Find Out Which Tax Problem You Have

Tax problems, at a glance:

  • The IRS issues over 200 million notices a year.  Many of them are confusing, so it helps to get more information from the IRS.
  • Sometimes, people have more than one tax problem at one time, so it may be important to fix the problems in a certain order.
  • Most of the time, you’ll need to be up-to-date on your tax filings before you can resolve a problem.

You can get expert help looking into your tax notice and fixing the problem.

What you need to know about tax problems

Sometimes, when you receive one or more tax notices, it’s hard to tell what the root problem is. You may not know where to start, or even the full extent of the issue.

And the last notice you got from the IRS may not give you a full picture of what’s going on.

You or your tax professional will need to look further into your situation, identify all your options, and then follow a plan to completion by IRS deadlines.

Here’s what to do.

How to address your tax issue

1. Fully understand your situation.

  • Review your information, including notices, tax returns, and other documents that are relevant to the issue.
  • Understand exactly what the IRS is saying about the issue. This may require calling the IRS. Start with the phone number listed on your last notice. Understanding the IRS perspective on your issue is easier if you know “IRS speak” – that is, how the IRS explains the details of your tax account. A tax professional can help you navigate this step.
  • You may need to request your IRS transcripts to match up against your transactions. Learn how to research your IRS account.
  • Remember that IRS transcripts don’t show all the activity on your account. Also, interpreting transcripts can be difficult, so you may want to consult a tax expert.

2. Define what issues need to be addressed, if any.

  • After you have all the facts, identify the tax issue you need to address.
  • If there are urgent issues, such as audit deadlines, pending liens or levies, or adverse determinations, call the IRS compliance unit to ask for more time to respond.

3. Understand your options and create a plan to resolve the issue.

  • Research how to address your issue. You may have several options, so it’s important to select the best one for your situation.
  • Understand how each option works. For example, if you have an IRS penalty, you could request first-time penalty abatement to get it removed. But you’d need to understand several things about first-time abatement, such as:
    • It’s only an option for certain penalties and circumstances.
    • You can use it only once every four years, so it’s especially important to file and pay on time in the future.
  • If you have multiple issues, you may need to solve them in a particular order and with different IRS units. For example, if you’re dealing with an audit that results in a balance due that you can’t pay, you may need to work with the IRS Collection unit after you’ve resolved your audit with the Examination unit.

4. Execute your plan to completion.

  • Contact and/or respond to the IRS by any deadlines in the notice. If you miss deadlines, you could lose appeal rights. For example, if you don’t respond to an audit notice by the deadline, the IRS could charge you the taxes, and you’ll lose your rights to appeal within the IRS.
  • Complete your plan. If you have multiple issues or multiple tax years involved, resolve each issue completely and confirm that the IRS has addressed all tax years.
  • The IRS may change your deadlines, so be prepared to adjust your plan. If you need more time, ask the IRS before the deadline expires.
  • Two months after you resolve your issue, check back with the IRS to make sure that the IRS view on the outcome is consistent with your expectations.
  • Stay in compliance to avoid future issues. File and pay on time. If you get another notice, address it immediately.

How to get expert help

Your H&R Block tax professional can help you investigate the cause of your notice and communicate with the IRS. 

Learn more about H&R Block’s Tax Audit & Tax Notice Services. Or make an appointment for a free consultation with a local tax professional by calling 855-536-6504 or finding a local tax pro.  

Bring these five items to your appointment

  1. A copy of any notices related to your tax situation
  2. A copy of your tax return for the year(s) in question
  3. A copy of the correct return filed or to be filed. If you haven’t filed, bring the information needed to complete your tax return.
  4. Any account transcripts you’ve requested. If you don’t have your transcripts, your tax professional can get them for you.
  5. A copy of any responses you’ve sent to the IRS

Related Topics

Related Resources

Tax Dictionary – Delinquent Tax Return

Learn about IRS delinquent tax returns and how to fix the issue. Read the IRS definition and get more insight from the experts at H&R Block.

Tax Dictionary – IRS Office Audit

An office audit is a face-to-face examination conducted at an IRS office. Read the IRS definition and get more insight from the tax experts at H&R Block.

Tax Dictionary – Streamlined Installment Agreement

Learn about the IRS payment option called a streamlined installment agreement. Read the IRS definition and get more insight from H&R Block.

Tax Dictionary – Failure to Pay Penalty

Get the facts about the IRS failure to pay penalty, which the IRS charges when you don't pay your taxes on time. Good news: You may have relief options.