Taxpayers Should Open and Carefully Read Any Mail from the IRS

The IRS mails letters or notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons including:

• They have a balance due.
• They are due a larger or smaller refund.
• The agency has a question about their tax return.
• They need to verify identity.
• The agency needs additional information.
• The agency changed their tax return.

If a taxpayer receives an IRS letter or notice, they should:

Not ignore it. Most IRS letters and notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. The notice or letter will explain the reason for the contact and gives instructions on what to do.

Not panic. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies generally contact taxpayers by mail. Most of the time, all the taxpayer needs to do is read the letter carefully and take the appropriate action.

Read the notice carefully and completely. If the IRS changed the tax return, the taxpayer should compare the information provided in the notice or letter with the information in their original return. In general, there is no need to contact the IRS if the taxpayer agrees with the notice.

Respond timely. If the notice or letter requires a response by a specific date, taxpayers should reply in a timely manner to:

  • avoid delays in processing their tax return.
  • minimize additional interest and penalty charges.
  • preserve their appeal rights if they don’t agree.

Pay amount due. Taxpayers should pay as much as they can, even if they can’t pay the full amount. People can pay online or apply online for a payment agreement, including installment agreements, or an Offer in Compromise.

Keep a copy of the notice or letter. It’s important that taxpayers keep a copy of all notices or letters with other tax records. They may need these documents later.

Remember, there is usually no need to call the IRS. If a taxpayer must contact the IRS by phone, they should use the number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. The taxpayer should have a copy of their tax return and letter when calling. Typically, taxpayers only need to contact the agency if they don’t agree with the information, if the IRS requests additional information, or if the taxpayer has a balance due. Taxpayers can also write to the agency at the address on the notice or letter. Taxpayer replies are worked on a first-come, first-served basis and will be processed based on the date the IRS receives it.


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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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