How Do You Know if an IRS Letter Is Real?

Receiving a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be an intimidating experience. Many people worry about the authenticity of such letters and whether they are legitimate or part of a scam. It is crucial to be able to distinguish between real IRS letters and fraudulent ones to protect yourself from potential scams. Here are some tips to help you identify if an IRS letter is real:

1. Verify the sender: All official IRS correspondence comes from the Department of the Treasury. Look for the official IRS logo, which is usually present on the top right corner of the letter.

2. Check for a valid IRS address: The return address on the letter should match one of the official IRS addresses listed on their website. Any discrepancies should raise suspicion.

3. Review the contact information: Genuine IRS letters include contact information, such as a phone number or email address, for you to reach out if you have any questions. Be cautious if the provided contact details seem suspicious or do not match the official IRS contact information.

4. Examine the language and tone: Real IRS letters are generally written in a formal and professional manner. Scam letters often contain grammatical errors, typos, or use threatening language to create a sense of urgency and panic.

5. Understand the purpose of the letter: The IRS sends various types of letters for different reasons, such as requesting additional information, notifying about a change in tax return, or providing updates on a payment plan. Ensure that the purpose of the letter aligns with your tax-related activities.

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6. Confirm the issue mentioned: If the letter mentions a specific issue with your tax return or payment, take the time to verify it. You can cross-reference the information with previous tax documents or contact the IRS directly using the official contact information provided on their website.

7. Look for official IRS forms: Real IRS letters often include forms or schedules that need to be completed or returned. These forms should have the official IRS logo, and you can verify the form’s authenticity on the IRS website.

8. Seek professional advice: If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an IRS letter, consider consulting a tax professional or contacting the IRS directly. They can provide guidance and help you determine if the letter is genuine or a scam.


1. How does the IRS usually contact taxpayers?
The IRS primarily communicates through regular mail. They may occasionally make initial contact through phone calls, but they will always follow up with a letter.

2. Will the IRS ask for personal information through email or phone?
No, the IRS will not ask for personal or financial information via email or phone. They only request such information through official correspondence or in-person meetings.

3. Can I verify the authenticity of an IRS letter online?
Yes, the IRS provides an online tool called “Understanding Your IRS Notice or Letter” on their website. It helps taxpayers verify the legitimacy of various IRS notices and letters.

4. What should I do if I suspect I have received a fraudulent IRS letter?
If you suspect a letter is fraudulent, do not respond or provide any personal information. Report the scam to the IRS by forwarding the suspicious email or mailing to [email protected].

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5. What if I owe taxes but cannot pay the full amount mentioned in the letter?
If you cannot pay the full amount owed, contact the IRS immediately. They offer various payment options and may be willing to work out a payment plan based on your financial situation.

6. Can I ignore an IRS letter if I believe it is a mistake?
It is crucial not to ignore any IRS correspondence. If you think there is a mistake, contact the IRS using the official contact information provided on their website to discuss the issue and resolve it promptly.

7. How long does it typically take for the IRS to respond to a letter or form sent by mail?
The IRS usually takes several weeks to process letters and forms sent by mail. It is recommended to keep copies of all correspondence and follow up if you do not receive a response within a reasonable time frame.

8. Can I request an extension to respond to an IRS letter?
Yes, if you need more time to respond to an IRS letter, you can request an extension by contacting the IRS using the official contact information provided on their website.

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