You owe the IRS: Now what?

Few things are as terrifying as receiving a notice from the Internal Revenue Service alleging that you owe back and/or additional federal income taxes. If one of these notices arrives in your Pennsylvania mailbox, however, the first thing to remember is not to panic. You have options and you also have the right to due process.

As FindLaw explains, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the notice. While burying your head in the sand may give you a temporary sense of relief, it can result in your life quickly becoming miserable. The IRS is one of the most powerful governmental agencies. Some would say the most powerful. It is certainly the most tenacious, and it never gives up once it determines, rightly or wrongly, that you owe taxes. Ignoring its initial notice could result in any or all of the following:

  • Levy of your bank accounts
  • Garnishment of your wages
  • Seizure of your home
  • Shutdown of your business
  • Contact with your extended family, friends, neighbors, bank, employer, etc. regarding your alleged tax liabilities

Right to due process

While the IRS has the power to do all of these things and more, it cannot do them without notifying you in writing before doing them. In other words, you have the right to due process. The IRS cannot simply run amok. Not only must it notify you, it also must give you the opportunity to challenge its claims via written communications, one or more in-person collection interviews, or even through the courts.

Right to representation

Your best interests dictate never attempting to “go it alone” when challenging the IRS. You need and have the right to financial and legal representation. Just because the IRS can be wrong, and in fact often is, does not mean that you can easily dissuade IRS personnel from the position they have taken. Tax law is complicated at best, and you should never go to a collection interview without your attorney and/or financial advisor at your side. In addition, you should not create a possibly damaging paper trail by attempting to correspond with the IRS by email, snail mail or otherwise all by yourself.

Dealing with the IRS is no walk in the park. Your best strategy is to get the professional help you need before doing anything else. This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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