The United States Postal Service and the Internal Revenue Service are hard at work during difficult times, but major delays due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the 2020 election have affected their tracking processes and availability. This certainly affects your personal tax responsibilities, particularly for something as time-sensitive as an 83(b) filing.

The regular 30-day deadline and return copy process

Vesting of shares is a taxable event. Stockholders owe the IRS based on the value of their equity at the time of vesting.

To preempt this process and avoid a higher tax bill as shares vest, RSU holders and those who early exercise their options can opt for an 83(b) tax election. This provision of the Internal Revenue Code makes it possible for stockholders to be taxed on the fair market value of their shares at the time when those shares are granted (typically, a much lower value) rather than when they vest (typically, a much higher value).

Failure to file an 83(b) election within 30 days of the issue date typically results in the taxpayer paying ordinary income tax rates based on the FMV of the shares as of the date the property vests or becomes transferable, less the amount (if any) the taxpayer paid for the property.

83(b) election  Without an 83(b) election
Number of RSUs issued 100,000 100,000
Taxable event At time of RSU grant At time of RSU vesting
FMV per share at time of grant $1.00 $1.00
FMV per share at time of vesting $5.00 $5.00
FMV of all shares at time of taxable event $100,000 $500,000
Taxes paid at taxable event (35% ordinary income tax rate) $35,000 $175,000


Usually what happens within a few weeks (at most) of mailing your documents:

Throughout 2020, neither of these has been happening in a timely fashion (or one has, but not the other), and many filers are unsure if their documents have arrived on time, and concerned that they’ve missed the 30-day deadline, which can have a significant impact on their future tax bills.

The 83(b) extension: A grace period through July 15, 2020

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has extended the deadline until July 15, 2020, for 83(b) elections that would otherwise be due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020.

This “grace period” of sorts should help you still qualify for the deadline even if you haven’t received any USPS confirmation or a return copy back. We still recommend calling the IRS (more information on how to do this below) while you wait to make sure you don’t need to re-send anything.

Coronavirus-related delays from USPS and IRS: Delivery, tracking, and processing backlogs

USPS: There have been systemwide delays in mail delivery. We found that Certified Mail tracking was spotty at best and couldn’t get a definitive answer on the nature of these delays or the gaps in tracking information. Do not be alarmed if your tracking number says “Waiting for USPS Pickup” for weeks or even months, as the statuses related to the tracking numbers are intermittently inaccurate.

IRS: For example, the Kansas City, MO IRS office, a large office that handles forms from New York residents, was closed, briefly reopened, and then closed again throughout April, May, and June. If your documents were delivered during that time period, there was no staff to process the intake of documents, and even as late as October 2020, they were still currently working through the backlog of mail from that time.

November 2020 Update

We had a few employees internally who had sent in their 83(b)s back in May receive their return copies in late October/early November, but with the correct date stamp that confirms they were delivered within the 30 day window.

If you have not received anything back yet, we now highly recommend using the instructions below to call to check if they ever received anything from you, and whether you should be expecting something back soon.

Calling the IRS to confirm delivery of your 83(b)

Here are some very detailed instructions on calling the IRS from Clerky:

  1. Call the IRS at 800.829.1040
  2. Select option 1 (“To continue in English”)
  3. Select option 2 (“For answers about your personal income taxes”)
  4. Select option 1 (“For questions about a form you have already submitted, your tax history or payment”)
  5. Select option 3 (“For all other questions about your tax history or payment”)
  6. Select option 2 (“For all other questions about your tax history or payment”)
  7. Enter your social security number
  8. Select option 1 to confirm you entered a social security number
  9. After the correct read back of your social security number, select option 1 to confirm
  10. Do not choose any of the topics offered. Instead, continue to hold to indicate that you have not heard your topic.
  11. Ignore any other prompts and continue to hold. This should ultimately result in an attempt to transfer your call to the queue to speak with an IRS representative. Simply listen to any notifications (e.g., “Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality purposes”, “Please hold while we transfer your call”, “Please wait”, etc.).
  12. If IRS call volume allows your call to be queued to speak with an IRS representative, you may hear a wait time estimate (e.g., “We estimate your wait time to be between 15 and 30 minutes”). If your call cannot be queued to speak with an IRS representative, you may be asked to call back later (e.g., “We’re sorry, but due to extremely high call volume and the topic you requested, we are unable to handle your call at this time. Please try again later or on our next business day.”).

The number listed there is for the Kansas City office, so you may want to call a different branch based on your state, but the automated instructions should be fairly similar regardless of the office.

The IRS call center is currently quite busy, due to inquiries about PPP loans and economic stimulus payments. You may find that due to high call volume, you will have to call back a few times during business hours to make it through the queue.

If you’re able to reach a representative, they may be able to provide you some information to put your mind at ease regarding the status of your documents. Given the delays, you may be told any of the following, based on when exactly you mailed in and possibly a bit of luck in which packages made it to the top of the processing pile at your assigned IRS facility:

Harness Wealth can pair you with the advisory firms you need to provide advice across your financial, tax, and legal concerns for your equity. To identify the right advisory firms for you, get started here. 

Related articles: