The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) initiates most contact through the mail. The agency will mail you notices if it makes changes to your tax return, selects you for an audit, or wants to alert you about an unpaid tax bill. The agency also sends out letters about collection actions, such as seizing your tax refund or levying your assets.  

 Receiving mail from the IRS can be scary and confusing. Most of the notices aren’t easy to understand, and the language often feels threatening. If you have received an IRS notice and want help now, contact us at Seattle Legal Services, PLLC today. We’ll help you decipher the notice and plan the best steps forward.   

Check out this guide for tips on what to do and links to guides with more information. 

Why Did I Receive This IRS Notice? 

Most IRS notices explain why you received the notice in the middle of the letter. Here are some of the most popular reasons the agency sends out notices: 

  • You owe delinquent taxes due to underpaying when you filed a tax return.  
  • You have an unfiled tax return 
  • The IRS has changed your tax return which resulted in a balance due or a refund.  
  • The IRS has assessed interest or penalties on your unpaid balance.  
  • The IRS is going to levy your assets for unpaid taxes. 
  • The IRS has seized your tax refund for unpaid taxes. 
  • The IRS has decided to audit your tax return.  
  • The IRS has adjusted your return due to an audit.  
  • The IRS has certified your tax return as seriously delinquent and sent the State Department a certification to revoke or deny your passport.  

Is This IRS Notice Legitimate?  

Legitimate IRS notices feature the IRS logo on the top left. Then, they usually have taxpayer details and the notice number on the right. If you’re in doubt about a notice’s legitimacy, contact the IRS directly, but rather than using the phone number on the notice, call the IRS’s main line at (800) 829-1040 

The phone number on a legitimate IRS notice will typically take you to a dedicated department, and you’ll get to talk with a real person faster than if you call the main number. But if you’re in doubt, calling the main number is a safer option.  

Unfortunately, scam artists sometimes send out fake IRS notices. These scam notices often have a phone number. When you call in, the person on the other line will pretend to be from the IRS, and they’ll demand immediate payment. Sometimes, they may even demand that you pay with a gift card or a wire transfer — those are huge red flags that you’re talking to a scam artist.  

In other cases, unscrupulous marketing companies send out fake notices. These notices appear to be from the IRS or a state tax agency, but really, they’re just from a tax debt relief firm. This isn’t illegal per se, but it’s a shady way to get business. If you get this type of “advertisement,” try to avoid working with that company. Instead, call a small local tax firm to help you.  

Do IRS Notices Come Through Certified Mail? 

Some IRS notices, such as the final intent to levy come through certified mail. By law, the IRS must hand deliver this notice to you, take it to your business address, or send it to your last known address via certified mail. The agency can’t levy your wages or assets if it fails to follow this protocol.  

However, the majority of IRS notices do not come through certified mail. They just come through regular mail. Unfortunately, this means that it can be easy to miss IRS notices.  

If you’re worried that you might have missed a notice and you want to see what’s happening with your tax account, set up an online account on the IRS’s website, or talk with a tax pro. With the right authorization, they can get into your IRS records and see if you have a balance owed or any other issues.   

What to Do If You Receive an IRS Notice 

Work through these steps if you receive an IRS notice: 

  • Make sure the notice is legitimate.  
  • Read it carefully, and if you don’t understand, call the IRS or contact a tax pro for clarification.  
  • Review your options — Most IRS notices outline steps you can take, but the exact steps vary based on the type of notice.  
  • Note any deadlines on the notice — There are strict deadlines for replying to audit requests, contesting assessed taxes, appealing collection actions, or making arrangements before the IRS moves forward with a tax levy.  
  • Decide how you’re going to respond to the notice.  

Never ignore an IRS notice. In most cases, the agency will send you several notices about past due balances before moving forward with collection actions, but to ensure there are no impending collection actions, you should always review every notice carefully.  

 Tired of receiving IRS notices? Then, contact a tax pro. You can grant them Power of Attorney privileges on your tax account, or you can fill out an authorization form so they can receive notices from the IRS to you. With a POA, they can make decisions on your behalf. In contrast, with an information authorization, they can receive notices and keep an eye on your tax account, but they can’t make decisions for you.  

Automated Collection Notices 

A lot of IRS notices come from the IRS’s Automated Collection System (ACS). For instance, if you file a return and don’t pay, your first few notices will probably come from the ACS. Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. The automated system can issue tax liens against you and start the levy process.  

IRS Notices From Revenue Officers 

Other notices, however, come from revenue officers. Generally, the IRS assigns revenue officers to tax accounts with high balances, long-term delinquencies, or complicated issues. If a revenue officer has been assigned to your account, you may receive Form 9297. This is a request for information that the revenue officer will use when deciding how to collect your unpaid taxes.   

If a revenue officer has been assigned to your account, you will receive slightly different notices than you do through the ACS. However, the notices will generally cover the same topics such as letting you know about your unpaid balance and warning you about collection actions.  

Common IRS Notices 

The IRS sends out a range of notices. Here are some of the most common notices organized based on the reason for the notice.  

Changes Made to Your Tax Return 

If the IRS receives additional information after you have filed a tax return, the agency will usually update your account and send you a notice. These notices let you know how the changes affect your tax liability, and they also contain instructions on what to do if you disagree with the changes.  

  • CP11 — The IRS has corrected an error on your tax return, and you owe money. 
  • CP22A — The IRS has updated your return based on the info received from you.  
  • CP3219A — The IRS has updated your return based on information from third parties.  
  • CP2000 — The IRS has updated your income based on information received from third parties.  

Requests for More Information 

If the IRS wants more information from you, the agency will likely send one of the following letters: 

  • CP75 — The IRS wants more information on a credit you have claimed on your tax return. This doesn’t mean that the credit has been disallowed. It just means the agency wants some supporting information.  
  • Form 9297 — A revenue officer has been assigned to your case, and they want more details about your financial situation.  
  • Form 15103 — You haven’t filed a tax return, and the IRS wants you to complete this form to explain why. 
  • Notice 725-B – An IRS employee wants to meet with you about your unpaid taxes. 

You will also receive requests for more information if the IRS decides to audit your tax return. In fact, in many ways, an audit is just a big request for more information. During an audit, the agency asks you to back up the information on your return, and depending on the situation, they will have you present the information through the mail or in person. There are a variety of different audit notices.  

Balance Due Notices  

The IRS will send you a balance due notice if you owe a tax liability due to underpaying when you filed a return, having the IRS adjust your return, or failing a tax audit. Sometimes, you may not receive a balance due notice for over a year after you file and underpay. However, after you receive the first notice, you will start receiving more and more notices.  

Generally, once the IRS starts sending notices, they come out on a six-week cycle. Note that the IRS uses different notices for the same issue. For instance, you may receive several different types of balance due notices depending on exactly where your account is in the IRS’s system.  

  • CP14 — You owe tax due to an audit or not paying when you filed a return.  
  • CP14A — You owe a balance, but you have requested an installment agreement. 
  • CP40 — You owe a tax debt, and the IRS has assigned your account to a private debt collection company.  
  • CP71 — This is the IRS’s yearly reminder of your balance due, and you will receive this notice even if you have already set up payment arrangements.  
  • CP161 — You have unpaid taxes due to underpayment, interest, and/or penalties. 
  • CP501 — The IRS’s first reminder of your balance due. 
  • CP502 — This is a second reminder of your balance due.  
  • CP503 — This is the third notice of balance due and the last one you should ignore. 
  • LT16 — The IRS is contacting you about unpaid taxes or unfiled returns. 
  • LT17 — This notice contains instructions about how to request payment arrangements online.  
  • LT19 — The IRS is reminding you to pay your tax bill.   

Refund Offset Notices 

If you have unpaid taxes, the IRS can take your refund. The agency does not need to send you a notice before seizing your refund, but in many cases, you may get one of the following letters: 

  • CP16 — The IRS has amended tax return due to an error, and it plans to use your refund to cover the tax bill.  
  • CP49 — The agency has seized your tax return, and if there’s any money left over, it will send you the balance.   
  • CP88 — The agency is keeping your tax refund due to unfiled tax returns 

Lien and Levy Notices From the IRS 

A tax lien is a legal claim to your assets. The IRS has the legal right to issue a tax lien as soon as you are delinquent, and it doesn’t have to send you a notice. Note, however, that the IRS usually doesn’t issue liens unless you owe at least $10,000.  

A levy, in contrast, is when the IRS actually takes your assets. The agency must send you a notice and instructions on how to appeal before levying your assets. If you receive a notice of intent to levy, you should never ignore it. Here are some of the levy notices that you may see if you owe back taxes.  

  • CP90 — This is a final notice of intent to levy certain assets and your rights to a hearing. 
  • CP91 — The IRS plans to levy your social security benefits. 
  • CP297 — This is another final notice of intent to levy and your rights to a hearing. 
  • CP298 — This is a notice of levy on your social security benefits 
  • CP504 — This is a notice of tax levy, which comes after the IRS sends CP501. CP502, and CP503. 
  • CP504B — This is a warning about an impending tax levy and loss of passport. 
  • CP508C — The IRS has certified the State Department to revoke your passport 
  • CP523 — You have defaulted on your installment agreement, and the IRS can seize your assets. 
  • LT11 — The IRS intends to levy your wages, bank accounts, or other assets.  
  • LT1058 — The IRS plans to levy assets, wages, bank accounts, and other income. 

Get Help With IRS Notices with a Skilled Tax Attorney

If you’ve received an IRS notice, we can help you out. Whether you’re dealing with delinquent taxes, un-filed tax returns, an audit, or another type of tax issue, we can help you. At Seattle Legal Services, PLLC, we customize our approach to meet the unique needs of our clients, and we will tailor a response to your individual situation. To get help now, contact us for a free consultation today.