Tax Assistance Without the Wait

If you’ve ever called the IRS with a tax question, you know how challenging it can be. A recent report from the Taxpayer Advocate, an independent entity within the IRS, indicates that those challenges are not going to get better any time soon. Tax return processing delays and taxpayer call answer rates have gone from pretty darned bad in the pre-pandemic years to absolutely abominable now. 

For example, at the end of the 2021 tax filing season, the IRS had a backlog of about 35 million tax returns. Pre-pandemic, at the close of the 2019 tax filing season, the IRS had a backlog of 7.4 million returns awaiting manual review. And trying to call the IRS is ridiculous! During the 2021 filing season, only nine percent of the 167 million calls received by the IRS were answered, but only after waiting on hold for an average of 20 minutes.

To help taxpayers get information without the wait, the IRS has updated its website and added features for taxpayers to get answers to general tax questions and to access taxpayer information. These three updates make it quicker and easier to get answers to your tax questions:

  1. The home page of the IRS website, www.irs.gov, has links to most of the information that taxpayers are looking for, from checking the status of your refund to learning about the latest Stimulus Payment. You can easily file your federal taxes for free, access forms and instructions, and find answers to your tax questions.
  1. The entire IRS website is available in multiple languages – Spanish, simplified and traditional Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, and Haitian Creole. Just navigate to www.irs.gov and use the drop-down at the top of the screen to adjust to your desired language.
  1. The IRS Online Account is an online portal that allows individual taxpayers to access their tax account information, including tax balances and payment history; set up payment plans for outstanding balances; and get copies of their tax transcripts. Access the portal and initiate your account at IRS.gov/View Your Account Information.

The IRS is working hard to make it easier for taxpayers to get answers to general tax questions, as well as for specific information about their tax balances and payments. Getting information online is common these days, so it makes sense for the IRS to take advantage of the opportunity to shift some of what would be telephone inquiries to the web. 

So, the next time you have a tax question, you don’t have to wait on hold. Just go to www.irs.gov and get your questions answered more quickly than your call would be answered by an IRS representative.

IRS Notices Resume for the Holidays

Just in time for the holidays, the IRS announced that it will resume issuing “balance due” notices to taxpayers. IRS Notices to taxpayers who have unpaid tax balances were suspended temporarily in early May due to the COVID-19 pandemic that created incredible delays in receiving and processing IRS mail. The IRS feels that their mailroom is caught up now and that all payments that taxpayers mailed in have been processed. So, they decided to re-start notifying taxpayers of their unpaid taxes, plus interest and penalties, of course.

Here’s what to know if you get an IRS Notice about unpaid tax balances:

Why the IRS sends Notices
The IRS sends Notices to taxpayers who have a balance due, or who the IRS hasn’t heard from them after a prior contact. IRS Notices explain why the amount is due and what the taxpayer’s options are. The urgency of each Notice escalates if prior Notices are ignored, up to placing a lien on assets or property. IRS Notices are usually multiple pages long and tedious to read, but they contain a lot of valuable information about the issue. So, read carefully.

How to Respond
IRS Notices generally require a response by a specific date. There are two main reasons you’ll want to meet that deadline – to minimize the accrual of additional interest and penalty charges, and to preserve your appeal rights if you don’t agree. If the information that the IRS has on file doesn’t match the information you reported on your tax return, you may need to complete the Notice Response Form and provide more documents to support the return. If you made a mistake, you need to pay up.

Payment Options
Taxpayers who are unable to pay are encouraged to consider available payment options to stop penalties and interest from continuing to accrue. Taxpayers who were impacted by the pandemic or other circumstances may qualify for relief from penalties due to reasonable cause if they made an effort to follow the rules, but were unable to pay the tax due because of circumstances beyond their control. Taxpayers should call the toll-free number on their notice to request penalty relief due to reasonable cause.

Whatever the Notice says or how you respond, be sure to keep copies of all the Notices, your responses, and any support documents in your tax records. You might need to refer to them later.

Getting an IRS Notice shouldn’t ruin your holidays. Knowing why you got a Notice, how to respond and your payment options will get you back to trimming the tree before you know it. Need more details? The IRS has them for you at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/understanding-your-irs-notice-or-letter.

IRS Warning about Fake Tax Bill Emails

Scam artists making threatening calls to taxpayers have been all over the news. Now it seems the thieves are scamming unsuspecting taxpayers via email by sending fake IRS notices. The IRS recently alerted taxpayers and tax professionals to be on guard against fraudulent emails with an attached fake tax payment notice.

 

Taxpayers may get a written notice in the mail if information reported on her or his tax return does not match the information received by the IRS from a third party, like a bank or employer. The standard, computer-generated notice, called a CP2000, routinely asks for payment or an explanation from the taxpayer.

 

Scammers created a scheme sending fake CP2000 notices via email for the 2015 tax year. The fraudulent CP2000 notice includes a payment request to mail a check made out to “I.R.S.” to the “Austin Processing Center” at a Post Office Box address. This is in addition to a “payment” link within the email itself.

 

In its alert, the IRS emphasized four indicators of a fraudulent tax notice:

  1. These notices are being sent electronically, even though the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or through social media platforms.
  2. The CP 2000 notices are issued from an Austin, TX, address not used by the IRS.
  3. The underreported tax issue is related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requesting information regarding 2014 coverage.
  4. The payment voucher lists the letter number as 105C.

 

Receive one of these scam emails? The IRS asks that you forward it to [email protected] and then delete it from your email. To determine if a CP2000 notice you received in the mail is real, see IRS information, Understanding Your CP2000 Notice, which includes an image of a real notice.

 

You’ve heard this advice before, but here it is again: Always beware of any unsolicited email purported to be from the IRS or any unknown source. Never open an attachment or click on a link within an email sent by unknown sources.