The envelope had the words “Internal Revenue Service” printed on the outside. Oh no, Vaughn thought, this could be bad news. It was bad news. IRS had determined that Vaughn owed $963, plus $88 interest, from two years ago. They had disallowed a deduction for two reasons. One, his adjusted gross income that year was more than $40,000, and two, he was covered by an employer retirement plan. Therefore, said IRS, he was not allowed the deduction he had taken for his individual retirement account.
IRS sent him six pages of explanations and instructions. IRS included a returnable form with an "Agree" box and a "Disagree" box. If he checked Agree, he must pay the full amount. If he checked Disagree, he must send documentation supporting the reasons for his disagreement. If his documentation was correct, he would owe nothing.
He called the IRS 800 number just to make sure he had read the instructions correctly. An agent told him to simply send a check with the full amount whether he agreed or disagreed. If he disagreed but his documentation was correct, IRS would return the full amount of his check within eight weeks.
“Don’t believe that agent. For now, just send them the documentation,” advised Vaughn's brother later that day. “Make IRS wait for the money. It’s your money, not theirs.”