Tax season can be rough for any business. Just about the time you allow yourself to move on to something else and breathe a sigh of relief … it happens. You sift through your mail and find yourself staring face-to-face with a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In a matter of seconds your adrenaline levels are through the roof. You know that what’s inside the envelope isn’t a simple thank-you note for filing your taxes on time. You carefully tear it open.
Nobody likes to hear that they have to pay more to the IRS than they originally thought. But, before you jump to conclusions and quickly write out a check for the amount the letter says you owe:
- Take a deep breath
- Call your financial advisor
4 Tips For Resolving Your Tax Dispute
Believe it or not, the IRS does make mistakes. Agents can accidentally input incorrect information, computers can misread data and tax codes can be inadvertently overlooked or misinterpreted. It happens. If you believe that the IRS was wrong in a decision it made about your business’s tax returns, follow these four steps to reach a resolution.
- Follow Instructions. Sometimes the easiest way to resolve the issue is to follow the instructions. Sounds easy enough, but not everybody gets this part right. If the IRS sent you a notice, look for the section that explains what to do if you disagree with their decision and follow directions. Additionally, be sure to attach any supporting documentation and mail it back to the address given by the deadline requested. After the IRS has made its decision, you will be notified via U.S. Mail. When in doubt, opt to send inquiries to the IRS via certified mail and request a receipt.
- Make The Call. If your initial challenge was rejected, your next step is to follow up with a phone call. The rejection notice you received should have included another important piece of information: the contact name and number of the IRS employee who rejected your challenge. When you call, in a polite and professional manner, ask to speak to the employee’s manager. Even though you are passing over the employee on the chain of command, take care not to say anything about why you are asking to speak with their supervisor. The last thing you need is to create animosity. When you finally have the opportunity to speak with a supervisor, your case should be laid out in much the same way as your original challenge. You should be clear and concise in your explanation while taking care to address any concerns that were noted by the original employee in their rejection letter. If your letter didn’t include an employee’s name and phone number, send another certified letter to a general supervisor with the agency and request that they reconsider your case.
- Appealing To A Higher Office. If you still haven’t convinced the IRS to change its mind, don’t give up – even if you have already mailed several letters and racked up a lot of call time with the agency. Further up the chain of command is the Office of Appeals, an independent office within the IRS. This is just one more step you have to take on your journey to find an IRS employee who agrees with your. To get your case to the Office of Appeals, follow the instructions that were found in the earlier notices. If you are unable to locate these instructions, you can find them on the IRS website.
- Welcome to U.S. Tax Court. Sometimes a resolution can’t be achieved in the first three steps of the appeal process. If you find yourself in this situation your final option is to take the case to the U.S. Tax Court. At this point you may be discouraged and may even question whether you should continue on with the fight, but if you still believe that the IRS is wrong it is probably in your best interest to see it out to the end.
If your dispute is less than $50,000 you will have the option to represent yourself. Similar to how a small-claims court operates, there is no jury and the judge will not hold your inexperience against you. Once court is in session you will state your case again, provide evidence and answer any questions a judge may ask about the claim. Be advised, however, that once a decision is made at this phase it is final and cannot be appealed.
Sometimes, even though you have decided that you want to move forward, an IRS attorney may offer to settle out of court for a figure less than what the IRS says you owe. If this happens, you need to decide whether you will accept the settlement or if you will move forward with presenting your case to the judge. The choice is yours.
If you find yourself at odds with the IRS over a tax issue and are not sure how to proceed, email Rea & Associates for more information.
Author: Clayton W. Rose, III, CPA