It's a Saturday morning like any
other; the birds are singing, the sun is up and you've got a fresh
cup of Joe to start your day. You throw on some sweats, slide into
your fuzzy bunny slippers, and venture out to check the mail.
There, in with the usual "You May Already Be a Winner" envelopes,
you see a simple white mailing marked simply, "Internal Revenue
Service." (Cue the Ominous Music.)
In a split second, your head fills with images of being dragged
off to a dingy jail cell, of breaking rocks with a sledge hammer to
repay a massive debt and your family moving away so they don't have
to live with a tax cheat.
CALM DOWN!! Take a deep breath -- and another cup of coffee
won't hurt, either.
The IRS sends out millions of letters every year, for a variety
of reasons, so it's WAY too early to freak out (unless, of course,
you notice the SWAT team has taken up positions around your house
If you are one of the "lucky" recipients, here are some things
you should know to avoid further sleepless nights.
First and foremost: Don't panic. Even the IRS says most of their
notices can be dealt with very simply. There are a number of
reasons the IRS sends out a notice in the first place. It might
request payment of taxes, but it could just notify you of a change
in your account, or ask for additional information. Whatever the
notice, it will normally cover a very specific issue about your IRS
account or your return.
The good news is that every notice contains instructions on what
you need to do to solve the issue.
If the notice is about a correction to your tax return, look
over the letter carefully, then compare it to the tax return that
you filed. If you agree with the correction to your account, most
times, no reply is necessary -- unless, of course, there's a
If you don't agree with the IRS's correction, you'll need to
respond as requested in the notice. You should respond in writing
to the IRS, explaining why you disagree (email won't work for
this), and include any documents or any other information you think
the IRS should consider in understanding your position. Remember to
include the bottom tear-off portion of the notice when you
Mail everything to the IRS, using the address in the lower left
corner of the notice. And understand it'll take at least 30 days
for the IRS to get back to you.
That being said, a lot of these notices can be handled without
even visiting or calling an IRS field office. But if you do have
questions, the phone number to call is right there on the IRS
notice itself. It'll be on the upper right corner of the mailing.
You'll need a copy of your tax return and the notice available when
And always, always keep a copy of your notice -- and your reply
-- with your tax records.
For more information about IRS notices and bills, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process.
Questions about penalties and interest charges? Check out Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for
Individuals. For those who are more visually oriented, take a look
at the YouTube video, "Received a Letter from the IRS?"