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The IRS is Impacting My Mental Health With Worry and Stress

Question:

Dear Steve,

IRS warning letters sent to me incorrectly over the last three years have significantly affected my mental health.

Like millions of other people (as I have read/heard in the news), I have been getting warning letters from the IRS over the last few years that my assets will be seized or my property will be levied because I owe taxes for multiple years.

While this is true, I have been in an installment agreement for the years listed in these warning letters.

After spending days trying to get through without having the call disconnected because of the volume of other desperate people also trying to get through, then literally more than two hours waiting to speak to an agent each time, I have been told, “Yes, it is a mistake,” “No, we don’t know why this keeps happening, but you’re not the only one” and–my favorite–“Our computer programs are old, and they keep auto-generating these letters, and we don’t know how to fix it.” They then get mailed out because no one is checking their accuracy.

Imagine being unemployed for almost three years during a pandemic and coming home to a stack of these letters (one for each year) every few months.

Saying I have a panic attack each time is almost an understatement, considering how upset I become. Every time this has happened, I’ve filled out the required forms, attached about a dozen documents that prove I’ve done nothing wrong (including screenshots of my bank account web page showing the withdrawals from the IRS), and sent it via certified mail.

And then I have to wait, and wait, and wait to hear back, dreading that in the meantime, they’re going to take the small amount of money I have in the bank and all my retirement funds.

I don’t own property, so at least I could laugh at the levy warnings, but my credit is finally good, so I was also scared that this action would ruin it.

Then, finally, last month, I got a “final warning” letter that said the only thing I could do was file a request form for a legal hearing! I still haven’t heard back from them, though I received a letter last week responding to one of the forms I submitted A YEAR AGO, confirming that my installment plan was active.

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However, this isn’t the first time that I’ve received one of these “Don’t worry” letters, only to have the cycle start all over again–and I still don’t even know if this means I don’t have to attend a hearing, because I only filed that request recently! In the meantime, I have been waiting to get an old car from a friend because then I will own property that can be taken away.

I can’t keep going through this because of what it does to my emotional health, which affects my physical health, too.

Whenever I come home to a pile of mail, I immediately get scared that some of it will be IRS letters. I tried to take out a bank loan to bite the bullet and pay off everything (about $7000), but I couldn’t get one because of my student loan debt and low income.

So here’s my question: do I take money out of my 403-b to pay it all off?

I know I will then owe tax and an early withdrawal penalty on the funds and now owe about $1000 in tax from last year, which makes this idea sound kind of (maybe a lot) dumb, but if that amount is significant, less.

On the other hand, I can pay it off in chunks this year; it might be worth it for my health.

Thank you so much for whatever advice you can give, even if it’s “Wow, that IS dumb.”

Karen

Answer:

Dear Karen,

I think most people would feel the same way you do. It is natural and a shame the IRS is putting so many people through this.

The IRS itself is not fundamentally cruel. There are good people that care who work there. However, due to slashed budgets and a depleted workforce, the IRS cannot help good people like you.

It is not fair or just. However, it is our current reality.

I’m a fan of working towards solutions and not just hoping things get better independently.

It is entirely possible that one hand at the IRS might not know what the other is doing due to the many internal issues.

You could do things like write your Congressional representatives and ask for help, but I’m not sure how much attention that would get right now.

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One reasonable option would be to find a local Enrolled Agent that can represent you with the IRS. Their services can be affordable, and they have the expertise to deal authoritatively with the IRS.

You can find a local Enrolled Agent by clicking here.

Having an Enrolled Agent representing you can provide you with a reduction of stress and someone to lead this fight that has experience.

People I’ve known have had a great outcome with an Enrolled Agent in the past.

This might have been unnecessary in the past. Still, the current situation at the Internal Revenue Service is one of mistimed IRS threats not connecting with the information they already have.

If you’d rather deal with a CPA, then I recommend Jim Buttonow, CPA. But Jim might have new duties these days, so try the Enrolled Agent route first.

Whatever you do, don’t borrow from your 403(b).

Come back and update me in the comments with what you decide to do.

Sincerely,


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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4 thoughts on “The IRS is Impacting My Mental Health With Worry and Stress”

  1. It sucks to have to do this, but to reach the IRS on the phone fast, the ENQ service works well. They have a $99 intro plan for 120 mins talk time. They are basically contributing to the problem by flooding the IRS with calls and then connecting their callers once they are way into the que, but it works. I had to call them 4 times this spring and was on hold for no more than 5-10 minutes. Not affiliated with ENQ in any way but it worked for me.

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