If you fail to file a tax return, file it late or fail to pay what you owe, the IRS could assess a penalty. However, there are conditions under which those penalties will be waived. This is called a penalty abatement, and the IRS generally agrees to a request for one if you have good cause to have filed a return or paid taxes late.
For instance, if you are sick or were the victim of a natural disaster that prevents you from filing, you would qualify for an abatement. To ask for a waiver of penalties, you would fill out Form 843 and attach any documentation that you believe helps your case. Alternatively, you could have your tax attorney as for an abatement on your behalf.
If your request is denied, you have the opportunity to appeal that decision. A response to your appeal will generally be mailed to you within 60 days. It is important that the IRS has your current mailing address, otherwise you may not get communications from the agency and could lose your right to appeal.
While an individual may make such a request on his or her own, an attorney may be effective at getting the result that you want. Tax attorneys have a better understanding of the tax law and may use precedent in their favor. Overall, this can help you save money and start climbing out of a back tax hole that you find yourself in.