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Send your return to the right IRS address

If you're using snail mail this tax season, make sure you send your return to the right address.

The Internal Revenue Service is continuing to consolidate and reorganize duties in the eight service centers that process individual returns. This means some 1040s will be going to different locations this filing season.

Returns sent to old or wrong IRS addresses will eventually be forwarded to the appropriate location. But do you really want to wait for the paperwork to be sorted out, especially if you're expecting a refund? So don't rely on an address from last year's return. Don't even bother to get the IRS address from your next-door neighbor. If he files a different form, it might not be the place where you should send your return.

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The IRS mailing system for processing tax returns has become so specialized that 1040 forms go to a different place than do 1040A or 1040EZ forms. The proper address depends, too, on whether you're getting a refund or paying a tax bill. The distinction is the last four numbers of the IRS service center's full nine-digit ZIP code.

The best advice: Use the envelope that came with your tax package. It should have two labels. Use the yellow one if you're sending in a return that claims a refund. Affix the white label if you owe Uncle Sam.

If you've lost the envelope, filing addresses are on the back of each 1040 series instruction package. Click here for a preview.

And if you file estimated tax payments (Form 1040ES), be careful to send those vouchers and quarterly payments to the correct IRS location. Estimated tax payments generally go to a different IRS location, not the one that handles regular income tax returns. Check page 6 of the 1040ES for those addresses.

IRS checking taxpayer addresses, too
All this address verification activity is a two-way street. The IRS now can access the U.S. Postal Service's national address change database to regularly update master tax files.

Address changes from the postal database are forwarded to the IRS periodically. Key changes, such as a person's house number or ZIP code, are compared to tax records. When a match appears, the IRS will institute a further comparison of the taxpayer's complete address and, if necessary, update agency records.

The new postal address then will become the person's official tax address until:

  1. A different address appears on a processed tax return or
  2. The taxpayer notifies the IRS that he or she has a different tax address.

While this new IRS-Postal Service agreement should help reduce undeliverable tax correspondence, including refund checks sent back to the IRS, the agency still recommends that taxpayers submit a Form 8822, Change of Address, any time they move.

-- Updated: April 14, 2004



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