What to do if you get a letter from the IRS in the mail? What to do if you have gotten lots of mail from the IRS that you have done nothing about? (Maybe you didn’t even open the mail?)
Here are two pithy pieces of advice that are easy to remember and easy to follow. If you get a letter from the IRS, don’t panic. And, equally as important, don’t ignore it.
The IRS recently published a list of its Top 10 tips regarding any letter from the IRS, and number 1 on the list: Don’t panic. You often can take care of a notice simply by responding to it.
The IRS goes on to provide additional basic and sound advice, including:
–Each Notice has specific instructions, so read the entire Notice carefully. It will tell you what you need to do.
–If you get a notice that states the IRS has made a change or correction to your tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return.
–If you agree with the notice, you usually don’t need to reply unless it gives you other instructions or you need to make a payment. More importantly, if you do not agree with the notice, it’s important for you to respond. Some small items you can manage yourself. For other items, it might be wise to seek professional advice. (Note that the IRS advises taxpayers to write a letter to explain why they disagree with a notice, including any information and documents for the IRS to consider. This might be a quick avenue for a resolution; on the other hand, the unwitting taxpayer may be handing the IRS just the wrong information.)
–You won’t need to call the IRS or visit an IRS office for most notices. If you do have questions, call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. This will help the IRS answer your questions.
–Always keep copies of any notices you receive with your other tax records.
–ALWAYS be alert for tax scams. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail. The IRS does not contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information.
Besides the advice not to panic, equally important is the advice not to ignore correspondence from the IRS. In other words, don’t procrastinate! On the topic of Correspondence from the IRS, Kelly Erb, in a recent blog post, describes the taxpayer who arrives at her office with piles of unopened mail from the IRS. I especially liked her description of clients who bring in suitcases full of unopened IRS mail. Following the “don’t panic” mantra, she provides the best advice of all: Take a deep breath and open the envelope.
Once you have taken the deep breath, move quickly to not procrastinating. Most correspondence from the IRS is time sensitive. There are often deadlines. Usually, you or your tax professional can fix the problem as long as you don’t ignore the letter from the IRS or procrastinate taking action.
If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, you might need to seek out professional tax help. At Lowrance Law, we are glad to help taxpayers open up piles (large or small!) of old IRS letters. We would love to help you file old tax returns so you can get caught up. We stand ready to help you take that deep breath so you don’t panic, and to nudge you along so you don’t procrastinate and make things worse than they need to be.
Cari Lyn Pierce