Ask the CPA
Nobody likes to get mail from the IRS
Welcome back – Jack the Heeler and I continue to enjoy our “off season.” Especially now that football season is in full swing.
The Coin Toss:
I love fall. I’ve always said fall is my favorite time of year. And I figured that was because I really love football season. But after my one-year anniversary of being a homeowner again in Webb City after almost 30 years away, there is more to it. The leaves on the trees, for sure. No more summer tomatoes. Or blackberries. Or those funny looking carrots at the farmers market that are to die for sliced and sauteed in butter and salt. The first of three summers that the new blueberry plant will have to survive before making fruit. The crisp mornings. The stars seem clearer. Jack loves to take a late night last walk when it is in the 50s on a clear night with a bright moon. The sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze through my open office window. Pretty hard to beat in my book.
I had a new client last week. It was a simple matter to me. It was not a simple matter to my client. He had a file of IRS Notices, including an Asset Seizure Notice. I don’t mean to minimize the importance of the notices. Asset seizures are life changing events. Property sales. Frozen bank accounts. I am pretty sure that would ruin anyone’s day.
What I mean is, I guess I take for granted routine IRS correspondence that almost always is the result of a communication problem or clerical error. As in most things, if you don’t really know what the game is, it is hard to know the rules. My client had a five-figure tax-due notice with a notice of intent to seize assets. We chatted a bit, and after a quick ride to Springfield and about five minutes with a friendly (OK, that is just being polite) IRS Agent, my client’s you-can-buy-a-nice-car tax bill was gone.
But see, that’s my professional world. There are many areas of my life in which I am beyond helpless. I’m a toddler. I don’t get to dress with the team. I’m the guy who can’t go in the laundry mat because I don’t want the folks in there to take pity on me as I try to do all that laundry stuff. “Hey (insert mom/wife/girlfriend/daughter/grandma) – Can you put a floormat in the dishwasher? How about some almost empty paint cans? Does bleach or ammonia make it work better? If one soap thingy is good, wouldn’t two or three be even better?” I think my washing machine is an evil spirit of some sorts. It toys with me. The dials make no sense. As Kahn said about Captain Kirk in Star Trek II, “He tasks me.” I can’t make gravy. I always screw it up. I don’t know how you are supposed to store those darn leftover container things. I can never find the right lid. I give up. I think it would be easier to have a 20-gallon bucket full of those plastic jobs in the corner of the kitchen and just dig through it.
That said, IRS Notices are a big deal. They need follow up, patience, perseverance, and any requests should be responded to in a reasonable time frame. What they most likely are not, is a final determination of a tax bill. Cut and dried, you owe the Treasury $XXX, and you have no recourse. It doesn’t work that way. The IRS is converting their systems beyond the 1990s at a painful pace. Numbers get misread or keypunched wrong. Mail gets lost. Accounts are disabled for any number of incorrect reasons.
Bottom line – ignoring IRS Notices or Information Requests is not a good idea. The IRS is reasonably mediocre at a lot of things. Following up (in the absence of any taxpayer response) on a past-due tax bill like Jack with a ham hock is one thing they do very well. If you don’t understand something, ask someone who does. It may save you a big dose of unnecessary anxiety. Nobody likes to get mail from the IRS. Just know that in almost all cases, the outcome is not as scary as the first notice would make you believe. I’m around most days. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hail Mary TD:
Next week I will tell you about my experience with jury duty this month.
Thanks for reading. Please address any questions to email@example.com.
Christopher Hughes, CPA