The IRS imposes penalties for a variety of reasons, including late filing, late payment, and inaccuracies in tax returns. However, if you face such penalties, there are provisions to request penalty abatement or reduction. This guide provides a step-by-step approach to understanding IRS penalties and how to request relief.


Facing penalties from the IRS can add a significant burden on top of existing tax liabilities. Fortunately, the IRS offers a way to apply for penalty abatement, which can reduce or remove these penalties under certain circumstances. Understanding how to navigate this process can save you money and reduce stress.

Overview of IRS Penalties

1. Common IRS Penalties

The most frequent penalties issued by the IRS include:

2. Interest on Penalties

Interest is also charged on penalties from the due date of the return until the payment date.

How to Request Penalty Abatement

1. Understand the Criteria for Abatement

The IRS may provide relief from penalties if you can show:

2. First-Time Penalty Abatement (FTA)

If you have not been penalized for the past three years, you might qualify for FTA, which is one of the most straightforward ways to obtain relief.

Key Points:

3. Gather Documentation

To apply for abatement, prepare documents that support your case:

4. Write a Penalty Abatement Letter

The letter should:

5. Contact the IRS

You can call the IRS or send your request in writing:

Tips for Successful Penalty Abatement

  1. Be Honest: Only request abatement if you have a legitimate reason.
  2. Be Patient: The process can take time, and you may need to follow up with the IRS.
  3. Stay Organized: Keep copies of all correspondence and documentation.
  4. Continue to Comply: Make sure you file and pay current taxes to improve your case.
  5. Seek Professional Help: Consider consulting a tax professional for complex cases.


Requesting penalty abatement from the IRS is a valuable option if you face penalties for reasons beyond your control. By understanding the types of penalties and the criteria for relief, and by following the steps outlined, you can effectively navigate this process. Remember, maintaining good tax compliance and record-keeping habits is your best defense against penalties and the complexities they entail.