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Published: March 23, 2022   |   Last Updated: March 31, 2022

TAS Tax Tip: What if I receive an IRS notice that says something is wrong with my 2021 tax return?

Don’t panic! It is important to remember – not all correspondence from the IRS necessarily contains bad news.

It is the IRS’s responsibility to make sure your tax return is as accurate as it can be while it is processed and verified. These verification checks can include anything from finding and fixing basic mathematical errors to checking for required attachments, like schedules that support a credit or deduction you are claiming. The IRS also checks to confirm the amounts shown on your return match what banks, employers, third parties, and other government agencies have reported. In some cases, these checks may result in identifying a credit you could potentially claim to get a bigger refund, when the IRS determines you may be eligible for it.

The IRS has recently suspended some of its notices, but not all. Most IRS correspondence, if it relates to a question about your current tax return while it is being processed are still being sent, with the exception of the unfiled tax return requests listed in the IRS chart. Here’s what you need to know if you did receive one of these notices prior to the IRS suspension.

What should I do if I get tax return processing type of correspondence?

Open it, read it, and keep it in a safe place (in case you need it later). IRS correspondence always tells you why the IRS is writing, what topic it is about, and either what you need to do in response and by when, or it will tell you that you don’t need to reply at all.

Letters and notices aren’t always easy to understand. So, here are three resources we recommend you use if you want more help understanding that particular notice or letter:

Note: To find the correspondence number look in either the top or bottom right-hand corner. They will generally be preceded by the letters CP or LTR.

Do I need to reply?

Whether you need to reply or not will depend on the issue.

If you agree with the information or change listed, sometimes there is no need to reply. Other times, even if you do agree, you may need to provide specific information to resolve the issue, particularly if you need to verify your identity or if a schedule is missing. In most tax return processing situations, you generally have 60 days to reply, but be sure to go by the date specified in your letter.

If you disagree, the letter should outline how to dispute the issue, including what action(s) is needed and a date to complete the action by, as well information about your Taxpayer Rights.

Whether you agree or not, if it requires a reply – do not delay! You must reply by the date required or you may lose certain resolution options or may also have to pay in full before the IRS will consider your position. See more on this below.

When to respond

If your notice or letter requires a response by a specific date, there are many reasons you’ll want to comply. Here are just a few:

  • minimize additional interest and penalty charges;
  • prevent further action from being taken on the account or against you; and
  • preserve your appeal rights if you don’t agree.

If you need more time to respond than indicated, contact the IRS using the contact information provided.

How and where to reply

The correspondence should tell you exactly where to send your response, whether it’s to a mailing address or fax number. Follow the instructions.

What if I want to talk to someone?

Each notice or letter should include contact information. The telephone number is usually found in the upper right-hand corner.

If a specific employee is working your case, it will show a specific phone number for that employee or the department manager. Otherwise, it will show the IRS toll-free number (800-829-1040).

Be aware COVID-19 continues to cause delays for IRS services, including live phone support and responding to correspondence. The IRS encourages taxpayers to make use of the IRS.gov website and its online resources, like Tax Law Questions to get questions answered and find resources to resolve problems.

Important: You’ll want to check the IRS’s Help for taxpayers and tax professionals: Special filing season alerts page for announcements related to processing 2021 tax returns before you call in case the information you need is located there.

The best days to call the IRS are Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The IRS advises that wait times are the longest on Mondays and Tuesdays, and close to the April filing deadline.

Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call.

Wait – I still need help

You can generally resolve most notices or letters without help, but you can also get the help of a professional – either the person who prepared your return, or another tax professional.

If you can’t afford to hire a tax professional to assist you, you may be eligible for free or low cost representation from an attorney, certified public accountant, or enrolled agent associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). In addition, LITCs can help if you speak English as a second language and need help understanding the notice or letter. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page or IRS Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.

If your IRS problem is causing you financial hardship, see Can TAS help me with my tax issue?.

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