27th Jun 2014

One of the most often things we hear from someone in trouble with the IRS is, “I never got any notices” or “What happens if I just don’t open my mail, can the IRS still file a lien against me?”  Your address on your return is your legal address and whether you physically pick up the envelope is of no concern to the IRS.

The recently decided case of Eric Onyango v. Commissioner of Revenue, 142 T.C. No. 24 illustrates this point.   Mr. Onyango (the taxpayer) was taking an off and on again break from living at the address listed on his tax returns as his legal address.  During that time, he did not regularly check his mailbox and only had certain bills forwarded to him.  Even when he did come by and spend a few days at his residence, he did not check the mail.  The IRS in the meantime had sent notices of deficiency to his address, some by certified mail.  Because Mr. Onyango willfully ignored his mail, the tax court agreed with the IRS that he could no longer contest the deficiencies assessed against him.

Notices of deficiency set out very specific deadlines for contesting assessment.  Liens and levy notices give very specific deadlines after which the IRS will begin to put liens on your property and seize assets.  Letting these deadlines expire leaves a taxpayer with very few options. You may avoid the mail, but that doesn’t avoid the IRS.

By Stephanie J. Smith, Esq.

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