Newswise — Each year, millions of people receive notices from the Internal Revenue Service stating that they owe Uncle Sam. Some taxpayers are surprised by the IRS notices; some are not. But many tend to ignore them when they don’t have the funds to pay the full debt. There are better options, a tax law expert says.

“The worst thing you can do is be nonresponsive,” said Tameka Lester, assistant clinical professor and assistant director of the Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic at the Georgia State University College of Law.

The taxpayer clinic helps to provide legal representation to metro Atlantans who would otherwise be unable to afford it in tax cases before the courts.

Mistakes happen, both on the part of taxpayers and tax preparers. Believe it or not, the IRS understands and has created three collection processes to assist taxpayers so no adverse collection activity (such as levies) occurs, named “Installment Agreement,” “Currently Not Collectible Status,” and an Offer in Compromise,” Lester explained.

Your best bet is to contact the agency, take advantage of one of these alternatives and work toward resolving the issue, she said.

Lester earned her Juris Doctor degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law. At Georgia State Law, Lester teaches courses in taxation and clinical skills. She is available to answer questions about individual or small business federal income tax issues, including those related to the Affordable Care Act and subsidies for health care.

For more information about Lester, visit For more information about the Philip C. Cook Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, visit