If you've received a notice from a tax agency, you're probably wondering how the heck you're going to deal with it. Here is a checklist that most tax attorneys would tell you to follow.
Yes, notices from tax agencies, especially the IRS, tend to look threatening. They're usually full of numbers and insist that a default judgment will be entered if you don't respond within a short period. Notices also frequently include vouchers that encourage you to cut the government a check.
However, a notice is just a letter informing you that the agency thinks there might be a problem. Take a breath and read the notice slowly. If you're still not sure what it's about, contact a tax attorney and tell them what type of notice it is. They'll fill you in.
Make Copies of Everything
You should keep the original papers in a secure cabinet. Make copies of all the paperwork, and be sure to make enough to take with you to consultations if you plan to meet with several tax attorneys. If you feel the need to mark the papers up with notes, leave the originals alone and abuse one of the copies.
Buy large envelopes to use to organize your copies. Also, get some pens and paper clips because you're going to consume a few.
Verify the Authenticity of the Notice
Contact the appropriate agency to confirm the notice is real. Verify that any phone numbers on the letter are authentic by checking the corresponding agency's website.
Also, you should be aware that when you call the IRS that you might be on hold for a couple of hours. Learn how to use the hands-free and speaker systems on your phone before calling the IRS, or you will be very uncomfortable holding a phone to your ear for that long.
Dig Out Files From the Corresponding Tax Year
The notice will include the tax year that the letter covers. Make note of it and go into your files to pull out the paperwork you sent to the government for that year. Check the numbers from the notice to see if they line up with what you filed. Also, make copies of the related filing.
Reach out to a tax attorney for advice. Take note of the specific kind of notice, a detail that's usually in the upper right-hand corner of the letter's cover page. Make sure to do this on the first business day after you receive the notice because most notices require a response within a month or less.