Taxpayer’s Guide to IRS Notices and Letters

May 10, 2023 | Tax Notices

Help! What Does This IRS Notice Mean?

Receiving a notice from the IRS can be stressful and confusing. These notices are often intimidating and hard to understand, but to help you out, we’ve put together resources on the most common IRS notices. To learn more, check out the following links or contact us directly. At the Timothy Hart Law Group, we are devoted to helping clients deal with their IRS and state tax issues. We can help you decipher your notice and deal with your tax problems as easily and as stress-free as possible. Contact us for a free consultation today.

Is This a Real IRS Letter?

Unfortunately, a lot of scammers pretend to be from the IRS. They leverage people’s fears about the government to trick them into sharing personal details or providing payments. Thieves often use these tactics, but some unscrupulous tax debt relief companies also send marketing letters that appear to be from the IRS. These letters urge you to call right away to set up a payment plan and get a settlement. They’re just using a sneaky marketing hook to get you to call. Don’t work with these companies. High-quality professionals don’t resort to these tactics. To check if a letter is real, go to the IRS website and look for information about the letter that you received. The notice may be a scam if you cannot find any details. Also, call the IRS directly. If you’re worried that the letter isn’t real, don’t call the number on it. Instead, call the IRS’s main number at (800) 829-1040. Real IRS letters feature the IRS logo in the top left-hand corner. On the top right, they usually state the notice number, the date, your taxpayer ID number, and a link to more information about the notice.

Does the IRS Send Certified Mail?

Some IRS notices come through certified mail, and you have to sign that you received the notice. For instance, intent to levy and audit notices usually come through certified mail. This process assures the IRS that you have received the notice. However, not all notices come through certified mail. The IRS sends most notices about tax debts and penalties through the regular mail.

IRS Letters About Changes to Your Account

If the IRS makes changes to your tax return or questions the eligibility of your tax credits, you may receive one of the following notices:
  • CP11 (Changes to Form 1040, Math Error — Balance Due) — The IRS sends this letter when there’s a mistake on your return, and fixing the error leads to a balance due of $5 or more.
  • CP22A (Notice of Changes to Your Tax Return) — You will receive this notice if you made changes to your return that resulted in a balance due. Contact the IRS if you never initiated any changes.
  • CP3219A (IRS Notice of Deficiency) — The IRS is proposing changes to your tax return based on information received from other parties. This notice usually comes with Form 5564, which you can sign and return if you agree with the changes.
  • CP75 (Exam Initial Contact Notice) — The IRS sends this notice to get additional information on credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), Premium Tax Credit (PTC), and child and dependent care credit. This letter doesn’t necessarily mean that the IRS is disallowing the credit. Often, the agency simply needs more information.
  • CP2000 (Notice of Underreported Income- CP 2000) — The IRS has received information about income that wasn’t reported on your tax return, and the agency has adjusted your return.
If you haven’t filed a return, the agency may send you IRS Form 15103 (Form 1040 Return Delinquency). You can use this form to note that you already filed or explain why you didn’t need to file. If you were supposed to file, you should contact a tax professional to help you catch up on your back taxes.

IRS Tax Debt Notices

  • 725-B (Meeting with Taxpayer – Confirmation) – This is the IRS trying to schedule a meeting with you to resolve your tax issue.
If you have unpaid taxes, the IRS will send you many different notices. Often, the notices don’t start until your payment is several months or even a year or two late. However, once the notices start, they will continue to come, and if you don’t respond, they will generally get increasingly more serious as time goes by. Here are some of the most common IRS notices about delinquent taxes. Keep in mind that you may not receive all of these notices. Also, the IRS is constantly updating its practices so you may receive a notice that is not on this list.
  • CP14 (First Notice of Balance Due) — This notes how much you owe, and it outlines your payment options.
  • CP40 (Tax Account Assigned to Private Collection Agency) — The IRS has sent your account to a private collection agency. Save this notice so that you can verify the agency when they call you.
  • CP71 (Annual Reminder of Balance Due) — This is a yearly reminder of the amount you owe. It should also outline payment options and the consequences of not paying.
  • CP88 (Delinquent Return, Refund Hold) — The IRS is holding your tax refund because you have unfiled returns from a previous year, and the agency believes that you may owe tax.
  • CP90 (Intent to Seize Assets and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing) — The IRS is going to seize your assets, such as bank accounts, wages, or property, but you have the right to appeal with a collection due process hearing.
  • CP297 (Intent to Seize Assets and Notice of Your Right to Hearing) — This is also a notice that the IRS may seize your assets, but you have the right to appeal.
  • CP501 (Reminder Notice — Balance Due) — This notice shows how much you owe. It also outlines payment options and tells you how to appeal collection actions.
  • CP503 (Second Request Notice — Balance Due) — If you ignore CP501, you will receive this second notice (CP503). This is usually the last “friendly reminder” before the IRS gets serious about enforcing collection actions.
  • CP504 (Final Notice and Intent to Levy — Balance Due) — This notice lets you know that the IRS may seize your tax refunds, bank accounts, and other assets.
  • CP504B (Final Notice and Intent to Levy) — This is just like the CP504, but it also tells you that the State Department is going to take away your passport.
  • CP508C (Possible Revocation or Denial of Passport) — Your tax debt is seriously delinquent (as of 2023, this means you owe over $59,000), and the IRS is going to tell the State Department to revoke your passport.
  • LT11 (Intent to Seize Your Property or Rights to Property) — The IRS may seize your property for unpaid taxes. This is the same as LT1058.
  • LT16 (Please Call Us About Your Overdue Taxes or Tax Return) — You may receive this notice about delinquent taxes, unfiled tax returns, or both issues.
  • LT17 (Take Action on Your Balance Due With Our Online Services) — This IRS letter outlines ways that you can take care of your taxes owed with the IRS’s online system.
  • LT19 (Pay Your Outstanding Tax Returns) — You owe money to the IRS, and the IRS is reminding you to pay.
  • LT1058 (Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to Hearing) — The IRS is planning to seize your assets for unpaid taxes. This letter has the same details as LT11.
  • Form 9297 (Revenue Officer Assigned to Case) — The IRS sends this letter when a revenue officer wants more details so they can collect your delinquent tax payment.

IRS Notices to Businesses

In some cases, you may receive the above notices when your business owes taxes, but there are also business-specific notices. Here are some of the notices that the IRS sends to businesses.
  • CP162 (Penalty on Partnership Tax Return) — If you were supposed to file electronically and didn’t, your partnership may receive this notice about penalties assessed against you.
  • CP215 (Civil Penalty Assessment) — The IRS has assessed a civil penalty against your business. The letter explains why you received the penalty and what you should do.
  • LT5699 (Request for Employer Reporting of Offers for Health Insurance Coverage) — If your business hasn’t filed Forms 1094/1095C, you may receive this notice.
  • IRS Letter 1153 and Form 2751 (Proposed Assessment of the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty) — The letter explains that the IRS may be assessing the trust fund recovery penalty against you for unpaid payroll taxes. It comes with Form 2751, and if you sign that form, you agree that you owe the penalty. This is one of the IRS’s most severe penalties, and you should consult with a tax attorney if you receive this letter.

Notices About Installment Agreements

If you set up an installment agreement, you should get confirmation of the agreement in the mail. You may also continue to receive notices of your balance due such as the annual CP71 notice. Here are other notices that the IRS may send:
  • CP14IA (Installment Agreement Accounts) — This is a version of the CP14 notice for people who have set up an installment agreement.
  • CP523 (Intent to Terminate Your Installment Agreement and Seize Your Assets) — If you default on your payment plan, the IRS will send you this notice.

IRS Audit Letters

Typically, audit letters come through certified mail. There are several types of audits and several different types of notices. Often, the IRS just wants verification about a small detail on your return, and you can generally take care of the issue through the mail or over the phone. In other cases, the agency may want to audit every single element of your return. This can include meeting with auditors in person or even having auditors come to your place of business. A tax attorney can help you navigate an audit. Again, always verify that the letter is real. Don’t provide any information over the phone or in writing unless you are sure that you are speaking to the IRS and not to a scammer or a thief.

Get Help With IRS Notices

If you’ve received an IRS notice or letter, contact the Timothy S. Hart Law Group for help. We will talk with you about your tax situation, and then we’ll help you come up with the best solution. Depending on your situation, we may be able to help you reduce penalties, set up payments, or even settle your tax debt for less than you owe. Don’t ignore your IRS notice. Instead, get help now — contact us today.

Attorney Timothy Hart

Timothy S Hart, the founding partner of the tax law firm of Timothy S. Hart Law Group, P.C. is both a New York Tax Lawyer & Certified Public Accountant. His area of expertise includes innovative solutions to solve your Internal Revenue Service and New York State tax problems, including tax settlements through the Federal and New York State offer in compromise programs, filing unfiled tax returns, voluntary disclosures, tax audits, and criminal investigations. [ Attorney Bio ]