What should I do?
The IRS will send a notice or a letter for any number of reasons. It may be about a specific issue on your federal tax return or account or may tell you about changes to your account, ask you for more information, or request a payment.
You can handle most of this correspondence without calling or visiting an IRS office if you follow the instructions in the document.
Before you proceed, check where the notice came from
The first thing to do is to check the return address to be sure it’s from the Internal Revenue Service and not another agency.
If it’s from the IRS, the notice will have instructions on how to respond. If you want more details about your tax account, you can order a transcript.
If it’s from another agency, such as a state tax department, you’ll need to call that office for an explanation.
If the letter is from the Department of the Treasury Bureau of the Fiscal Service, these notices are often sent when the IRS takes (offsets) some or part of your tax refund to cover another, non-IRS debt. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service only facilitates the transfers – it won’t have information about your IRS account or where the money is being sent.
Understanding your Notice
IRS notices and letters are numbered and provide contact information for questions. Both are usually shown in the upper right corner. (If you can’t find the number, or have lost your notice, there are general numbers you can call.)
Each notice normally tells you:
- What the IRS is changing on your return or account, or needs more information about
- Why the IRS is making a change or needs that information
- Where to send your reply and by when (if a reply is needed)
There are a few main categories for notices:
Claiming certain tax credits and other interactions with the IRS may lead the IRS to send you a notice. Most of the time, they are just for your records and you don’t need to reply.
Notices about changes to your tax return or account
The IRS may have already made a change, or be looking at your return to see if there was a mistake. The notice will have instructions on if or how you need to reply.
Some common notices of a change:
- An incorrect return, where you made a mistake
- Underreporting income, where it’s possible you didn’t report all your income
- You are being audited or the IRS has already audited you and is proposing changes
Notices where the IRS says you owe taxes
If you have a balance on your tax account, you’ll get a notice letting you know how much you owe, when it’s due, and how to pay.
If you can’t pay the full amount by that date, you need to figure out what payment options might work for your situation, and act to set up a payment plan or other way to pay off your balance.
For specifics on your particular notice, visit Understanding your IRS Notice or Letter on IRS.gov.
What if I want to talk to someone about the notice?
Each notice should include contact information. Some phone numbers on letters or notices are general IRS toll-free numbers, but if a specific employee is working your case, it will show a specific phone number to reach that employee or the department manager.
If you’ve lost your notice
If you’ve lost your notice, call one of the following toll-free numbers for help:
- Individual taxpayers: 800-829-1040 (TTY/TDD 1-800-829-4059)
- Business taxpayers: 800-829-4933
What if I want to ask for a tax professional’s help to reply to a notice or letter?
You can resolve most notices without help, but you can also get the help of a professional – either the person who prepared your return or another tax professional.
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