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You might be getting a letter from the IRS—here's why you shouldn't ignore it

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If you want your tax refund quickly, don't ignore letters from the Internal Revenue Service.

Even though Tax Day has passed, letters are common this time of year. They're usually requests for more information relating to your tax return or to verify your identity. If you don't reply, you could be delaying your tax refund for weeks or months, or possibly leaving it unclaimed.

You might also get what's known as an adjustment letter, which gives notice about additional taxes owed or a change in your refund amount. Typically, the adjustment is based on incorrect information that was entered on your tax return.

These letters provide instructions on how to pay any taxes owed and how to dispute your claim if you think the IRS has made an error in their calculations. 

Here are three things to do if you receive an IRS letter or notice.

1. Don't panic

Not all letters from the IRS will be a tax bill or a notification of an audit. In fact, some might contain a check for a tax refund that you weren't expecting, based on an adjustment made by the IRS to your tax return on your behalf.

2. Don't ignore it

If your letter requires a response or other action, take care of it as soon as possible. If you owe money to the IRS, you'll want to deal with it right away to avoid escalating late penalties and interest charges on your bill. And if you don't owe anything, you could be delaying your refund.

If you do receive a bill and you can't afford to pay it, the IRS has a repayment plan that can be gradually paid back in installments. Remember: you won't be sent to jail just because you can't afford to pay your tax bill.

3. Keep the letter 

In general, the IRS recommends that taxpayers keep records for three years from the date they filed the tax return, including letters or notices from the agency. Many of these letters provide information about money owed to you, like economic stimulus payments, that can be used as reference when filling out your tax return. They can also be used to help you resolve a dispute with the IRS. 

If you're unsure that the IRS has received your tax return, or you were wondering if a tax refund has been delivered to you, check out www.usa.gov/check-tax-status.

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