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Sneaky Mailing of Late Taxes May Not Work

May 6, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A legal quirk may still allow late taxpayers to get their forms postmarked before the April 15 filing deadline, but officials caution against relying on the technicality to avoid paying penalties.

The backdated postmarks are available because of a special Postal Service program for stamp collectors who want to get examples of stamps postmarked on the first day they are issued.

Theoretically, the remaining taxpayers who haven’t filed could also use the system to dodge the fact that they missed the deadline last month, Linn’s Stamp News, a newspaper for collectors, suggests in its May 9 editions.

But officials of the Postal Service and Internal Revenue Service said such an action would be questionable.

Only about 3 million tax returns of the nearly 100 million due have yet to be filed, the IRS estimates, and most of them are from Americans overseas, who still have time to file.

The backdated postmark service is designed to help collectors who cannot travel from city to city to be present for first day of issue ceremonies for each new postage stamp.

New stamps are sold only in the city of issue on the first day, going on sale elsewhere the next day.

With the special service, collectors can go to post offices in their home towns and buy the stamps, place them on envelopes and mail the envelopes in bulk to the first-day post office for special cancellations.

This service is usually offered for about a month after a stamp is issued, to give collectors time to take advantage of it and to ease first day pressure on the issuing post office.

For the new ″E″ stamps, the time has been extended to May 21, since they were released on rather short notice March 22, in anticipation of the new postage rates that took effect April 3.

Thus, in theory at least, a collector could put the new ″E″ stamps on an envelope containing tax forms, send it to Washington for the first day cancellation, and it would then be delivered with the date March 22 on the envelope, Linn’s reports.

Technically, then, the taxpayer could still send in the forms ″on time,″ under court decisions that have held a postmark is evidence of filing.

But IRS and Postal Service raised questions.

The first-day-of-issue cancellations look different and are treated differently from regular date cancellations affixed to mail, said Dick Rustin, manager of the Postal Service’s stamp information branch.

Regular cancellations do confirm the date something was mailed, he said. But, for those which state ″first day of issue,″ he said, ″we would not verify that the mail entered the system on that day.″

Tax forms arriving a month late with a March 22 cancellation might also raise questions at the IRS, said spokeswoman Johnell Hunter. She said the tax agency might check to see if the person sending in the form had a history of being late.

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