you to send in your taxes to the IRS, based on your location.
In addition to sending in a paper tax return, you can use the IRS E-file system. You'll need to follow the directions for registering for E-file, or authorizing your tax preparer to file for you electronically, then follow the directions for filing and paying any tax you owe electronically. Visit the IRS "Electronic Filing Options for Individuals" page at the IRS website for detailed instructions.
Read More: How to Attach W-2s to Tax Returns
Getting Your Packet Ready
In addition to mailing your tax return (such as a 1040), you might need to include other documents, such as a W-2 if you're an employee or a 1099 if you're a contractor. If you are including a paper check, make sure to include your Social Security number and the tax year for which you're paying on the check.
Make sure you sign and date each area of any form you are submitting, along with your Social Security number and daytime telephone number where requested. Avoid stapling documents or your check to your tax form to make it easier for the IRS staff who have to open millions of envelopes and put returns, forms and checks into piles. Paper clip any attachments to the front page of your return.
Read "How to Prepare Your Tax Return for Mailing" on the IRS website for more information to help you prepare your mailing. Mail sometimes gets lost or delayed – make copies of everything you submit or take photos on your phone in case you have to re-create your tax return submission again.
Send Your Return
Address your envelope as you would any other you send. Put your return address in the upper left-hand corner. Write the address for the IRS exactly as it appears on the IRS website or in the annual tax booklet. Make sure you use the right amount of postage – if your return comes back due to lack of postage, you will be late and subject to a late-filing fee and interest penalty.
Your best bet is to use a private mailing service or go to the post office and send your return certified or registered mail so you receive proof of mailing and are assured of adding the correct amount of postage. Local post offices often stay open until midnight on April 15 or have employees in the post office parking lot accepting mail you hand them through your car window as you drive by, guaranteeing your return will be postmarked April 15.