Get a notice or letter in the mail from the IRS? Here’s how you can handle it. To learn more about your specific letter or notice, check the list of notices and letters at the bottom of this post.
How to Understand Your IRS Notice or Letter
- Notices are in the format CP####. The number is located in the top right corner of the document.
- Letters are in the format Letter ### or LTR ###. The number is located in either the top or bottom right corner of the document.
How to Find Out What IRS Notices and Letters Mean
Each IRS notice has a title and should contain a summary of the problem identified. Read through the notice once to see if you understand it.
There is also an identifier in the top corner of the notice that is either “CP” followed by a number or “Letter” followed by a number. Examples: CP2000 or Letter 531. You can scroll down to see a list of IRS notices and letters or use the search function.
Additional Information to Look for in IRS Notices and Letters
There are a few more things to look for at the top of your notice.
- Tax Year: This is the year in question. The IRS can go back three years in normal circumstances and sometimes longer. The year is the year the tax return covered not when it was filed. (E.g., your tax return you filed in April 2018 for calendar year 2017 is for Tax Year 2017).
- Notice Date: This is the date the clock starts running if you have X days to respond. If you were out of town or didn’t receive the notice on time, immediately call either your tax professional or the IRS directly.
- Social Security Number: Double check this to verify that the notice was intended for you. This is especially important if you have a family member with a similar name.
If the IRS is claiming that you owe money, it will show the tax owed, the penalty due, and the interest owed on those amounts. If you don’t pay by the due date listed, penalties and interest may keep increasing. You have the right to dispute these amounts if you disagree.
The IRS may also include a more detailed explanation of why they are claiming you owe money. This may reference specific line items on your tax return as well as W-2s, 1099s, or other documents the IRS received from third parties.
Verifying IRS Notices and Letters
IRS notices come on official IRS letterhead and follow a standard format. The good news is that most fakes don’t successfully duplicate the appearance of a real IRS notice.
You can verify a notice by calling the IRS at the phone number listed on their website that applies to your filing type. Don’t call the number on the notice unless you confirmed on the IRS website that it actually belongs to the IRS.
The IRS always sends notices by mail not by email. The IRS will also never call you if they haven’t sent you mail first.
Can you view IRS notices or letters online?
The IRS is starting to make some notices and letters available online. If you receive a notice or letter that you can view online, the IRS will include instructions for how to access it in your online account.
If you receive a notice or letter that isn’t available online, you can try these additional sources of information.
Notices About Refunds
If you got an IRS notice saying your tax refund was delayed or adjusted, you can check the status of your refund using the IRS Where’s My Refund? tool. This tool only shows the amount of your refund and the date you should expect it. It does not show any information about why your refund may have been adjusted.
IRS Online Account
The IRS also offers online accounts. This gives every taxpayer a place to look up their tax history just like you can look up your banking information in an online banking account.
The IRS does have identity verification measures in place. In some cases, you won’t be able to activate your online account without having a form mailed to you. This could take several weeks.
Your online account shows the following information.
- Amount you owe. If you didn’t pay when you filed or got a notice saying you owe taxes, you can view what you owe online. The online amount may include additional interest and penalties since it’s a more up-to-date amount.
- Payment history. You can also see a list of all of your payments. If you have a payment missing, contact the IRS to request a trace.
- Tax transcripts or tax records. You can also see detailed information about your tax history. This includes the information you include on your tax return, third-party information like W-2s and 1099s, and adjustments to your tax return such as IRS notices.
- Copies of some IRS notices and letters (new). This is a new featured offered by the IRS. Some, but not all, notices and letters are now available in your online account.
Does your online account always have the latest information?
Your online account doesn’t always have the latest information. The IRS actually uses several different computer systems. It often takes as long as 4-6 weeks for information to update across the IRS systems.
If you recently made a payment, it may not show up yet. If you just got an IRS notice, the adjustments may also take some time to show up in your account. In addition, many notices and letters are only proposed adjustments, so the IRS won’t make changes to your account until you’ve had time to respond.
How can you get a copy of a lost IRS notice or letter?
If you received a notice or letter that isn’t available in your online account or you can’t access your online account, you will need to call the IRS.
What should you do if the IRS sent your notice or letter to your old address?
If you found out the IRS has been trying to contact you but used your old mailing address, the first step is getting a copy of what they sent you. You can try your online account or call them.
You may have additional interest and penalties if you owe money. Interest and penalties start when your tax payment was do not when you get your IRS notice or letter.
Generally, the IRS won’t waive interest or penalties because they didn’t have your current address. The IRS requires taxpayers to file Form 8822 Change of Address when they move.
Many people just start using their new address the next time they file a tax return. The IRS will update your address at that time, but that could be months after you moved and possibly longer than you had mail forwarding.
Should you agree with the IRS?
If you’ve received a notice or letter from the IRS, it may have a proposed adjustment to your tax return and/or an amount of interest, taxes, and penalties the IRS is requesting that you pay. If you agree that the IRS is correct or the adjustment is so small it isn’t worth fighting, you can simply follow the instructions to pay to resolve the matter.
For example, you might have forgotten to include a 1099 and know you do owe additional tax. Or, you might decide a proposed $50 adjustment isn’t worth fighting even if you aren’t sure if the IRS is right.
Advantages of Agreeing with the IRS
- Resolve your tax problem without further back and forth with the IRS.
- Avoid having to pay an Enrolled Agent or other tax professional to represent you.
Disadvantages of Agreeing with the IRS
- You may end up paying money you didn’t actually owe.
- It may increase your chances of being audited on the same issue in the future.
- You may lose eligibility for or have difficulty obtaining tax relief that requires a clean tax record such as penalty relief or an installment agreement.
Can you handle this on your own?
If you agree with the IRS, it’s as simple as checking a box, signing a form, and writing a check. The real question is whether you should agree with the IRS in the first place. If the dollar amount in question is high, the tax issue is complex, or you’re worried about future consequences, you should talk to a tax professional.
What do you do if you disagree with the IRS?
If the IRS tells you that you owe additional taxes, penalties, and interest, you have the right to tell them no. Of course, you’ll need to tell them exactly why they’re wrong.
When the IRS assesses additional tax, it gives you two options. You can either agree and pay, or you can disagree and explain why. You may need to provide additional documents supporting your position or cite the portion of the tax code you’re relying on.
Advantages of Disagreeing with the IRS
- Avoid paying the IRS money you don’t owe.
- Decrease the chances of being audited on the same issue in the future.
- Keep a clean tax record in case you need tax relief in the future.
Disadvantages of Disagreeing with the IRS
- Spending time and money fighting them.
- There’s no guarantee you will win, and in most cases, there’s no negotiating. (But the IRS wants to get things right, so if you can convince them to agree, they won’t keep fighting.)
Can you handle this on your own?
You can respond to the IRS on your own, but you may not want to. The resolution can range from sending them a single misplaced form to sending boxes of documents along with a complex argument based on tax law. You may also not be sure exactly what you need to do and when. Except for the most basic errors involving very small dollar amounts, you’ll probably at least want to chat with a tax professional before you do anything.
Can you find new deductions and credits to reduce what you owe?
Even if the IRS tells you your tax return was wrong and you agree that it’s wrong, you may not have to pay the full amount that they requested. In some cases, you may even be able to get a refund.
If you made a mistake on your income, there’s also a chance you made a mistake on your deductions and credits. For example, you might have forgotten to report the 1099 income from your side job but also didn’t include the business expenses. When you get a letter asking for tax on that income, you can say “hang on, I did have that income, but not all of it is taxable because I also had these deductions.”
Advantages of Finding New Deductions and Credits
- Offset the additional amount the IRS says you owe.
- If the deduction or credit is greater than the additional tax, you may even get a refund instead of owing more money.
Disadvantages of Finding New Deductions and Credits
- The IRS may take a closer look than normal if they’re already looking at your tax return. (But this shouldn’t be a problem for legitimate deductions and credits you kept proof of.)
- You may need to file an amended return.
List of IRS Notices
- 1444, 1444-A, 1444-B: Information about your COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment.
- 1445: Tax Help in Other Languages
- 1450: Your Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (not a tax lien or related to Publication 1450)
- CP01: We received the information that you provided and have verified your claim of identity theft.
- CP01A: How to use your Identity Protection Personal Identification Number
- CP01B: Contact the IRS to verify your identity
- CP01C: Notice of possible identity theft
- CP01E: Someone else may have used your Social Security Number
- CP01H: Tax returned filed for someone the Social Security Administration said died
- CP01S: We received your Form 14039 or similar statement for your identity theft claim.
- CP03C: You received a tax credit (called the First-Time Homebuyer Credit) for a house you purchased. You may need to file a form to report a change in ownership to the house you purchased.
- CP04: Our records show that you or your spouse served in a combat zone, a qualified contingency operation, or a hazardous duty station during the tax year specified on your notice. As a result, you may be eligible for a tax deferment.
- CP05: We sent you this notice because we’re reviewing your tax return to verify income, deductions, credits, etc. We’re holding your return until we finish our review.
- CP05A: We are examining your return and neede documentation.
- CP05B: We can’t determinne if the income reported on the tax return matches the income reported to use by payers.
- CP06: We’re audting your tax return and need documentation from you to verify the Premium Tax Credit (PTC) that you claimed. We are holding all or part of your refund.
- CP06A: We’re audting your tax return and need documentation from you to verify the Premium Tax Credit (PTC) that you claimed.
- CP07: We received your tax return and are holding your refund until we complete a more thorough review ofo the benefits you claimed under a treaty and/or the deductions claimed on Schedule A.
- CP09: You may be eligible for the Earned Income Credit but didn’t claim it
- CP10: Changes to your return that reduced the amount applied to next year’s estimated taxes.
- CP10A: Changes to your Earned Income Credit that reduced the amount applied to next year’s estimated taxes.
- CP11: Changes to your return that result in a balance due.
- CP11A: Changes to your Earned Income Credit that result in a balance due.
- CP12: Changes to your return resulting in a change in your refund.
- CP12A: We made changes to correct the Earned Income Credit claimed on your tax return.
- CP12E: We made changes to correct a miscalculation on your return.
- CP12F: We made changes to correct a miscalculation on your return.
- CP13: Changes to your return that do not change what you owe.
- CP13A: Changes to your Earned Income Credit that do not change what you owe.
- CP14: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14A: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14B: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14C: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14D: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14E: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14H: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP14I: You owe money on unpaid taxes, penalties, and/or interest.
- CP16: Changes to your tax return that resulted in a refund that will be applied towards other tax debts.
- CP21A: The IRS made the changes you requested. You owe money.
- CP21B: The IRS made the changes you requested. You’ll receive a refund.
- CP21C: The IRS made the changes you requested. There is no change to what you owe. Your account balance for this year and tax form is $0.
- CP21E: The IRS made changes as a result of your audit. You owe money.
- CP21H: The IRS made the changes you requested. This changed your shared responsibility payment for not purchasing minimum essential health coverage.
- CP21I: The IRS made changes to your tax return as a result of a previous notice for Individual Retirement Account (IRA) taxes. You owe money.
- CP22A: The IRS made the changes you requested. You owe money.
- CP22E: The IRS made changes as a result of your audit. You owe money.
- CP22H: The IRS made the changes you requested. This changed your shared responsibility payment for not purchasing minimum essential health coverage.
- CP22I: The IRS made changes to your tax return as a result of a previous notice for Individual Retirement Account (IRA) taxes. You owe money.
- CP23: You reported more estimated taxes than you actually paid and owe money.
- CP32A: Call the IRS to request your refund check.
- CP45: The IRS could not apply your overpayment to your estimated tax as requested.
- CP49: Your refund was applied to a tax debt from a different year.
- CP54B: You must provide additional information to receive your refund because your tax return shows a different name or tax identification number than the IRS has for your account.
- CP54E: You must provide additional information because your tax return shows a different name or tax identification number than the IRS has for your account. The IRS can’t process your estimated tax payments until you do.
- CP54G: You must provide additional information because your tax return shows a different name or tax identification number than the IRS has for your account.
- CP54Q: The IRS previously sent you one of the above CP54_ notices and you haven’t responded.
- CP59: First notice that you did not file a tax return.
- CP75: You need to send supporting documentation
- CP75A: You need to send us supporting documentation
- CP79: You must prove your eligibility before you can take certain tax credits in the future.
- CP79A: You are banned from claiming certain credits for two years.
- CP90: The IRS intends to levy your assets for unpaid taxes.
- CP91: The IRS intends to levy up to 15% of your Social Security benefits for unpaid taxes.
- CP161: You have an unpaid balance due.
- CP224: You may qualify as a personal service corporation
- CP297: The IRS intends to levy your assets for unpaid taxes.
- CP298: The IRS intends to levy up to 15% of your Social Security benefits for unpaid taxes.
- CP501: You have an unpaid balance due (reminder).
- CP503: You have an unpaid balance due (second reminder).
- CP504: You have an unpaid balance due, and the IRS intends to levy your property if you don’t pay immediately.
- CP523: You defaulted on your installment agreement, and the IRS intends to levy your assets.
- CP2000: The information on your tax return doesn’t match the information the IRS received from 3rd parties.
List of IRS Letters
- Letter 11: Final notice that the IRS intends to levy your assets and your rights to a hearing.
- Letter 12C: The IRS needs more information before it can process your tax return.
- Letter 14: We show you have past due taxes and we’ve been unable to reach you. Call us immediately.
- Letter 89C: You need to file an amended tax return.
- Letter 96C: Response to your Economic Impact Payment inquiry
- Letter 525: Proposed adjustments to your tax return after an examination/audit.
- Letter 531: The IRS has adjusted your return, and you owe additional tax unless you appeal to the Tax Court.
- Letter 692: Request for Consideration of Additional Findings: Letter 692 is the IRS’s initial decision in an audit or examination. It’s based on the information the IRS already has and any information you provided during the audit or examination.
- Letter 2645C: The IRS received your correspondence and is still processing it.
- Letter 6419: 2021 Total Advanced Child Tax Credit (AdvCTC) Payments
- Letter 6475: Your 2021 Economic Impact Payment(s)
Frequently Asked Questions
CP stands for Computer Paragraph. Most CP notices are entirely or mostly automatically generated by computers that check tax returns for possible errors.