If the IRS sends out correspondence as a certified document, then the intent is to grant the sender both proof of mailing as well as proof of delivery. Certified mail assigns a tracking number to the document, and, if requested, a copy of the recipient’s signature.
If you receive a certified letter from the IRS, what does this mean? What types of letters does the IRS generally send out via certified mail?
Because certified mail provides a history, the IRS will use it to send time-sensitive letters that carry a taxpayer’s appeal rights. If a tax balance has become delinquent to the point where it has been turned over to the IRS Collection Department, then a final notice is typically sent to a taxpayer’s last address on file.
This notice is entitled Final Notice – Notice of Intent to Levy and Your Notice of a Right to a Hearing and is numerically called a Letter 11. The Letter 11 is required to be sent by the IRS to advise a taxpayer that because they have been unresponsive to repeated attempts to contact them, the next act of the Service is to enforce collections.
The letter contains a required set of written appeal rights, which generally need to be exercised within 30 days of the date on the notice.
Once the IRS has served a taxpayer with this notice by sending it via certified mail to their address of record, and if that taxpayer does not respond, the IRS may move forward with a levy on income or bank accounts, or the filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien.
The IRS will use the address on record based on a taxpayer’s most recently filed tax return, or based on any recent address change that a taxpayer made with the IRS. If a taxpayer moves and does not update the IRS records, or is not current with their legal filing requirements, then the IRS may have an old address on file.
If this is the case, the IRS responsibility rests with sending the certified letter to the last known address. It is not the duty of the IRS to locate a taxpayer, nor will the Post Office forward certified federal mail.
Most letters of this nature are also sent as return receipt requested. Requesting a return receipt means that a postcard-sized document is mailed back to the sender as proof of delivery. This information also can be communicated electronically.
The return receipt notification advises the IRS if the certified letter was signed for, if it was unclaimed, meaning that the address was valid but the taxpayer refused to pick up the letter, or if the letter was undeliverable, meaning the address on file no longer exists.
Other letters sent via certified delivery may be notices advising of an intent by the IRS to assess a balance. This is a Statutory Notice of Deficiency, and also has a time referenced in it that a taxpayer needs to make a response by. Failure to do so will result in a default assessment of the proposed tax increase.