Taxes 101


Understanding IRS Audit Letters: What to Do If You Receive One

12 minute read

How to Handle Your IRS Audit Letter: Navigating IRS Mail Audits and IRS Communications



Getting an IRS audit letter is like finding a pop quiz in your mailbox, especially when you thought the test was over after you filed your tax return. This letter from the IRS means they have a few questions about your tax return. It's a bit like when a teacher asks you to explain your answer to make sure you understand the homework. 

But don't worry, you're not in trouble! It's your chance to show your work, just like in school. If the IRS sends you an audit letter, it means they need more information or receipts to check your tax filing.

Think of the IRS agent as a teacher checking your math; they might need to see your work (or receipts) to give you the full marks you deserve. Sometimes, they might think you owe a bit more, or maybe they just need to understand your tax return better. 

Responding to the IRS with a response letter and maybe getting help from a tax professional can make this quiz a breeze. Remember, the IRS selects returns for a review for many reasons, and getting a letter doesn't always mean you owe more. It's like getting a note to see the teacher after class; it's just a step in making sure everything adds up right.

Did you get an IRS letter? Here's what todo next.

What is an IRS Audit Letter?

An IRS audit letter is a note from the IRS that can pop up in your mailbox. It's like getting a letter from a distant relative, but this one is asking about your tax return. When you get this letter, the IRS is saying, "Hey, we need to talk about your taxes." Let's dive into what this letter really is, why you might get one, and the different kinds you might see.

Further Reading: IRS Tax Audits and How to Handle Them

Definition of IRS Audit Letter

An IRS audit letter is a message from the IRS. It's their way of saying they want to double-check your tax return. Think of it as your teacher asking you to show your work on a math problem. The IRS just wants to make sure everything adds up right. This letter is the IRS's way of starting that conversation.

Reasons for Receiving an IRS Audit Letter

There are a few reasons why the IRS might send you an audit letter. Maybe your numbers don't match their records, or you forgot to include something on your tax return. It's like if you turned in a test and forgot to answer a question. The IRS notices these things and will ask you about it. Sometimes, it's just random, like being picked for a class presentation.

Types of Audit Letters from IRS

The IRS sends out different kinds of audit letters. Some are just asking for a little more information, like if you got a receipt for something you said you bought. Others are a bit more serious and might ask you to meet with an auditor. Think of it as the difference between a pop quiz and a final exam. Each type of letter has its own name and reason, but they all serve the same purpose: to make sure your tax return is accurate.

Further Reading: No Tax Code, Here’s What To Do

Steps to Take Upon Receiving an IRS Audit Letter

Getting an IRS audit letter might feel like finding a pop quiz in your favorite book. But don't worry! There are clear steps you can take to handle this surprise. When the IRS sends you a letter, it's like getting an official invitation to discuss your taxes. Here's what to do next.

Understanding Your Rights as a Taxpayer

First, know that you have rights. Imagine you're playing a game, and there are rules to protect you. The IRS has rules too. They respect your rights to know what's happening and why. When you receive an audit letter from the IRS, remember, you have the right to understand everything about your taxes. You can ask questions if something doesn't make sense, just like in class.

How to Respond to an IRS Audit Letter

Responding to an IRS audit letter is like answering a call to adventure. Read the letter carefully. It tells you what the IRS needs. Maybe they want more info about your tax return. Make sure to use the contact information in the letter to get in touch with the right tax examiner. When you write your audit response letter, include everything the IRS asks for. If you received the letter by certified mail from the IRS, it means they're waiting for your reply. So, don't ignore it!

Seeking Assistance from a Tax Professional

Sometimes, puzzles need an expert to solve them. If you're feeling lost, it's okay to ask for help. A tax professional is like a guide in the world of taxes. They understand all the paths and pitfalls. If the IRS requests more info or if the letter may suggest you owe more taxes, a professional can help you respond. They can even ask the IRS appeals office for you if something seems wrong. Remember, the IRS doesn't want to scare you. They just want to sort out any mix-ups with your taxes, like making sure everyone plays the game fairly.

Further Reading: Tax Mistakes That Trigger Audits

Common Issues Addressed in IRS Audit Letters

Receiving an IRS audit letter can feel like spotting a tricky question on a quiz. These letters talk about specific issues the IRS found with your tax return. Here, we'll look at why the IRS might send you a letter and what it means.

Issue Description What to Do

Potential Additional Taxes Owed

Sometimes, after the IRS reviews your tax return, they think you might owe more taxes. The IRS will send you a notification if they believe there are taxes you haven't paid. This doesn't mean you did something wrong on purpose. Often, it's just a mix-up or misunderstanding about the tax rules.

Proposed Changes to Tax Return

The IRS might also send a letter suggesting changes to your tax return. Imagine you wrote a story, and your teacher suggests some edits to make it clearer. The IRS does this too. They might say you forgot to include certain tax credits or income. The IRS conducts reviews and, if they find something that doesn't match their records, they'll let you know. You have the chance to agree with their changes or explain why you think your original return was correct.

Providing Additional Information to the IRS

Another reason for an IRS letter is they need more information from you. The IRS might need more details to understand your tax situation better. They may ask for receipts, records, or explanations about deductions or credits you claimed. If the IRS sends this request via certified mail, it's important to respond by the deadline. Not responding can confuse the IRS and lead to more serious problems, like being suspected of tax fraud. But don't worry! If you're honest and provide what they ask for, you can usually clear things up. And remember, if things get too confusing, asking for the help of a tax professional is like asking a tutor for help with homework. They can make sure you respond correctly and on time.

Further Reading: 5 Signs You Need A Tax Consultation

Handling an IRS Audit Letter: Dos and Don'ts

When you get an IRS audit letter, it's like getting a tricky puzzle. But don't worry! There are simple steps to solve it. Think of this as a guide to help you through. Just like in a game, there are good moves (dos) and bad moves (don'ts). We'll show you both, so you can handle your IRS letter smartly.

Do's When Dealing with an IRS Audit Letter

  1. Read Carefully: Start by reading the letter from the IRS very carefully. It's like when you get instructions for a new game. The letter will explain or verify something simple on your return. Knowing exactly what they're asking is key.
  2. Gather Your Documents: The IRS might need you to provide more information. This could be receipts, a form number, or details about something simple on your return. Collect everything that relates to your case.
  3. Respond on Time: Just like turning in homework, it's important to send your response to the IRS by the deadline. If they ask for your return and certain documents, make sure you get these in on time.
  4. Contact a Tax Professional: If the puzzle seems too complex, contact a tax expert. They can look at your case and give you an independent analysis. They know the rules of the game and can help you make the best moves.

Don'ts to Avoid When Responding to IRS Audit Letters

  1. Ignoring the Letter: Never ignore an IRS audit letter. It's like ignoring a call to start a game. If you don't respond, the Department of Treasury might send you a tax bill, plus penalties and interest.
  2. Panicking: Don't panic. It's just a puzzle, and every puzzle has a solution. The IRS just wants to resolve tax issues, not scare you.
  3. Sending Too Much Information: Only give the IRS what they ask for. Sending extra stuff can make things more confusing. It's like giving too many answers to one question.
  4. Trying to Handle Everything Alone: If you're unsure, don't try to solve it all by yourself. A tax professional can help explain your case to the IRS, including any new information that might help. They can also talk to the office to review your case and see if they can allow you to defer payment or settle.

Remember, handling an IRS audit letter is about taking careful, smart steps. With the right moves, you can solve this puzzle and move on.

Further Reading: IRS Tax Penalties And What You Should Do

Working with the IRS during the Audit Process

Dealing with an IRS audit can feel like navigating a maze. But with the right steps, you can find your way through smoothly. This part of our guide is like a map to help you work with the IRS during an audit. Let’s break down how to talk, follow directions, and find help if you need it.

Communicating Directly with the IRS Agent

When the IRS is auditing your taxes, they assign an IRS tax examiner to your case. This person is like a guide through the maze. It’s important to talk directly with them. If they need more information, such as your social security number or details about deductions, give them exactly what they ask for. Think of it as answering questions in class. Be clear and to the point. If you’re not sure about something, it’s okay to say so. An experienced tax professional can help you communicate better.

Following the Instructions Provided in the Audit Notice

The IRS will send you a notification of an audit. This notice is like the rules of a game. It tells you what the IRS is questioning and what you need to provide. There might be a deadline for responding, usually within 30 days. Make sure to read these instructions carefully. If you need to return and send documents to the central processing center or your local IRS office, do exactly as they say. Responding late or not following directions can make things more complicated.

Seeking Relief in Cases of Financial Hardship

Sometimes, an audit might show you end up owing more taxes. If paying this amount is hard for you, the IRS can help. They understand that sometimes people face financial hardship. The IRS offers arrangements to make things easier, like setting up a payment plan. They want to work with you, not against you. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The IRS and tax professionals can explain your options and help you find a solution that works for you.

Remember, an IRS audit isn’t a trap. It’s just a process to make sure everything is correct with your federal tax return. By communicating clearly, following instructions, and seeking help when needed, you can navigate the audit process with confidence.

Key terms to Remember:

  1. IRS Audit Letter: A note from the IRS saying they want to check your taxes again.
  2. IRS: Short for Internal Revenue Service, the group that collects taxes in the U.S.
  3. Audit: When the IRS checks your tax return to make sure all the numbers are right.
  4. Tax Return: The form you fill out every year to tell the IRS about your money.
  5. Certified Mail: A way to send letters so you know the IRS got your mail.
  6. Tax Examiner: A person at the IRS who looks at your taxes to see if everything matches up.
  7. Receipts: Papers that show you bought something or paid for a service, which you show the IRS if they ask.
  8. Deductions: Things you spent money on that the IRS lets you subtract from your income, so you pay less tax.
  9. Tax Professional: Someone who knows a lot about taxes and can help you with your IRS audit.
  10. Response Letter: The letter you write back to the IRS to answer their questions.
  11. Financial Hardship: When it's very hard for you to pay your bills, including taxes.
  12. Social Security Number: A unique number for each person in the U.S., used for taxes and other official things.
  13. Tax Credits: Special amounts of money the IRS lets you subtract from your tax bill if you qualify.
  14. IRS Notice: A letter from the IRS telling you something important about your taxes.
  15. Appeals Office: A place in the IRS where you can go if you don't agree with their decision about your taxes.

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February 23, 2024


Ralph Carnicer, CPA

Ralph Carnicer, CPA


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