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What should you do when you receive a notice from the IRS?

Being contacted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) brings to mind the line from Shakespeare, that it is an "ill wind which blows no man to good." They would protest, noting that not all of their mailings bode ill for the receiver. Nonetheless, while the receipt of a notice from the IRS is not a time to panic (even the IRS says this,) but it is also not a time to sit on your hands and take no action.

When the IRS sends a notice, they are typically asking you to do something, which may be relatively minor, such as asking you for additional information on some issue or writing a check because they found a small math error on your income tax. However, the notice could be something far more serious. There could be significant problems with your return, or with some other element of your tax obligation.

You should follow their instructions contained in the notice for responding, but if you believe they are incorrect, you must respond with supporting documentation. If you do not fully understand what they are asking or why, you may want to consider contacting a tax attorney for help with your questions.

While the IRS can answer many questions, if there is any issue that may result in litigation, speaking with your own attorney first is a safer strategy. Since the IRS would be your adversary during litigation, your discussions with them could be used against you in a case involving allegations of back taxes or tax evasion.

Source: IRS Tax Tip 2013-61, "IRS Offers Tips for Dealing with Notices," IRS, April 23, 2013

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