Eight Things to Know If You Receive an IRS Notice

Each year, the Internal Revenue Service sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. Here are eight things to know about IRS notices – just in case one shows up in your mailbox.

  1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
  2. There are a number of reasons why the IRS might send you a notice. Notices may request payment of taxes, notify you of changes to your account, or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
  3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you are asked to do to satisfy the inquiry.
  4. If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
  5. If you agree with the correction to your account, then usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due or the notice directs otherwise.
  6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. You should send a written explanation of why you disagree and include any documents and information you want the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
  7. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call to help us respond to your inquiry.
  8. It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.

For more information about IRS notices and bills, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. If you need help in responding to one of these letters, please contact me for additional assistance.

Where Do Your 2010 Taxes Go?

The White House has released a simple calculator showing where your federal tax dollars for 2010 were spent. It’s called Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt.

Using the calculator is pretty simple. Simply type in your Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes and federal income taxes paid in 2010, and the calculator will return results showing where your tax dollars were spent. Social Security taxes, naturally, go to pay for Social Security benefits. Similarly, Medicare taxes pay for Medicare benefits. The calculator then breaks down your federal income tax dollars by various federal programs for defense, health care, international aid, and science and technology programs. You can click the “Expand All Sub-Categories” link to reveal further details.

Very interesting, the top five federal expenses by percentage are:

  • Defense at 26.3%
  • Health care at 24.3%
  • Job and Family Security at 21.9%
  • Net interest payments at 7.4%, and
  • Education and Job Training at 4.8%.

What Happens after I File?

Now that the federal income tax filing deadline is in your rear-view mirror, what happens after you file? A lot of taxpayers have post tax-filing questions such as what records do I keep and more importantly, “Where’s my Refund?” The IRS has answers for you below.

Refund Information

You can go online to check the status of your 2010 refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. Be sure to have a copy of your 2010 tax return available because you will need to know your filing status, the first Social Security number shown on the return, and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund. You have three options for checking on your refund:

  • Go to http://www.irs.gov and click on “Where’s My Refund”
  • Call 800-829-4477~24 hours a day, seven days a week, for automated refund information
  • Call 800-829-1954 during the hours shown in your tax form instructions
  • Use IRS2Go. If you have an Apple iPhone or iTouch or an Android device you can download an application to check the status of your refund.

What Records Should I Keep?

Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents — such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRAs and business or rental property — should be kept longer.

You should keep copies of tax returns you have filed and the tax forms package as part of your records. They may be helpful in amending already filed returns or preparing future returns.

Change of Address

If you move after you filed your return, send Form 8822, Change of Address, to the Internal Revenue Service. If you are expecting a paper refund check, you should also file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service.

What If I Made a Mistake?

Errors may delay your refund or result in notices being sent to you. If you discover an error on your return, you can correct your return by filing an amended return using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Visit the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov for more information on refunds, recordkeeping, address changes and amended returns.