your tax return — January 19, 2022

Getting Tax Collections Letters Even After Paying? Do This

by Susannah Hornback


Getting Tax Collections Letters Even After Paying? Do This

Update: The IRS has temporarily suspended some automated communications while they catch up on processing tax returns.

Does this sound familiar? You filed your taxes on time and paid off the remaining balance; then, a few months later, the IRS sent you a letter saying you still had taxes owed.

Weird, but whatever—you filed a Tax Court petition to correct the issue and called it a day.

Then, a few months later, a collections notice shows up. The IRS isn’t even allowed to start the collections process until a Tax Court petition is resolved!

You’ve literally done everything you can do, and you’re still getting collections communication. What gives?

It’s not you, it’s the process—the IRS and the Tax Court are both overwhelmed

The Taxpayer Advocacy Service (TAS) has connected the dots to get to the root of the issue. We’ll give a quick summary here, but if you’d like, you can dive into the details on the TAS website.

Long story short, the IRS is still behind on paperwork, but some of its automated processes aren’t. When the automatic system assumes you haven’t paid up, it sends a letter saying so, with a note that debt collections will start in 90 days unless you pay—or contest the letter’s accuracy via Tax Court.

Unfortunately, the Tax Court is also behind. Even if you file a petition within the allowed 90 days, it might not get processed in time to prevent the collections letters.

That means you’re caught in the middle of a “premature assessment” —a collections process that starts before your petition has been recognized by the Tax Court—even if you did everything by the books.

There’s a way out of the collections problem without paying your taxes twice

While the IRS is woefully behind (due to managing not just taxes, but also two years of stimulus payments and new tax breaks), the people who work there are doing their best to manage the situation.

For taxpayers like you who have paid up but still get collections letters, there is a special email address for you to contact:

When you send the email, make sure it includes:

  • Your full name and address
  • The date the petition was filed with the Tax Court
  • The name of the other parties to the petitioner’s Tax Court case
  • The Tax Court docket number, if known

If you’re not sure that your petition has been officially filed yet, the Tax Court has a docket search feature you can use.

Haven’t gotten a collections letter? Don’t worry about emailing—yet

Now, if this all sounds like you except that you haven’t gotten a collections letter yet, don’t worry about sending an email. The IRS is working to get all the issues sorted, so hopefully you won’t ever see a collections email for the taxes you’ve already paid in full.

That said, if you do wind up with a collections letter even after you paid and filed a petition, you know who to email now.

Feel good about this year’s taxes

When you file your tax return on time with a simple, easy-to-follow process, you can walk away knowing you did things right. That’s more than just a confidence boost—it makes life easier down the line, especially if entities like the IRS get tied up in knots.

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