The IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers, with the most common ones being requests for payment, notifying taxpayers that the IRS has made changes to their accounts, or a request for additional information. Here are seven things you should know if you receive a notice or letter from the IRS.
A notice normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return, and it contains specific instructions on what action you need to take. Don’t panic when you see that IRS seal. Read the notice carefully from beginning to end. A portion of the notice will explains the steps you need to take in order to respond, typically on a page that includes check boxes and a signature line. All you have to do is follow those instructions and mail the appropriate forms back to the address specified in the notice. In many cases, that’s all you’ll have to do, and the issues raised can be addressed simply, painlessly and without calling or visiting an IRS office. GPL staff can help you understand the notice if you aren’t sure what it is asking.
If It Isn’t On Paper, It Isn’t the IRS
The IRS loves paper trails, so they like things in writing, on paper. The IRS NEVER makes initial contact with taxpayers online or by phone. You will NEVER receive an unexpected email, text message, social media message, or phone call requesting information from the IRS. IRS notices and letters are sent by old-fashioned snail-mail, period. If you receive anything else that appears to be from the IRS–and that isn’t the result of a specific arrangement with a specific person in a specific IRS office–NEVER click on any links in it, or provide any of the information it is asking for. You should forward any such messages to email@example.com, as it is from a scam-artist who is trying to steal your identity or to infect your computer with a virus.
If You Disagree, Tell the IRS
If you don’t agree with the correction the IRS made, you need to let them know. A notice often, implicitly or explicitly, contains a request for additional information, and providing it might clear up the conflicting points of view regarding your tax situation. You need to send a response to the IRS that explains in full why you disagree with the notice and it should include any information or documents that IRS needs to consider. Your response needs to be crystal clear, straight to the point, and focused entirely on the matters you are contesting. As mentioned above, a portion of the notice usually explains both the exact issues and what you need to do in order to respond.
Sometimes, It’s the IRS That Makes a Mistake
If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence very carefully and compare it with the information on your tax return. Contrary to what we may sometimes think, IRS agents and clerks are human and sometimes they make mistakes. The “correction” the IRS is looking for, could be their error in processing. You might be able to clear this up with a letter in response that carefully points out what was on your tax return versus what the notice was requesting, and explaining why you’re right and the notice is incorrect.
When the IRS is Right, They’re Right
If you agree with the correction the IRS is making to your tax account, then usually no reply is necessary unless the notice directs otherwise. Your only response may have to be making a payment to the Department of the Treasury, or to await a check to arrive from them.
There Will Be a Response to Your Response
Usually, the IRS responds within 30 days from receipt of your correspondence. Their follow-up letter should be approached like as you did your first first letter. Read it carefully, don’t panic, and don’t automatically assume the IRS has it right. Even if their response goes against you, don’t panic. In some complex situations, it may require a phone call, or another letter, for the IRS to understand your point of view. Compare their response to the original notice, your reply, and see how they fit together. Additional correspondence should address only remaining or new points of contention.
Keep Copies of All Correspondence
It’s important to keep copies of any correspondence with your other tax records, starting with the original IRS notice. Keeping copies of what you send the IRS is the most important in case your mail is lost in transit, but you also want to have copies of the IRS notices so you can compare them to each other.
If you receive an IRS letter, remember that GPL’s tax specialists and resolution experts are here to help you respond to it, or even just to make you feel confident that no response is necessary.