Another obvious financial myth, this title “Just Ignore Mail from the IRS” is true only if you want your life to become more difficult and expensive. In one of dozens newsletters I subscribe to, this one entitled IRS Tax tips provides a list of what To Do and Not To Do with IRS correspondence. (By the way, IRS won’t initiate contact with you by text, social media or email asking for your personal information. Those are scams.)
- Don’t ignore it. Most IRS letters and notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and includes specific instructions on what to do
- Don’t throw it away. Taxpayers should keep notices or letters they receive from the IRS. These include adjustment notices when an action is taken on the taxpayer’s account, Economic Impact Payment notices, and letters about advance payments of the 2021 child tax credit. They may need to refer to these when filing their 2021 tax return in 2022. In general, the IRS suggests that taxpayers keep records for three years from the date they filed the tax return.
- Don’t panic. The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies do send letters by mail. Most of the time, all the taxpayer needs to do is read the letter carefully and take the appropriate action.
- Don’t reply unless instructed to do so. There is usually no need for a taxpayer to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so. On the other hand, taxpayers who owe should reply with a payment. IRS.gov has information about payment options.
- Do take timely action. A notice may reference changes to a taxpayer’s account, taxes owed, a payment request or a specific issue on a tax return. Acting timely could minimize additional interest and penalty charges.
- Do review the information. If a letter is about a changed or corrected tax return, the taxpayer should review the information and compare it with the original return. If the taxpayer agrees, they should make notes about the corrections on their personal copy of the tax return and keep it for their records.
- Do respond to a disputed notice. If a taxpayer doesn’t agree with the IRS, they should mail a letter explaining why they dispute the notice. They should mail it to the address on the contact stub included with the notice. The taxpayer should include information and documents for the IRS to review when considering the dispute.
- Do remember there is usually no need to call the IRS. If a taxpayer must contact the IRS by phone, they should use the number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. The taxpayer should have a copy of their tax return and letter when calling the agency.
- Do avoid scams. The IRS will never contact a taxpayer using social media or text message. The first contact from the IRS usually comes in the mail. Taxpayers who are unsure if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov.