Each year, the Internal Revenue Service sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. Although some people may feel anxious when they receive one, many are easy to resolve. Here are nine things to know about IRS notices, just in case one shows up in your mailbox.

1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly. You generally have 30 days to respond to an IRS notice. Always check which tax year the notice relates to. Do not assume it relates to your most-recent tax filing.

2. There are a number of reasons why the IRS might send you a notice. Notices may request payment of taxes, notify you of changes to your account, or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your tax return.

3. Each letter or notice offers specific instructions on what you are asked to do to satisfy the inquiry.

4. If you receive a correction notice (the most common IRS correspondence), you should review and compare it with the information on your return.

5. If you agree with the correction on your account, then usually no reply is necessary unless payment is due.

6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. You should send a written explanation of why you disagree and include any documents you want the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of their notice.

7. If you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call. The important thing is to respond; ignoring notices will get you nowhere and could result in additional tax penalties.

8. Keep copies of any correspondence with the IRS with your tax records.

9. IRS notices and letters are sent only by mail. The IRS does not correspond by e-mail about taxpayer accounts or tax returns. Do not respond. Instead forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

For more information about IRS notices and requests for payments, see IRS Publication 594, “The IRS Collection Process.”


Barry Lisak is an IRS Enrolled Agent, meaning that he has passed special U.S. Treasury Department exams that qualify him to represent clients dealing with audits or tax-resolution cases. Any questions can be directed to him at (516) TAX-SAVE, or mrbarrytax@aol.com.

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