IRS Halts Some Letters Until It Can Catch Up on Returns

Collection, balance due, and unfiled return notices will be paused temporarily

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The IRS said it’s temporarily suspending more than a dozen types of letters to taxpayers—including automated collection notices to people who have no tax return on file—because the letters may not be accurate due to the agency’s backlog of unprocessed and amended returns.

The agency announced this week that it’s also halting automated and possibly confusing balance due notices and unfiled tax return notices. The notices won’t be resumed until the backlog is worked through and the IRS determines it’s the right time to restart them, the agency said. If you receive such a notice in the next few weeks, the IRS said you generally can ignore it—unless you have reason to believe it’s accurate. Then you should try to resolve the problem, the agency said.

The IRS is aiming to avoid confusion and catch up from a crushing workload during the pandemic that left it already in a hole when this year’s tax season opened on Jan. 24. Not only did it have to process tax returns as usual last year, it also had to send out government stimulus payments and modify its computer system for late-breaking tax law changes, including for the Advance Child Tax Credit. That extra work left it with fewer resources to devote to tax returns and, as of mid-December, the agency still had a backlog of 6.2 million unprocessed individual returns and 2.4 million unprocessed amended individual returns.

To make accounting for all those stimulus and CTC payments easier on 2021 tax forms, the IRS sent letters to taxpayers earlier this year detailing their payments. But even that proved to be challenging, because some people reportedly may have received erroneous information.

In addition to its latest announcement about pausing certain letters, the agency had already said in January that it would suspend some notices and letters, including in instances where it had issued credits to taxpayers but had no record of a tax return being filed.

Although “the temporary pause in these notices going out is a brief relief to taxpayers, it doesn’t mean these letters and notices won’t come in the future—they will come and action will be required by the taxpayer,” Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt, said in an email.

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  1. IRS. “IRS Continues Work To Help Taxpayers; Suspends Mailing of Additional Letters | Internal Revenue Service.”

  2. National Taxpayer Advocate. “National Taxpayer Advocate - Annual Report To Congress.

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