What if you get a letter from the IRS?
The IRS sends out millions of letters every year. Many are automated, and most don’t need to be feared. In fact, to help ease taxpayers’ minds, the IRS put together tips to help you in how best to respond. The following compiles the list into “Do’s and Don’ts” if you should receive a letter from the IRS.
- Don’t ignore it: Most IRS letters and notices are about federal tax returns. Each notice deals with a specific issue and provides specific instructions.
- Don’t panic: The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies do send letters by mail. Most of the time all the taxpayer needs to do is read the letter carefully and take the appropriate action or response. The letter will tell you what to do.
- Do act on the letter in a timely manner: A notice may reference changes to a taxpayer’s account, taxes owed, a payment request or a specific issue on a tax return. Taking action in a timely fashion could minimize additional interest and penalty charges.
- Do review the information: If a letter is about a changed or corrected tax return, the taxpayer should review the information and compare it with the original return. If the taxpayer agrees, they should make notes about the corrections on their personal copy of the tax return and keep it for their records – and communicate with their tax preparer, if appropriate.
- Don’t reply unless instructed to do so: There is usually no need for a taxpayer to reply to a notice unless they are specifically instructed to do so. On the other hand, taxpayers who owe should reply with a payment. Information about payment options is available at IRS.gov.
- Do respond to a disputed notice: If a taxpayer does not agree with the IRS, they or their tax professional should mail a letter explaining why they dispute the notice. They should mail it to the address on the contact stub at the bottom of the notice. The response should include information and documents for the IRS to review when considering the dispute. The taxpayer or their tax professional should allow at least 30 days for the IRS to respond.
- Do remember that there is usually no need to call the IRS: If a taxpayer must contact the IRS by phone, they should use the number in upper right-hand corner of the notice. The taxpayer or their tax professional should have a copy of the tax return and letter when calling. For those worried about scams, note the IRS does conduct some business by phone, but they never initiate contact by phone.
- Do Avoid Scams: The IRS will never initiate contact by phone, using social media, or text message. The first contact from the IRS usually comes in the mail. Taxpayers who are unsure if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information at IRS.gov.
- Do Keep Copies: Keep copies of any notices you receive with your tax records.