What to Do if the IRS Sends a Letter

If you receive a letter from the IRS about your foreign income or a return you overlooked while living abroad, get help from an expert in expat taxes. Contact your H&R Block expat tax advisor for help.

The IRS sends out millions of notices to taxpayers each year. These notices usually cover a very specific issue. They often notify you of additional small amounts of income that you left off your return.

You might receive a letter from the IRS requesting that you file a return or provide additional information about a return you’ve already filed. If so, reply promptly. It’s in your best interest to confront the situation immediately, as notices are usually time sensitive. Failure to respond in the specified timeframe might bar you from resolution options that would have been available if you’d acted immediately.

The notice might clearly state the actions necessary to satisfy the inquiry. However, it might be difficult to immediately determine what the IRS is requesting or how to respond. A math error notice can be especially confusing. A math error notice usually requests you make payment on underreported income. If you aren’t clear what’s being requested or what you are paying, you should consult with your tax advisor before you take any action or pay the stated balance due. In many cases, you really owe no additional tax and just need to explain something on your tax return.

Here are eight things the IRS wants you to know about notices and letters:

  1. There are several reasons the IRS might send you a notice. These reasons include:
    • Payment requests
    • Notification of account changes
    • Request for additional information
  1. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on actions you need to take.
  2. If you receive a correction notice, review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
  3. If you agree with the correction to your account, you don’t need to reply unless either:
    • A payment is due.
    • The notice directs otherwise.
  1. If you don’t agree with the correction the IRS made, it’s important to respond as requested.
  1. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office.
  2. It’s important to keep copies of any correspondence. Store them with your other tax records.
  3. IRS notices and letters are sent by mail. The IRS doesn’t correspond about your accounts or returns by:
    • E-mail
    • Text messages
    • Social media


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