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I just filled out my federal taxes, 1040 and 1040-V. Deadline is July 15th.

I've tried filing online but I can't seem to find any websites that just have the 1040 to fill out and submit. It always asks me several questions that I don't know to and asks me to fill out other forms instead of 1040 and 1040-V. Several of them which I don't know the information for. I have no w-2 income


Therefore I am considering to mail my paper tax forms in with my check. Since the due date is July the 15th, it's likely my mail won't get there by then. Would I be facing penalties?

Or if anyone knows how to fill out the 1040 and 1040-V and submit online that'd be good too. I just can't seem to find anything.

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    @Darren Depends if you're sending it by ground or air mail; base post is the former and you appear to be underestimating how large the US is. It's about 40-50 hours (lowest in the south, highest in the north) of driving time from one side of the US to the other (for comparison, London to Moscow is only 32h according to Google maps, London to Warsaw is half that). Chunked into daily drive segments with un/reloading from one truck to the next (ie not loaded into a truck going non-stop to the other coast just needing driver swaps) and about a week is normal. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Jul 10 at 10:21
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    @Darren A much larger fraction of US mail goes coast to coast than makes equivalently long trips in Europe; sending that much via airmail would significantly increase our base postal rates for the 99% of the time where it doesn't matter in order to send a lot more via more expensive and polluting air freight; instead it's sold as a premium service where if you absolutely need next day service it's available as a premium service. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Jul 10 at 11:28
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    @Darren The USPS will generally deliver mail in the continental US (i.e. not including Alaska and Hawaii) in three to four days. They absolutely won't guarantee it though (unless you pay extra). – pboss3010 Jul 10 at 12:08
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    Selecting ground vs air mail hasn't been a thing in the U.S. for domestic mail since 1977. Lots of long distance first class mail goes by air. As @Darren says for europe, the post office chooses the most efficient method for the distance. – user4556274 Jul 10 at 13:01
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    @user4556274 they don't explicitly call it ground vs air anymore; but if you want the next day delivery quality of service guarantee that comes from flying an item to the closest airport, instead of normal first class/priority mail (same 3 day or less nominal target, just more detailed tracking/etc for the latter) you upgrade all the way to the top of the line Priority Mail Express product. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Jul 10 at 14:02
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If you just mail your taxes in, you're fine as long as you are postmarked by July 15. IRS won't actually open it for days, or even weeks, likely, but you'll be in the clear.

The most "generic" version is Free File Fillable Forms, which is basically "fill your 1040 out online and then send in the result".

As to whether you need to fill out other forms or not, will depend on your income (and deduction) streams. If you have nothing but normal plain old wage income, then you just need the 1040 and W-2s and a few other trivial things (like the "Yes, I promise I had health insurance" and such); the Free File Fillable Forms will take care of you there. But if you had capital gains, if you sold stocks, if you withdrew from your IRA, if you had employment-related deductions - then you might need some other things. Free File Fillable Forms can cover most of that.

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  • @user102008 thanks for the correction, I never remember that word! – Joe Jul 9 at 21:34
  • I hope you meant 'withdrew' from 401(k) or IRA or maybe 529, but not 1040. And TCJA'17 eliminated the PPACA 'responsibility payment' (aka tax) as of 2019, so 2019 form 1040 no longer has the 'health coverage' checkbox, and form 8965 for exemptions no longer exists. TCJA also 'suspended' the former 2%-floor deductions, including unreimbursed employee expenses. (Self-employed still can deduct valid business expenses on C or C-EZ.) – dave_thompson_085 Jul 10 at 3:39
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    I think they'll actually open it. Checks you send get processed rather fast. – davidbak Jul 10 at 13:27
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    I vouch for the Free File Fillable Forms. I've been living abroad and sending my tax returns by post for many years. On a couple of occasions they've been lost in the post and I had to send in a "replacement". I would then have to attach the original proof of posting to justify the delay. This year I used the Free File Fillable Forms - and it does the job very well. It easily handled the 1116 and 2555 forms, too. And, best of all, it on the fly checks for the obvious mistakes (like missed fields, etc.) and warns you. – Aleks G Jul 10 at 16:19
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    @Joe: IIRC from the days when I actually mailed in paper forms with checks, it's even simpler than that. Returns with checks enclosed go to a different post office box. The on-line Free Fillable Forms work quite well, in my experience. The only real problem is that decoding their error messages is anything but obvious. I usually have to use Google to find out what they really mean. – jamesqf Jul 10 at 16:57
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No problem.

The IRS scans your envelope when they scan your documents. In any subsequent review or audit, they can, will and do look at the postmark when deciding things. And the postmark is what matters.

US post offices used to be open til midnight on April 15, for that exact purpose. Postal workers would literally stand at streetside and take tax forms from people driving up! However e-"file" did away with that.

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    I used to enjoy doing that - and there were others too apparently as there was typically a long line of cars at 11:30PM at the main transfer post offices near San Francisco Airport also SeaTac airport. (With post office workers there to handle the crowd.) But now, yes, TurboTax and e-filing work for me, and I seek entertainment elsewhere. – davidbak Jul 10 at 15:40
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    I've heard stories about tax documents and checks being sent from Post Offices in remote Alaska so that it was still postmarked by 4/15 (normal year), but had a significant time in transit for the money to earn interest before it was needed when the check cleared. – Michael Richardson Jul 10 at 18:12
  • The Boston Fort Point Postal Annex keeps normal hours till midnight. Does get lively on those filing nights. – DaveM Jul 10 at 20:19
  • I also dropped my taxes off with minutes to spare, in Richmond, VA over 20 years ago. It sounds like every large town had at least one Post Office that stayed open until midnight. – chicks Jul 13 at 19:20
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The IRS considers the postmark date to be the date of filing, so it's perfectly fine so long as your envelope makes it to your post office by the close of business on the due date. This is true for the return itself and any payments made by check.

If you're particularly concerned about having proof of timely filing, consider using Certified Mail. The post office postmarks the envelope in front of you and also hands you a postmarked receipt as proof of mailing. This also gives you a tracking number that allows you to verify delivery.


The legal authority for the timely filing rule is codified under 26 C.F.R. § 301.7502-1, Timely mailing of documents and payments treated as timely filing and paying.

A document or payment is deemed to be filed or paid on the date of the postmark stamped on the envelope or other appropriate wrapper (envelope) in which the document or payment was mailed. Thus, if the envelope that contains the document or payment has a timely postmark, the document or payment is considered timely filed or paid even if it is received after the last date, or the last day of the period, prescribed for filing the document or making the payment.

For international filers, also relevant is Revenue Ruling 2002-23, 2002-18 IRB 811 which holds that official postmarks from foreign postal services are also valid for the purposes of determining timely filing.

In addition to the USPS and foreign postal services, the IRS maintains a list of designated private delivery services which qualify to meet the timely filing rule. As of 2020, that list is certain services from DHL, UPS, and FedEx.


Finally, there are a number of 100% free e-filing options available if you meet the qualifications, but they are hard to find thanks to dark patterns employed by the tax prep industry.

This list allows you to cut though to the actually free programs. (There's also Credit Karma Tax, which is free and available to everyone.)

Online programs generally ask you a series of basic questions to determine what kind of income you had, taxes you've already paid, and credits and deductions you're eligible for. If you don't know the answers to those questions, it's likely that you aren't able to fill out the 1040 correctly yourself.

You should learn the answers to those questions before you file to ensure that your return is accurate. You may be missing out on money due to you otherwise.

Also note that generally, once you complete online tax programs, they will allow you to download the completed 1040 (and other forms) as a PDF before you file. You could do this to compare with the version you've already completed, and then e-file if it looks good. (And really, you should download and save this PDF for your records anyway.)

If you need more time to understand the questions or seek advice, the IRS will grant an automatic 6-month extension to the return due date so long as you file Form 4868 before the due date.

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  • +1 for the part in bold, especially. I hope OP pays attention to that. (The rest of the answer is good, too.) – prl Jul 11 at 22:58
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not if you ensure that the post office puts the actual date on the envelope to prove when it was mailed. I would mail certified to ensure you have a copy proving it.

One USPO tried to not postmark my return and they were caught putting a later postmark on all mail intentionally to make their stats look better.

So watch them put the date on and do not let them put tomorrows date or anything else other than the correct date. And check your receipts before you leave.

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