Any Letter from the IRS is Scary, but Which are Just Scare Tactics and Which are Serious?

  • October 7, 2019

If you have a tax problem with the IRS, you no doubt have been bombarded with their "love letters", some reminding you to pay your unpaid taxes, some reminding you to file, some requesting information, and some urging you to call them. And some letters are even more sinister: demanding payment by a deadline, threatening to levy your bank account or threatening to seize assets. Of course, every letter is scary when you owe the IRS and once you realize you're on their radar, you'll likely start looking over your shoulder, thinking, 'what's next?' What you may not realize is some IRS threats are serious, and some are just scare tactics. How can you know the difference?

Here is some information about how to discern which IRS letters really require your urgent attention. Keep in mind, getting a letter from the IRS means you are, indeed, on their radar – and that means you have a tax situation that needs resolving...sooner than later.

  • Final Notice of Intent to Levy: The Internal Revenue Code stipulates that the Service must notify a taxpayer of intent to levy prior to a levy.

    The IRS will often issue a "Notice of Intent to Levy...Intent to seize your property or rights to property". This is called a CP504 letter. This one is a scare tactic and does not have teeth. The IRS cannot seize property unless a "Final Notice" has been issued. But don't ignore the situation just because this letter does not have teeth. Instead, if you receive a CP504 letter, you are heading down the path to a levy, and it is best to start taking action NOW before it gets too out of hand.

    Infrequently, the IRS will not send you a Notice of Intent, and will instead just issue a Final Notice of Intent to Levy. If you receive a Final Notice of Intent to Levy...get help immediately! A levy is imminent.

  • Summons: The IRS will issue a Summons only when a specific local IRS employee is working the case. This will either be an IRS Revenue Officer or an IRS Revenue Agent, and it's not something to mess around with or put off until the last minute. This one is serious business. A Summons is normally issued when an IRS employee feels that the taxpayer is not being compliant in requests for information (see Summary of Contact below) or is thought to be withholding or falsifying information. If you have been issued a Summons, it's best to seek help immediately!

  • Summary of Contact: If you receive a Summary of Taxpayer Contact from the IRS, you have received form 9297. This is serious stuff because it means that a Revenue Officer is requesting information by a certain deadline. When the IRS issues a 9297 one of two things are happening: 1.) They are trying to assess the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty against a responsible party for failing to file and/or deposit payroll tax (very serious) or 2.) They are trying to obtain financial records to perform a financial analysis or find sources of income to garnish. You'd better seek help immediately! DO NOT IGNORE A FORM 9297. If you are open for a levy and you miss the deadline to remedy your situation, the IRS will not hesitate to seize your income – or more! Call The Tax Problem Solver immediately!
TAKE NOTE: If you have received ANY of the above letters – even if they are just IRS scare tactics, you do not want to handle your tax debt situation by yourself. You may end up disclosing, or not disclosing something that will only hurt you; hiring a qualified tax attorney upon receipt of these letters can help ensure that whatever happens is in your best interest...and not the IRS's.

Here are a few of the 37 letters, notices and forms you may get from the IRS if you are in their collections system, ranging from "Cold" (barely on the radar) to "Burning Hot" (requires your immediate attention).
  • CP14 - Not too scary (Cold).
  • CP501 - Fairly cool, but getting warmer.
  • CP503 - Getting even warmer
  • CP504 - Getting pretty uncomfortable
  • Letter 1058/LT11 - (Final Levy Notice)—Smoldering Hot—act now or lose your due process rights (your right to a hearing and a stop of collection)
  • CP90/CP91 - Another type of Final Notice of Intent to Levy (Burning Hot)
  • CP71 - 10 Day Final Notice of Intent to Levy. You have already received a Final Notice more than 6 months ago. Act now! (Better Put Out the Fire NOW!)

Getting any of these IRS scare tactics as forms or letters is serious business – you're now on their radar and they're not going away until you deal with your tax problem. Your best solution to remedying the matter is to assign your tax problem to me and my Tax Problem Solver Team. Click on this link to schedule a time, or call this number (855) 954-0151, to schedule a strategy session, and let’s determine the best way to deal with – and solve – your tax matter. You can also email me at: and we can stop the damage in its tracks. But we can't do anything until we hear from you and move things forward so that we know exactly what's going on – don't sit on this, act now!

About the Author Larry Heinkel J.D. LL.M

Larry Heinkel is a tax and bankruptcy attorney with more than 38 years experience helping businesses and individuals, solve their state and federal tax problems. Mr. Heinkel has been extremely successful in representing his clients before IRS and DOR, and is known throughout Florida as an expert in tax problem resolution.

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