How to handle my insufficient postage dilemma
June 12, 2007 3:39 PM   Subscribe

I just mailed two tax checks (to the IRS and the CA tax board--totalling over $7000), each with 40 cents of postage instead of 41 cents. They have to be postmarked by Friday to avoid late fees. How can I minimize how screwed I get?

I see three possiblities:
1) I mail new checks and put a stop-payment on the outstanding checks. The worse case scenario is that USPS delivers both of them, and the governments charge me astronomical fees for writing a check that wouldn't go through.

2) I hope the USPS delivers the checks despite insufficient postage or returns them to me by Friday (this seems unlikely). Worst case scenario is that they return them to me in the distant future, and I pay astronomical fees.

3) I just mail the checks again. This doubles my tax payment, ensures that I won't pay any penalties, but confuses the government, possibly costing me endless hours of frustration trying to get my money back. It also costs me whatever interest I would have earned on that money, plus extra capital gains taxes since I'd have to sell something to get the cash.

I'm leaning towards #2. As a followup, if I go that way, what are the expected waiting times to know that they received the checks or to have them returned?
posted by jewzilla to Law & Government (16 answers total)
 
Where did you mail the checks, and is the return address in the same vicinity? I think there is a good chance that they come back to you by Thursday.
posted by Good Brain at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2007


Yes, the return address is actually the address I mailed it from. I dropped it in a mailbox at my office, and the envelope has my office address on it. There's overhead from the internal mail processing, probably a day's worth.
posted by jewzilla at 3:56 PM on June 12, 2007


Call the USPS and see if they have some sort of policy. Considering the price changes, they may.

Failing that, chase the IRS on Thursday and see if they have the checks, if at all possible. If not, see if you can arrange to wire the money on Friday.
posted by wackybrit at 4:03 PM on June 12, 2007


It would brighten my day immensely to know that your mail carrier recognized your envelopes for what they are and casually affixed two 1¢ stamps to them so that they would find their way on time. Hope this happens.
posted by ldenneau at 4:06 PM on June 12, 2007


Good Brain, I wouldn't count on it. The last time I forgot to put postage on something (completely forgot, not just insufficient postage) it took almost a week to get back to me.
posted by indyz at 4:06 PM on June 12, 2007


For future reference, you should always send mail like this certified, jewzilla. One of the reasons I do is that it prevents this from happening; another is the delivery confirmation.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2007


ldenneau writes "It would brighten my day immensely to know that your mail carrier recognized your envelopes for what they are and casually affixed two 1¢ stamps to them so that they would find their way on time. Hope this happens."

My dad does this. He is a USPS letter carrier. Hope that brightens your day. :)
posted by chiababe at 4:19 PM on June 12, 2007


What about trying #2 and if they haven't either cashed the check or returned the mail by Friday, switch to plan #1? I'm guessing their fee for a bad check (if any) plus the bank's fee to stop payment is less than the fee for being late on sending them your thousands of dollars.
posted by salvia at 4:25 PM on June 12, 2007


1) Write new checks and overnight them, so they get there first.
2) Call the IRS and explain that you sent checks twice and why, and tell them the second ones to get there will be cancelled.
3) Call the bank and cancel the second batch of checks.

Likely the first checks will come back anyway. Don't oay the taxes if you don't have to. I did that one and it took a full year to get my money back.
posted by visual mechanic at 5:04 PM on June 12, 2007


The USPS has announced (informally, but in major media outlets such as USA Today) that they will have a very loose policy regarding the new 41¢ rate for about six to eight weeks. In practice (I asked my friend at the PO) this means that they'll let just about any 39¢ piece of mail go through with no penalty for some time. The fact that you managed to get "closer" to the real rate will probably only work in your favor, and the reality is that the USPS will not screw you over when they see that the letters are going to governmental bodies. The only time I'd worry would be if you were bulk mailing hundreds of pieces of mail at the wrong rate. I wouldn't worry one second about this, honestly.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:04 PM on June 12, 2007


About 2 weeks after the last postage hike, I mailed home a birthday card to my mother with the old postage amount. The card got there 2 days later with no problems. Seems to me that they might be a little lax in the beginning, like Dee said.
posted by coolin86 at 6:08 PM on June 12, 2007


I had a car payment with an old "FIRST CLASS" stamp returned to me, taking a week (it only takes a day to get to the bank). I thought "FIRST CLASS" was good forever, but, my .39 version didn't get through "with no penalty" FWIW. This was two weeks ago.
posted by kcm at 6:43 PM on June 12, 2007


I'd check if they cashed them on Friday and go with #3 if they haven't. I'm not really seeing a downside to calling the IRS and asking their advice on the subject.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:07 AM on June 13, 2007


I think Dee has it right as well. I mailed a (substantial) credit card payment last week, and then panicked when I realized I only put a 39¢ stamp on it. The credit card company received it just fine without it being returned to me.

Perhaps a call to the USPS to confirm?
posted by vers at 6:03 AM on June 13, 2007


I'd check if they cashed them on Friday and go with #3 if they haven't. I'm not really seeing a downside to calling the IRS and asking their advice on the subject.

You clearly don't spend much time dealing with the IRS:

1. I would expect them to take at least two weeks to deposit the check.

2. Calling the IRS is about as pleasant as bathing a rabid porcupine, and just as likely to get you a useful answer to your question.

The Post Office is the efficient organization in this scenario. I'd either trust them to do the right thing or call them and ask about the policy.

I think the odds are pretty good - the USPS is very likely to just deliver it, and the IRS is very unlikely to accurately assess a penalty on a check that is only a few days late anyway.
posted by mmoncur at 8:52 PM on June 13, 2007


The problem mmoncur, is that the official, stated USPS policy is to not deliver mail with less postage than required. The unofficial policy may be different, but without delivery confirmation, there's nothing the USPS can tell you about your letter with certitude.

Oh, and I work in a CPA office.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:50 AM on June 14, 2007


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