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Do you have to pay that tax penalty?

The answer to that question, as with so many things tax-related, is "It depends." The Internal Revenue Code imposes automatic penalties for many violations of the Code, in order to drive compliance.

If you are penalized for missing a payment or for underpaying your taxes and those penalties begin to accrue the moment the payment is late or missing, there is no incentive to be slow in resolving your tax liabilities.

And the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is very reluctant to accept the financial equivalent of the tardy school boy's excuse that "My dog ate my homework." And just because most of the time excuses such as "the check is in the mail" are bogus does not mean it can never be true.

If you receive a notice from the IRS for a tax delinquency and they have assessed interest and penalties with that delinquency, you may be able to request a waiver of the penalties if you can show there was a "reasonable cause" for the delinquency.

If you mailed a check, for instance, and it apparently was never received by the IRS and never cashed, you may have to provide a significant amount of circumstantial evidence to convince the IRS that you did attempt to make the payment. The key is explaining the reasonableness of the failure.

Lacking a certified mail receipt, you may be able to argue that you have dutifully made quarterly payments for the previous X number of quarters, and that you made the following payments in the same manner and in a timely fashion.

The Service may deny the abatement on your first attempt, but persistence may pay off.

Sourece: oregonlive.com, "Money Talk (Q&A): IRS penalties, Social Security benefits," Liz Pulliam Weston, June 16, 2015

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