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Don't wait to respond to an IRS notice

It the thing nobody wants to get in the mail: a letter from the IRS informing the recipient that there is a problem with a previous income tax return. Whether the letter is announcing an audit, or asking for more information to explain an apparent discrepancy, it is something likely to get the heart pounding and the hands sweating.

That is was the initial reaction one newspaper columnist and her husband experienced after receiving a CP2000 Notice from the IRS a few months ago. But they did not give into a temptation many people might have, which is to ignore the letter and hope the matter will blow over.

Instead, they took action to figure out what had happened. The IRS claimed the couple had underreported their income by $25,000 in 2013, and owed $12,255 in back taxes, interest and penalties. The writer discovered that a company for which she had done freelance work that year had mixed up her 1099 with someone else’s.

She sent documentation to the IRS explaining the error. While the agency processed the evidence, it continued to send the couple notices telling them that interest was still accruing on the alleged debt. Finally, the couple received a CP2005 Notice informing them that the IRS was satisfied that they owed no back taxes.

Many tax controversies can be resolved this simply. Other times, the case is complex, and requires the assistance of a tax attorney to fend off or appeal an audit. Either way, taking action as soon as you hear from the IRS improves your chances of a fair result.

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