What to Do When You Get a Letter From the IRS

For many, getting a letter from the IRS can be blood-freezing. But don’t panic. Most of the time, the IRS just wants more information about your taxes and it may not be that big a deal.

So if you’ve received a letter from the IRS, take a deep breath and read on for answers to some of your most urgent questions.


What Reasons Would the IRS Have For Sending Me a Letter?

The IRS’s preferred method of communication is via letter—not by email or social media message; there are limited situations where they may contact you by phone, but they’ll usually send a letter first or multiple letters.

The IRS will contact you via mail if they your return is under audit or you have a balance due —but there are lots of other reasons they may get in touch, as well. Some other possible reasons include:

  • Your refund will be different than you originally thought
  • The IRS has questions about your tax return
  • It wants you to send additional information about your taxes
  • It wants to verify your identity
  • Changes or corrections were made to your tax return
  • Your refund will be delayed

How Can I Tell The Letter Isn’t a Scam?

Fear of an IRS audit or collections can be a powerful tool in the hands of scammers. If you’ve ever received one of those scam robocalls about the IRS investigating you, you’re probably aware of this.

If the IRS wants to get in touch with you, it’s most likely to be by mail, so it’s easy to tell it’s a scam when someone claiming to be the IRS contacts you through other channels.

But when scammers send you a letter in the mail, it can be harder to spot the fakes. Here are some signs that the IRS letter you’re holding in your hands may not be legit:

  • It demands immediate payment.
  • It doesn’t include a notice or letter number (usually printed in the top right corner).
  • The relevant tax year or years aren’t printed in the top right corner.
  • It threatens to have you arrested if you don’t pay.
  • You don’t get a chance to question or appeal the amount you owe.
  • There’s no explanation of your rights as a taxpayer or the appeal process.
  • There is no 1-800 number to call if you have questions (the IRS general phone number is 1-800-829-1040).
  • You’re required to use a specific payment method (like a prepaid debit card).
  • You’re asked to call a number to give your credit or debit card information.

If you’re not sure whether a letter you received from the IRS is real, you can always call and ask. The number is 1-800-829-1040.


What Do I Do With My IRS Letter?

If you’ve received an IRS letter and you’re sure it’s for real, don’t ignore it. Procrastinating could turn a minor issue into a more serious problem.

If there is a specific action the IRS wants you to take, there will be clear directions. You may not have to take any action, however, such as when the IRS is letting you know of a change to your tax return, and you don’t want to contest the change.

Here are some specific do’s and don’ts to keep in mind if you receive a letter from the IRS:

Don’t freak out. Every year, the IRS sends millions of letters to taxpayers, many about subjects other than an audit. Just take a deep breath, read the letter over, and see what it wants you to do.

Dont procrastinate on responding. Sometimes the issue is a simple one to deal with. But the longer you wait to respond, the more interest charges and penalty fees you may face—depending on what the issue is.

Don’t wait to take action as requested by your IRS letter. The sooner you deal with it, the quicker you’ll be able to put the issue behind you.

Do be thorough. If the IRS is sending you a notice about a change it has made to your tax return, don’t just take their word for it. Compare the change they made to what was originally in your tax return. You can dispute if you feel the IRS is wrong.

Do dispute the letter if you have a reason to. The IRS may have made a change or correction to your tax return, or decided you owe more money. If you agree and don’t want to make a dispute, that’s great—but don’t hold back if you don’t agree.

The system is set up to allow disputes. You can reply to the IRS by mail, explaining your dispute and providing additional documentation. The letter should provide clear instructions for disputes if needed.

Don’t get taken in by scams. IRS scams are unfortunately fairly common—including scams by mail.

These often take the form of letters demanding immediate payment, and threatening arrest if you don’t comply. The letter may instruct you to make a payment by phone, often by a specific method—such as prepaid debit card.

Some IRS scam letters incorporate information about the target’s actual outstanding tax debt—which can be especially unsettling. But be aware that some tax information, such as existing liens, may be publicly available.

If you get a letter in the mail from the IRS, examine it carefully and make sure it’s not a scam.  Call the IRS and check if you’re in doubt.

Got a Letter From The IRS? Talk to an Experienced Atlanta Tax Attorney

If you’ve received a letter from the IRS and you have questions about it, talk to a knowledgeable tax attorney. We can help you make sense of the letter, determine the next steps to take, and communicate with the IRS as needed.

Give us a call at (404) 551-05838 to schedule your free, confidential consultation.