Don’t mess with the IRS

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Q. My mom can’t really handle her money and I’ve always done her tax return. She recently received a letter from the IRS with questions and I’m afraid to show it to her. Is there any way I can fix this for her without her knowing?
— Trying to help

A. It’s great that you want to help your mom, but hiding something about her finances isn’t the right way to go.

And, there’s probably not much you can legally do unless you have a power of attorney.

For you to talk to the IRS on her behalf, you’d need her permission. She’d need to sign IRS Form 2848, which gives the IRS permission to discuss any information about your mom with you, said Joseph Matheson, a certified public accountant with Matheson & Associates in Whippany.

“Ignoring that notice will not make it go away,” Matheson said. “The earlier you address things the better, and if there are penalties and interest, they will be lower.”

Matheson said it’s not uncommon for the IRS to abate the penalty as long as you are prompt in responding and there is a reasonable reason for the error. For example, if your mother has a medical issue that affected her ability to properly file, that would qualify as an explanation for not properly filing, he said.

But if you ignore the notice, the IRS will be less likely to be so understanding.

Before you get all worked up, though, you need to find out what the IRS is asking and why.

“You may be getting anxious over nothing,” Matheson said. “Have your mother have a CPA look at the notice to determine if it is correct. I have seen many erroneous IRS notices of late.”

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This story was first posted in November 2015. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.