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What to do if you receive an IRS Letter or Notice


The first few steps when you receive an letter from the IRS are:

  1. Do not panic.
  2. Do not assume that the IRS is correct.  Quite often if the IRS has a question about your taxes, it will just deny any claimed credits or deductions and make the taxpayer defend themselves.  Many IRS determinations are because they do not have all of the facts or information.
  3. Determine what tax year are they inquiring about.  The tax year should be in the upper right hand corner of the letter.
  4. Determine why they are contacting you.  Each letter/notice will have a code (i.e., CP2000, CP504, or LT11).  You can look up the IRS notice number online to find out more about the purpose of the letter.  See:  Understanding your IRS Notice
  5. Determine how much time you have to respond.  It is usually between 10-30 days.
  6. Determine what kind of information they are requesting.  It should be stated in the letter.
  7. Unless otherwise stated, you usually send the information or documents back to the same address that sent the letter.
  8. Remember that you have rights!  See the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

If you have trouble understanding the notice or how to respond to it, you should contact legal counsel or a tax clinic as soon as possible.

Federal tax assessment starts with the filing of a tax return.  This is a self-assessed tax.  If the IRS questions the tax return by auditing it later on (which they may do three to six years from the date of the filing of the tax return), then the taxpayer has an assessment problem.  

The IRS treats each tax year as a separate issue.  They generally only send you one notice per tax year.  If they are auditing several years at a time, they may be resolved at different times.  As you work through the audit process, keep in mind that you have appeal rights!

Communicating with the IRS

You can call the IRS directly to get more information about the notice.  If you wish for your attorney, tax clinic, or another representative to contact the IRS on your behalf, you will have to submit a Form 2848 to the IRS.  It takes about 7-10 days for this to be processed.

If you are having trouble communicating with the IRS and it is going to cause you an economic hardship if you do not get the issue resolved, you can contact your local Taxpayer Advocate Service office.

Appeals (Examination) & Audit Reconsideration

If an audit determination is not favorable, you can either request an audit reconsideration or appeal the determination.  See the following notices for more information:

Getting More Information

IRS Transcripts
If you have lost your tax documents for past years, you can request missing income tax documents and records from the IRS, including:

  • Tax Return Transcript
  • Tax Account Transcript
  • Record of Account Transcript
  • Wage and Income Transcript
  • Verification of Non-filing Letter

See the IRS Transcripts page for more information.