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Decoding IRS Notice: What to Do When You Receive One?

Few pieces of mail can strike fear into the hearts of taxpayers quite like a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Receiving a notice from the IRS can be a daunting experience, but it’s essential to remember that not all IRS notices are created equal, and not all of them spell impending doom. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps to take if you receive a notice from the IRS, helping you navigate this potentially anxiety-inducing situation with confidence.

1. Don’t Panic – Open and Read the Notice Carefully

The first and most crucial step when you receive an IRS notice is not to panic. The IRS sends out various types of notices, and many of them are routine, addressing minor issues like a miscalculation or a missing signature on your tax return. Begin by carefully opening and reading the notice to understand the reason for the communication.

2. Understand the Nature of the Notice

IRS notices typically fall into a few broad categories:

– Informational Notices: These provide details or request information about your tax return, such as missing documentation or clarifications.

– CP2000 Notices: This notice suggests discrepancies between the income reported on your tax return and the information the IRS has received from other sources, such as employers or financial institutions.

– Payment Notices: If you owe taxes, the IRS will send a bill or notice outlining the amount due and the due date.

– Audit Notices: These are more serious and indicate that the IRS is conducting a review or audit of your tax return. Seek professional help immediately if you receive one.

3. Respond Promptly

Regardless of the type of notice, it’s essential to respond promptly within the timeframe specified in the notice. Ignoring IRS correspondence can lead to more severe consequences, including penalties and interest.

4. Seek Professional Guidance

If you’re unsure about how to respond or if the notice indicates a significant issue, it’s advisable to seek professional guidance. Enlisting the help of a tax professional, such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or tax attorney, can ensure that you address the matter correctly and protect your rights.

5. Keep Records

Maintain detailed records of all correspondence and actions taken in response to the notice. This documentation will be valuable if you need to resolve the matter in the future.

6. Review Your Tax Return

If the notice is related to an error on your tax return, review your return and gather any necessary supporting documents. Correct any mistakes and send the corrected information to the IRS promptly.

7. Payment Plans and Negotiation

If the notice involves a tax debt that you cannot pay in full, the IRS offers options such as installment agreements and offers in compromise. These can help you manage your tax debt more effectively. Consult a tax professional for guidance on which option is best for your situation.


Receiving a notice from the IRS can be intimidating, but it’s crucial to approach it with a clear head and take the appropriate steps to address the issue. Remember that not all notices are cause for alarm, and many can be resolved with timely and accurate responses. Seeking professional guidance when necessary and maintaining open communication with the IRS can help you navigate this process successfully and ensure your financial well-being. Don’t let an IRS notice overwhelm you; instead, use it as an opportunity to address any tax-related matters and move forward with confidence.