Avoid technicalities to meet administrative protest filing deadlines
The most common mistake resulting in a state tax protest denial is submitting the filing outside the statutory deadline. Whether it is 15, 30, 45 or 90 days, depending on the state, a number of factors can impact a timely filing. Are weekends included in the period or only business days? How are holidays treated? Is the due date counted from the date of the administrative decision, or the date you receive the decision? And most importantly, how can you support a timely filing if challenged? Preparation will ensure your protest or appeal is not prematurely concluded.
Recently, a New Jersey taxpayer was able to cast doubt on when a judgment was mailed by the state, overcoming a presumption that the taxpayer’s subsequent protest was untimely filed. In this taxpayer’s case, the date of the judgment was listed as the date of a winter storm that caused a state-wide emergency. While the state was able to prove that the tax office was open, despite most state offices being closed, the state was unable to demonstrate that the customary mailing procedure was followed. Therefore, the date of the judgment could not be proven as the date the judgment was mailed, which would have normally begun the appeal period.
While this taxpayer was successful, challenges to filing deadlines will rarely produce similar results.
Often times, protest or appeal periods begin on the date of the decision and count all days – business days and weekends – until the final due date. If the last day of the appeal is on a weekend or holiday, do not assume that the final appeal date automatically shifts to the next business day. Additionally, taxpayers should consider requesting certified mail receipts that can serve as evidence for a proper mailing. Alternatively, some jurisdictions permit online submissions which may help reduce paperwork and provide a clear electronic filing trail.
To add to the complexity of various state filing nuances, an incorrectly calculated appeal deadline provided by the state on an administrative decision may not save a taxpayer that relies on the incorrect date.
Taxpayers should instead focus on understanding the applicable jurisdiction’s appeal processes and filing deadlines. Preparation is key…and using that online date calculator to generate a filing deadline is often not enough diligence.