Thousands of IRS letters go out each year to Americans for a vast number of reasons, with most recipients sharing one common reaction—fear. In reality, the Internal Revenue Service sends out letters to taxpayers for a wide scope of reasons, many of which are not as panic worthy as one might think. A reputable and experienced tax attorney is essential in helping an individual interpret IRS letters and to designing a path forward when one is needed.
What to Do If You Receive an IRS Letter
Receiving official IRS letters can be concerning. There are a few general rules for steps a person should take upon receiving one of these letters, including:
- Pay attention. The impulse can be to ignore a complicated and wordy letter from the IRS. Don’t just set it aside! Read the letter in full, making special note of why the letter is being sent and if you are required to do anything in response. If you have trouble making sense of the letter or disagree with what it says, it may be prudent to reach out to a tax attorney for assistance.
- Compare information provided. Review the information presented in the IRS letter. Ensure that it matches your own records. If there is an error, it is wise to enlist the help of an attorney who knows how to effectively reach out to the IRS and make the necessary corrections.
- Keep copies of everything. Keep the letters you receive from the IRS, including the envelopes they came in which serve as a time stamp. Ensure that you are documenting everything carefully and retaining copies of documents whenever possible.
- Act quickly but expect delayed responses. While it is recommended to take action as quickly as possible as a taxpayer in response to an IRS letter, individuals can typically expect responses from the IRS to be somewhat delayed. This may be due in part to the sheer amount of business the agency handles and the fact that communications are sent by regular mail.
Common Reasons for IRS Letters
The Internal Revenue Service primarily communicates with taxpayers via mail through the United States Postal Service. Common reasons a taxpayer might receive a letter from the IRS can include:
- Notification that a balance is due.
- Questions about a tax return.
- Notification of change in an expected refund.
- Request for additional information.
- Notification of a delay regarding a return.
What Not to Do If You Receive an IRS Letter
The list of things not to do if you receive IRS letters is relatively short: Do not delay in taking action!
By ignoring a letter, taxpayers can create even more problems for themselves. If the letter references instructions on what to do next and includes a timeline for doing so and that information is ignored, it could negatively impact the taxpayer.
Why It Can Be Beneficial to Have an Attorney Assist with IRS Letters and Communications
Communication with the IRS can be challenging depending on the legal language used in their letter and a clear understanding of what the issue is. An intimate understanding of both is critical to protecting your rights, and if either is in question it is wise to have a tax attorney assist.
When it comes to general matters addressed in IRS letters, a qualified tax attorney can:
- Help with interpreting legal information.
- Compare information in the IRS letter to that of a tax return.
- Identify necessary next steps in response to a letter and assist with those steps.
On a more specific level, legal representation can help with items such as refund claims. An individual or corporation may file their taxes only to discover that they are not receiving the refund they believe themselves entitled to. In this case, a refund claim may need to be filed.
When it comes to filing a refund claim, there are specific guidelines to be followed and deadlines to be met in order for a claim to be valid. A knowledgeable tax attorney can help with:
- Filling out the right form regarding taxpayer identity as an individual or corporation.
- Abiding by deadlines. On average, refund claims must be filed within three years of the tax return in question or two years after those taxes were paid.
- Filing in the right place. A refund claim should be filed in the proper location, usually an Internal Revenue Service office in the taxpayer’s state of residence where the tax return was originally filed.
Individuals or corporations with questions and concerns regarding IRS letters should consider speaking with a reputable tax attorney to assist with letter interpretation and response.