Paying the IRS

Since the IRS exists to collect taxes, one would think that the process of paying them would be simple, but it’s not.  Follow these tips so that you get proper credit for your payment:

  • Send a check or money order.  Don’t send cash.  It is never a good idea to send cash through the US Mail.  Lost checks can be canceled, but if cash gets stolen or lost then you have no paper trail.
  • Make your check payable to the United States Treasury, not the Internal Revenue Service.
  • The IRS also suggests that taxpayers use all digits when writing out the check amount.  For instance, include the dollars and cents place even if it is a whole number (i.e., $100.00).
  • Do not staple, clip, glue, tape, or otherwise affix your payment to any other papers (such as a letter or a payment voucher) sent with your payment.
  • Be sure the following information appears on your check: name, address, daytime phone number, primary Social Security number (i.e., the SSN belonging to the first listed taxpayer on the return), tax period and tax form (i.e., 2004/1040).
  • If you were sent a payment coupon then you should mail your payment to the address on the payment coupon.  If you do not have a payment coupon, check here to look up the correct address.

As nitpicky as all this seems, the IRS is pretty forgiving when you are sending them money. I always recommend that payments be made according to the above guidelines, but I also know for a fact that many of these components can be missing and the IRS will still cash the check.  For instance, the IRS will have no problem cashing a check made out to the IRS, even though technically they prefer that it be payable to the US Treasury.  Also, a check without a phone number is usually fine.  Even if you happen to send your payment to the wrong IRS address, believe me, the check is going to get cashed.  It may take a bit longer if the service has to re-route the check, but it will get cashed.

Finally, for taxpayers who don’t use banks, the best option is a money order or cashier’s check.  But if you’re a “strictly cash” kind of person, you may be able to pay your tax bill or installment agreement payment in cash at your local IRS office.  Availability of this option will vary from office to office.