The Inside Track is a reoccurring column designed exclusively for our Just Business email newsletter. Authors of these columns aim to provide you with their own perspective on a current trend or development within their industry… getting you on The Inside Track.
The Inside Track: Working with the IRS
By David A. Tucker, field media relations for the Internal Revenue Service
Federal income tax matters sometimes create anxiety for business owners because they mean dealing with the Internal Revenue Service. But the IRS wants to alleviate those concerns. Our first word of advice: don’t panic.
At the IRS, we know there are many economic challenges facing businesses. A wide variety of IRS resources is available to business owners to help resolve a situation before it becomes a problem. One of the most accessible resources is the business pages of the IRS website at www.irs.gov, which are filled with helpful tax information and an easy-to-use search engine.
Knowing some common business pitfalls also helps. Here are some ways a business may draw our attention:
- Being behind on filing income and/or employment tax returns
- Being behind on income and/or employment tax payments or deposits
- Not responding to an IRS notice
If a business finds itself with one of the above dilemmas, consider these important steps.
Begin by identifying the problem. Knowing the problem is the first step toward fixing it.
Second, make sure you understand the issue fully. There are several ways to do this:
If you receive correspondence from the IRS, read it carefully. It will explain the reason for the contact and give you instruction on how to handle your problem. In many instances, an IRS letter or notice can be dealt with simply and painlessly. For more information about IRS notices, see Publication 594, the IRS Collection Process.
You may also want to discuss the issue with a tax professional.
Once you have identified the problem, it’s time to effectively communicate with someone who can assist you. One of the most important steps a business owner can take is to contact the IRS so that the business owner and an IRS representative can work together to resolve the situation. Ignoring the problem will definitely not make it go away.
Call the phone number in the letter if that option is available. If not, call the IRS toll-free Small Business and Specialty Tax assistance phone line at 1-800-829-4933. Make sure you have a copy of the notice and a copy of the tax return to which the notice refers when you call.
If you’ve visited the IRS website and called on the telephone but still need assistance, consider visiting the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in downtown Vancouver at 500 W. 12th Street, on the first floor of the Federal Building. The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., (except from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.), Monday through Friday.
No appointment is necessary and friendly, courteous customer service representatives are there to help. Many situations can be resolved in one visit.
Finally, view the IRS as a source of help rather than anxiety. Not only do we assist business owners with their tax problems, we also strive to warn them of scams that can harm their businesses and clients. Such scams advise business owners to not file their returns; understate their true income; overstate their exemptions, deductions, and expenses; or file for tax refunds to which they are not legally entitled. Warnings of common scams can be found at www.irs.gov.
Do not panic if you have an income tax problem. Instead, clearly identify the issue, research it carefully and then communicate with a tax professional or the IRS to resolve the situation.
Our goal is to help you.