First of all, if you haven't filed yet, don't panic! You have until Tuesday, April 17, to file your 2011 tax returns and pay any tax due because April 15 falls on a Sunday, and Emancipation Day, a Washington D.C. holiday, falls this year on Monday, April 16, so we have two extra days to file this year.

The IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. They don't all lead to nightmare of crawling around in your attic looking for receipts- or worse! Many of these letters and notices can be dealt with simply, without even having to call or visit an IRS office.

Here are eight things to know about IRS notices and letters.

  • There are a number of reasons why the IRS might send you a notice. Notices may request payment, notify you of account changes, or request additional information. A notice normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
  • Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what action you need to take.
  • If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
  • If you agree with the correction to your account, then usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due or the notice directs otherwise.
  • If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important to respond as requested. You should send a written explanation of why you disagree and include any documents and information you want the IRS to consider along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the upper left of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
  • Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call to help the IRS respond to your inquiry.
  • It’s important to keep copies of any correspondence with your records.
  • IRS notices and letters are sent by mail. The IRS does not correspond by email about taxpayer accounts or tax returns.

For more information about IRS notices and bills, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. Information about penalties and interest is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals). Both publications are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Good luck and many happy returns!