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What is a Service Filed Return (SFR)?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) federal building in Washington DC

People have unfiled tax returns for any number of reasons. Some are so busy growing their business that they forget about their personal returns. Others are facing serious personal problems that disrupt their lives. Many simply fear they don’t have the money to pay what they owe. But if you don’t file your own tax return, the IRS could file a Service Filed Return, also known as a Substitute for Return (SFR), on your behalf—but almost certainly not in your favor.

The IRS is required to notify you of their intent to file an SFR. Of course, trying to decode the confusing and alarming wording of these notices can be just as anxiety-inducing as the tax problem itself. That’s why our experts are here to walk you through what an SFR is, why you shouldn’t ignore it, and how you can take control of your tax situation for good with help from a tax resolution expert.

What is an SFR?

An SFR is a tax return that the IRS creates on your behalf if you fail to file your individual income tax return. Essentially, the IRS estimates your income and tax liability based on the information they have available from your bank or employer, such as W-2s and 1099s. This can result in an inaccurate assessment of your tax liability, which can lead to a variety of problems down the line.

The IRS won’t make the types of deductions that would be in your favor—in fact, they calculate these returns with no deductions at all. Clearly, this is a problem if you’re self-employed, would like to make itemized deductions, or your adjusted gross income is significantly different from your gross income. It also means that you won’t receive any other exemptions or credits that you may be entitled to. So, you will likely end up owing much more than is actually required.

How Do I Know if the IRS Filed SFR?

Once the IRS realizes that you have not filed a return, they will send several notices informing you that you need to file. After 12 months, if you still haven’t taken action, the IRS will file a substitute return for you. They will also send a notice CP2566 at this time, which outlines the federal taxes they believe you owe. At this point, you have 30 days to:

  • File your own missing return(s)
  • Explain to the IRS why you don’t have to file a return
  • Sign your Consent to Assessment and Collection form (agree to accept the SFR)

We highly recommend speaking with a tax professional before you make this decision, particularly if you owe a large amount of back taxes, can’t pay what you owe, or have several years of unfiled tax returns to contend with.

Consequences of Ignoring an SFR

If you don’t reply to the CP2566 notice within 30 days, you’ll then receive another form: the Notice of Deficiency. It’s crucial to respond to this letter within 90 days—ignoring it leaves the door open for the IRS to begin collection proceedings against you.

Collection actions can include wage garnishments, levies on bank accounts, and liens on your property. Additionally, the IRS will charge you interest and penalties on the tax liability they’ve estimated, which can add up quickly. The longer you wait to address the issue, the more difficult it can be to resolve, especially if you are already dealing with significant back taxes.

Why Work with a Tax Resolution Professional for SFRs?

While it’s possible to handle an SFR on your own, it can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Lothamer has experience working with the IRS and knows how to navigate the system with the best chance of success. We’ll make sure you understand your rights and options, and work with you to develop the right strategy for your unique situation.

Working with a tax resolution professional can also protect you from potential legal issues, such as having your issue escalated to tax court. We take over all communications with the IRS, which can prevent you from inadvertently saying something that could harm or set back your case.

How a Tax Resolution Professional Can Help

If you’ve received notice of an SFR, here’s how a tax resolution professional can help.

Review Your Case

Lothamer’s tax resolution professionals can review your case and assess your true tax liability. We’ll identify any errors or discrepancies in the IRS’s assessment, and work with you to develop the optimal strategy to resolve the issue.

Communicate with the IRS

An Enrolled Agent is a tax expert authorized to represent you in all dealings with the IRS. At Lothamer, all of our EAs are also tax attorneys or CPAs, meaning they have extensive experience communicating with these authorities.

We have numerous options when it comes to handling SFRs, depending on your unique situation. These include:

  • Accepting the SFR now with the intent to file an Offer in Compromise in the future
  • Helping you file a request for an audit reconsideration
  • Requesting an abatement of penalties or interest
  • Negotiating a reasonable installment agreement

File Missing Tax Returns

If you haven’t filed tax returns for several years, we can help you get caught up, no matter if you’re missing tax records or simply feeling overwhelmed by the process. We’ll gather the necessary information, prepare and file your tax returns, and work with the IRS to resolve any outstanding issues.

Protect Your Assets

If the IRS has started collection proceedings against you, a tax resolution professional will fight to protect your assets. We take action immediately, requesting a stay on collections, negotiating a release of wage garnishments or bank levies if necessary, and working with you to develop a plan to pay off your tax liability.

Call Lothamer for Same Day Tax Help

Dealing with the IRS can be stressful and overwhelming. But our team is ready and waiting to put our years of experience, strategic insight, and localized customer service to work for you. With offices throughout the Midwest, we’re always available with the latest technology to see you through this stressful time. If you’re ready to put your tax problem behind you and move on with your life, call the team that will take action on your behalf TODAY.

Get Help Dealing with SFRs & Unfiled Tax Returns in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin

If the IRS has filed a tax return for you, they will almost certainly overstate what you owe. Take back control of the narrative of your financial future with help from Lothamer Tax Resolution. Find your nearest location here, or text or call (877) 955-9020 to speak to a licensed tax professional about your case now.

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