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I've just received an utterly bizarre letter from the IRS, excerpted below:

Notice: CP542

Form: 1040 Tax Period Ending: 12-31-1985

Our records show you have reported and paid all tax due on the interest and dividends that you received for the year shown above. We have notified the payers of interest and dividends whom we previously advised to start withholding, to discontinue backup withholding effective January 1. Those payers will stop withholding unless you are subject to backup withholding for some other reason.

Furnish a copy of this notice, by December 31 at the latest, to any other payers of interest or dividends who are withholding because you were unable to certify that you were not subject to backup withholding. Also, give a copy to any payer who did not receive our stop notice by December 1 (for example, because of undelivered mail). Those payers will discontinue withholding no later than thirty days after receiving a copy of this notice.

As far as I know, I've never been subject to backup withholding, and there are certainly no payers that might have been withholding anything back in 1985 that are still paying me anything. That was approximately the year of the first income tax return I ever filed; I can easily imagine that I got something wrong on my first try, but I can't imagine that it could take 30+ years for the problem to clear itself up, without any prior notices being sent to me!

Does anyone have any idea what's up with this? Is there any action I need to take? (The notice did come with a return envelope, but there was absolutely no hint as to what I might want to return in it.)

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    Did you check the postmark date on the envelope you received? Could it have been stuck in the postal service for more than three decades? – fred_dot_u Nov 28 '17 at 2:00
  • The notice is dated November 20, 2017. – jasonharper Nov 28 '17 at 2:51
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    That is bizarre. Every notice should have a (usually tollfree) phone number to call -- if you have some time to waste waiting for them to answer. If that doesn't help, you might contact taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov -- since you aren't suffering hardship they may not actually open an individual case, but if this is part of a 'systemic' problem (like a screwed-up database) they look for those and know how to find the people inside IRS line functions who can actually do things right. – dave_thompson_085 Nov 29 '17 at 9:53
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I received a similar letter, and dialed the 1-800 number on it. I realized that they were asking for a lot of identification information, and so decided this is likely a phishing attempt. There is no such form on the IRS site.

  • Sure there is; see irs.gov/irm/part5/irm_05-019-003r – ChrisInEdmonton Dec 21 '17 at 15:25
  • I should note that I added the specifics (CP-542) to the answer (as the originally said "no such form" with no clarification). It's possible the answerer received a different form; so I'll remove that. But @user66004, please clarify which form you received (if not cp542). – Joe Dec 21 '17 at 15:26
  • THE FORM WAS CP542.THE NUMBER 800 829 0922 AND I JUST GOOGLED THE # AND IT IS AN IRS #.. BUT JUST NOW IT GOT TO A CIRCULAR VOICEMAIL SERIES. – user66004 Dec 22 '17 at 18:26

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