What steps you should take
If you receive a notice from the IRS, do not automatically assume it is correct and submit payment to make it go away. Because of all the recent tax law changes and so little time to implement the changes, the IRS can be wrong more often than you think. These IRS letters, called correspondent audits, need to be taken seriously, but not without undergoing a solid review. So what should you do if you receive one?
Stay calm. Try not to over-react to the correspondence. This is easier said than done, but remember that the IRS sends out millions of these types of correspondence each year. The vast majority of them correct simple oversights or common filing errors.
Open the envelope! You would be surprised how often taxpayers are so stressed by receiving a letter from the IRS that they cannot bear to open the envelope. If you fall into this category, try to remember that the first step in making the problem go away is to open the correspondence.
Conduct a careful review. Review the letter. Understand exactly what the IRS is telling you needs changed and determine whether or not you agree with their findings. The IRS rarely sends correspondence to correct an oversight in your favor, but sometimes it happens.
Respond timely. The IRS will tell you what it believes you should do and within what time frame. Ignore this information at your own risk. Delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.
Get Help. You are not alone. Getting assistance from someone who deals with this all the time makes the process go much smoother.
Correct the IRS error. Once the problem is understood, a clearly written response with copies of documentation will cure most of these IRS correspondence errors. Often the error is due to the inability of the IRS computers to conduct a simple reporting match. Pointing out the information on your tax return might be all it takes to solve the problem.
Certified mail is your friend. Any responses to the IRS should be sent via certified mail or other means that clearly show you replied to their inquiry before the IRS’s deadline This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. Lost mail can lead to delays, penalties, and additional interest tacked on to your tax bill.
Don’t assume it will go away. Until receiving definitive confirmation that the problem has been resolved, you need to assume the IRS still thinks you owe the money. If no correspondence confirming the correction is received, a written follow-up to the IRS will be required.