I'm surprised at how often my clients bring me a box filled with un-opened mail from the IRS. To tell you the truth, most of it is junk.
Reminders to pay, debt breakdowns, letters requesting missing tax returns, etc. But hidden within each stack of stuff is almost always a letter I wish the client had opened when it arrived by certified mail.
That letter is called the: IRS Final Notice of Intent to Lev
Normally…the IRS will send you several letters telling you it is going to levy before it sends this one. To most people they all look the same. This final notice of intent to levy letter isn't a common letter though, and if you don't open it on time, you will lose some rights that could have helped you to solve your IRS debt problem.
Why it is so potentially helpful to you?
First, you have to understand that the IRS is required by law to send this letter in order to give you some “due process”. Not much due process, but just enough to help you figure things out. You are entitled to an appeals hearing with a supposedly impartial settlement officer on the issue of whether the IRS should be able to levy your bank accounts and garnish your wage or whether there is a alternative that suits the need of you and the IRS more sufficiently.
While waiting for that hearing, the IRS isn't allowed do any of these nasty things.
In order to get this appeal hearing and exercise your due process rights, you should file the appeal request within 30 days of the date of the letter. Of course you can't do that if you haven't opened your mail.
So when you do open your mail, look closely at it. If you see an LT 1058 or LT 11 somewhere on the letter, it should be this final notice letter we are talking about. Read it closely. The appeal documentation and some instructions should be with the letter.
If you feel like you need help filing the appeal call someone who knows how they work.
After you file the appeal, start putting together your financials in detail. You will need them along with some other IRS forms at some point during the appeals process. If you don't take the appeals hearing seriously and fail to supply the correct info and make the right argument, you will lose the appeal and head back to IRS collections for some smacking around in the way of Levy or Garnishment.
What if you opened the letter but didn't file the appeal on time?
Don't panic, you can still file the appeal, and the IRS should…give you an appeal hearing anyway. It's called an “equivalent” hearing. (Equivalent to the Collection Due Process Hearing, get it?)
The main difference between the equivalent hearing and the collection due process hearing is that one comes with further appeal rights to tax court and the other doesn't.
Other more subtle differences exist like, the IRS doesn't have to grant the equivalent hearing and in some cases it won't, and you have to file the request for the equivalent hearing within a year of the date of the final notice letter. A hint..don't wait a year.
So open your IRS mail, or bring the box to me. We have a sharp letter opener.