I had a series of personal catastrophes last year—illness, loss of my job, and the foreclosure of my home—which prevented me from filing my taxes. How can I convince the IRS I wasn't trying to cheat the system?

First, let me say we’re sorry to hear about your difficult year! Thankfully, there is hope even for someone in your situation.

A good first step is to hire an experienced tax attorney, who can draft a letter in response to the IRS collection notice you've probably already received. You need to convince the IRS that you had “reasonable cause” for not filing your taxes, and you need to back up your excuse with solid evidence.

For example, you can send photocopies of your medical records (including any extended hospital stays), notices from your bank about the foreclosure of your home, and an official termination notice from your last job, all of which will back up your story.

What you don't want to do—and what a good attorney will talk you out of doing—is send a long, earnest letter to the IRS describing your travails in excruciating detail. Not only are letters like this unpleasant to read, but the average IRS functionary simply doesn't have the time to read several pages of a personal narrative letter.

Preferably, you should have your lawyer draft the letter, and lay out the reasons you failed to file your taxes crisply, cleanly, and with a minimum of emotion. The government responds best to facts, not to pleas for empathy or understanding!

Keep in mind, though, that even if the IRS accepts your reasons for not filing your taxes, you still will be responsible for the full amount owed. Albeit, a sympathetic revenue officer may choose to reduce, or even eliminate, any penalties or interest payments you've accrued.

The Oklahoma tax experts at Travis W. Watkins, PC would like to speak with you more about your situation. Call us today at 800-721-7054, and we will gladly offer you a free consultation.