Published: January 25, 2011|Updated: May 6, 2024

IRS Letters: Understand What Your IRS Notice Means & What to Do

irs letter

Nothing can make your blood run cold more than receiving a letter from the IRS. It's important to open and read any letters or notices you receive from the IRS. Ignoring correspondence from the IRS could make your tax problems worse.

There are around 75 different notices and IRS letters. It could be Letter 3228(LT39) Reminder Notice letter or it may even be the IRS sending you Notice number CP12 which outlines Changes to Tax Return, Overpayment. The IRS may send letters via regular mail or through certified mail. When the IRS sends through certified mail it can mean that the notice is in regard to a highly time-sensitive issue. 

Letters from the IRS describe quite clearly why they are contacting the taxpayer and include guidance on how to handle the issue. The IRS usually sends out letters or notices if:

  • There was an error or omission on your tax return, and additional tax payment is required
  • There was an error, and you are owed a greater refund
  • The IRS requires additional information regarding your tax return

How to Identify the Letter from the IRS

The IRS assigns a letter and number code to every notice that leaves their office. It helps IRS employees track correspondence from thousands of citizens. Some notices come with a CP designation. The IRS prints the CP (Computer Paragraph) at the top of the first page of the notice. There is also a corresponding CP number on the removable portion of the page. It helps users to retain a portion of the notice for their records. The IRS usually places the CP number in the header of the notice, at the top and center of the page.


What To Do If You Receive A Letter From The IRS

Most letters from the IRS contain specific instructions to help complete your tax return. Each notice or letter will require some action on your part. After reviewing mail from the IRS, it is essential to compare the information received from the IRS to the information that you provided to them during the period in question.

If there is a discrepancy, then this should be brought to their attention. When an error has been made and additional payment is required direct correspondence and payment can be submitted directly to the address on the notice.

When submitting any information to the IRS or to any company for that matter, it is good practice to keep copies for your own records.

Is This Notice Real? How to Spot Fake IRS Letters

Scammers send fake IRS letters to trick people into making payments to thieves. Some marketing companies also use fake IRS letters to lure people into using their services. Before responding to an IRS letter, make sure that it's real. Learn the signs of fake letters and how to protect yourself from scams.

Different Types of Letters from the IRS & Corresponding Letter Codes

Some of the more common letters from the IRS include:

CP88 – Delinquent Return Refund Hold

This notice is used to notify the taxpayer that the IRS is holding their tax refund because they have unfiled tax returns for a different year.

CP11 - Changes to Form 1040, Math Error - Balance Due

The IRS sends Notice CP11 to alert you about potential errors on your tax return. This notice also explains changes the IRS made to your return, and it details how much you owe due to the changes. Usually, the IRS only sends this notice if the changes made to your return changed your balance by at least $5.

This guide explains why you received this notice and how to respond to it.

CP14 – First Notice of Balance Due

This is generally the first notice that is sent after taxes are filed and there is still an outstanding balance.

CP14IA — Installment Agreement Accounts (new notice)

The IRS sends this notice instead of the CP14 to taxpayers who are trying to set up installment agreements on their tax liabilities.

CP40 - Your Tax Account is Assigned to a Private Collection Agency

The IRS sends notice CP40 when they have assigned your tax account to a private collection agency. This notice outlines your payment options. Here are details of what to know about this notice and actions you should take.

CP49 - IRS Took Some or All of Your Tax Refund

The IRS sends notice CP49 when the agency seizes some or all of your tax refund to cover unpaid taxes. The letter should explain how much of the refund the IRS took. If there is any remaining amount, the agency will send you the balance. 

CP59 - Notice About Unfiled Tax Returns

If you haven't filed a tax return, the IRS may send you notice CP59. In 2024, the IRS announced plans to send about 125,000 CP59 notices to non-filers, with a focus on high-income earners. If you receive this notice, you should file your return and make arrangements to pay the balance due, or you should write a letter to the IRS explaining why you don't have to file.

CP71 -- Annual Reminder of Balance Due

This IRS sends Notice CP71, Notice CP71C, and other notices in the CP71 series as an annual reminder of your tax balance due. These notices are auto-generated. They generally don't threaten collection actions against you. 

CP75 - Exam initial Contact Notice

This notice means that the IRS is seeking additional information about some of the details on your tax return. Most of the time it is related to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and is requesting proof related to it. This notice can also be requesting more information about the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Premium Tax Credit (PTC), or the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

CP-79 - Notice Denied Tax Credits

This notice tells you that the IRS has removed one or more credits from your tax return. It provides information on which credits were removed, what you will need to do to claim those credits in the future, and your next steps if you disagree with their decision.

CP140 - Tax Debt Assigned to Private Collection Agency

The IRS sends this notice to taxpayers after it assigns their account to a private collection agency. This notice is very similar to the CP40, and it contains a code that you should use to verify the collection agency when you talk with them. 

CP162 - Penalty on Your Partnership Tax Return

The IRS is sending CP162 to S-corps and partnerships to assess penalties. These penalties can be very significant, so it's important to respond if you receive this notice. This guide will give you details on what this notice relates to, actions to take, and how to respond.

CP215 — Civil Penalty Assessment

The IRS sends this notice to businesses that have been assessed a civil penalty for not filing an information return.

CP210/CP220 - Changes to Your Tax Return

The IRS sends this notice when it makes changes to your tax return. For example, if the IRS makes charges to your 941 employer payroll return, you may receive one of these notices.

CP501 – Reminder Notice – Balance Due

This is the first or second notice that you will receive from the IRS if you have an overdue account.

CP503 – Second Request Notice – Balance Due

If you have not paid the balance of your account you will receive a second notice.

CP504 – Final Notice & IRS Intends to Levy – Balance Due

If the amount is not paid in full this is the 3rd and final notice before the IRS gets serious and starts searching for assets to levy. This is an intent to levy notice

CP504B -- Final Notice & Intent to Levy

This is a notice that the IRS often sends to business taxpayers. It says that the IRS will levy your assets if you don't pay your taxes in full or make other arrangements by the date on the notice. 

CP523 – Intent to Terminate Your Installment Agreement & Seize Your Assets

This is the notice that the IRS sends prior to terminating your installment agreement with the IRS. If no action is taken, the IRS may levy your wages, garnish your bank account, or seize other assets. Understand the details of this notice and what actions can be taken to fix the problem.

CP90 – Intent to Seize Assets and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing

This IRS letter is a notification that a levy will be put against assets and any retirement benefits, salaries, real estate, automobiles, bank accounts, etc can also be included in the levy.

CP297 – Intent to Seize Assets and Notice of Your Right to Hearing 

This notice is similar to the CP 90, but it is sent to your business. This is a notification that due to unpaid taxes, the IRS intends to levy assets if no actions are taken.

LT1058 – Final Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to Hearing

The IRS has likely made numerous attempts to collect by the time the taxpayer receives this notice. If no action is taken within 30 days, the IRS has the right to levy or seize assets. This is also an intent to levy notice

LT11 – Intent to Seize Your Property or Rights to Property

The IRS hasn’t received any payment for overdue taxes and they intend to seize assets if no action is taken. The IRS may also place a lien on your property.

LT16 – Please Call Us About Your Overdue Taxes or Tax Return (recently redesigned)

The IRS is trying to collect unpaid taxes from you or has not received a tax return due.

LT17 — Take Action on Your Balance Due With Our Online Services (recently redesigned)

The IRS wants you to take action on your balance due.

LT19 — Pay Your Outstanding Tax Returns (recently redesigned)

The IRS may take action if you don't make arrangements on your outstanding tax liability. 

LT-38 - Reminder, Notice Resumption

The IRS is sending out this notice to alert taxpayers that the agency plans to resume sending out collection notices. The agency plans to send this notice to taxpayers with unpaid 2020 and 2021 taxes as well as unpaid taxes from previous years. The agency stopped sending many notices during the COVID-19 pandemic, and because the agency wasn't sending out notices, it has decided to give taxpayers over $1 billion in automatic penalty relief for tax years 2020 and 2021. The IRS started sending this notice in early 2024 to let taxpayers know that collection actions are resuming. 

LT-4464C -- Tax Return Review

IRS Letter 4464C means that the IRS is reviewing your tax return. If you are due a refund, the agency is holding your refund pending review of your tax return. This letter does not mean that the IRS is auditing your return. Reviews typically take up to 60 days.

LT-4800 -- IRS Changes to Your Tax Return

The IRS sends Letter 4800C if the agency makes changes to your tax return. For example, if the IRS disallows a credit on your tax return, the agency will send you this letter. It will show what was changed. Then, it will detail how much you owe or if the agency reduced your tax refund.

LT-5699 - Request for Employer Reporting of Offers for Health Insurance Coverage

The IRS sends this letter to businesses that haven't filed Forms 9094/9095-C. This letter explains what forms you need to file, and it outlines the penalties for not filing these forms or providing them to your employees. Learn what to do if you receive Letter 5699.

CP21A - Recalculation Due to Changes

The IRS has recalculated your tax return due to changes initiated by you, and due to the changes, you owe additional tax or have a reduced refund. 

CP22A – Notice of Change(s) to Your Tax Return

Based on the information you provided the IRS, your tax return was changed, and you now owe money.

CP22E - Owe Money Due to Changes to Your Return

If the IRS makes changes to your tax return and they lead to a balance due, the agency may send you Notice CP22E. This notice explains the changes and how they impact your tax balance due.

CP3219A & Form 5564 – IRS Notice of Deficiency

Understand what the IRS notice of deficiency means. Should you sign the form 5564 that is attached to agree to the new assessment? Know what to do if you do not agree with the notice and what to do if you cannot pay the balance that is now due.

CP508c – Possible Revocation or Denial of Passport

This letter will be sent to taxpayers starting in January 2018 if the IRS has determined that their account is “seriously delinquent”. The IRS has provided that information to the State Department. Generally, the State Department will not renew your passport or issue a new passport after receiving this certification. They may also revoke or place limitations on your current passport.

CP2000 – Notice of Underreported Income

The IRS will send this letter when their records don’t match what you reported on your tax return. The letter will contain IRS proposed changes. It is not an audit. If you agree with the proposed changes or disagree, mark the response form accordingly and send it back to the IRS. Read more about this letter and what to do by utilizing the link above.

IRS Letter 226-J

The IRS sends this letter to Applicable Large Employers who are facing the Shared Responsibility Payment. This penalty applies when you don't meet certain rules of the Affordable Care Act. If you agree, you make arrangements to pay the penalties, and if you disagree, you follow the instructions for disputing the penalty.

IRS Letter 725-B

IRS agents send letter 725-B to request meetings with taxpayers. As of July 2023, IRS agents no longer pay unannounced visits to taxpayers' homes or businesses. Instead, if a revenue agent wants to meet with you, they will send you this letter, and then, you will contact them to set up a meeting. 

IRS Letter 1153 & Form 2751: Proposed Assessment of the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty

The IRS sends this letter to individuals about the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty. Typically, the IRS sends this letter when a business has refused to pay the payroll taxes, and the IRS has decided to hold you responsible for the taxes owed. Form 2751 is an enclosed form agreeing to the assessed amount.

IRS Letter 2801-C (Lock-In Letter)

If your W2 didn't have enough tax withheld, the IRS may send you and your employer a lock-in letter. Your employer will receive Letter 2800-C telling them to increase your withholding, and you will get Letter 2801-C updating you about the situation. You have 30 days to respond if you disagree. Otherwise, your employer must change your withholding based on the instructions in the letter on the first pay period that ends on or after 60 days after receiving the letter. 

IRS Form 15103 (Form 1040 Return Delinquency)

If the IRS believes you haven't filed your returns, they may send you this form and ask you to complete it. They may send another notice notifying you of unfiled returns and request you complete this form as well. Your response to this notice depends upon your situation. Look at the various scenarios, how to respond, and when to consider hiring a tax professional to help.

IRS Audit Letters

The IRS has a variety of letters that it sends for audits. There are a few different types of notifications the IRS will send depending upon how the IRS is planning on auditing your tax return. For example, the IRS often sends Letter 566 (Initial Audit Contact Letter) if you hae been selected for an audit. There are several different letters in the 566 series including 566S for correspondence audits and 566E for wage, withholding, and refundable credit audits. If you receive an initial audit request, review the letter carefully to determine your next steps. Consider reading out to a tax pro for audit representation services.

IRS Stop 6525 (SP CIS) Meaning

If a taxpayer receives an IRS Letter "Stop 6525 (SP CIS)," he or she may have received the letter for a variety of reasons. There should be a CP number in the upper right corner of the IRS notice or letter. For example, it may be CP49, which means that the IRS took a refund you were due for a specific year and credited it to a year you had an outstanding balance. If you have any questions about why you received the letter or what you need to do next, you can call the number on the notice or letter. An IRS customer service representative will help you.

Disclaimer: The content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not serve as legal or tax advice. For specific advice regarding your tax situation, search for a tax resolution experience by leveraging the find a local pro button at the top of the page.

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