What You Need to Know About IRS Mail Audits

If the IRS is going to audit you, it will most likely do it in the form of a mail audit. Here’s how to handle delays, responses, and calling the IRS.

The IRS conducts more than three out of four audits by mail. And because the IRS uses mail audits so often, processing problems are on the rise, too.

Those problems include:

  • Lost mail
  • Slow processing of responses
  • No specific IRS staff assignment to mail audits

The most significant negative result of IRS processing delays is when taxpayers get a premature statutory notice of deficiency, or 90-day letter.

Technically, a 90-day letter allows you to appeal your case in U.S. Tax Court. At this point, you may be in a bind: Try to get the IRS to correct the processing error, or file a petition in Tax Court to protect your right to appeal. Filing a petition is often expensive and time-consuming, and can require an attorney.

You can call the IRS

To address processing issues, the IRS has customer service representatives available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time at (800) 829-1040. Even better, look for the phone number at the top of your audit letter. This will direct you to the mail audit division responsible for your audit.

The representative will not make decisions on your case, but will give you processing instructions. If you need more time, the representative can give you up to 14 days without cause and up to 30 days with a valid reason (for example, when you need extra time to gather documents to prove a deduction).

Tips for calling the IRS

  • Call early. Call volume increases during the day. The IRS also informally suggests calling from Tuesday to Thursday, because calls increase before and after the weekend.
  • The IRS will not speak to you unless you are the account holder or an authorized representative. Have all your information available to answer the representative’s questions. The IRS will request your name, address, and Social Security Number (SSN), and possibly your date of birth and filing status.
  • Take notes during the call. Get the IRS representative’s name and badge number. Write down what happened and what the representative agreed to during the call. Remember to follow up on deadlines.

How to provide documents

When you fax or mail in your documents, you’ll be sending them to a separate processing facility. A representative at that facility will make a decision on your case.

If you have more than 10 documents to provide, send them by mail.

Each IRS unit receives hundreds, if not thousands, of faxed documents each day. If your deadline is coming up, call the IRS to request an extension of time to allow for processing of the documents you mail. Add page numbers (“Page __ of __”) and your name and SSN to each page of documentation. This allows the IRS to assemble all your documents.

Some processes don’t change

In mail audits, no one IRS representative is assigned to your case. Clearly and completely communicating and documenting your position in one response is the key to remove confusion and streamline the process.

The examiner who reviews your documents will rely on the notes from the previous examiner. Your response should be thorough and complete and eliminate the need for a follow-up response.

Learn more about how to handle an IRS audit — and when you may need expert representation help.

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