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This article was fact-checked by our editors and Christina Taylor, MBA,senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®.
Free online tax preparation services have made it easier than ever to file your taxes, and products like Credit Karma Tax® even provide a lot of support to help you navigate the tax filing process.
Still, sometimes you have a question that only the IRS can answer, and when that happens you might want to talk to a human being. It’s easy to look up the IRS phone number, but before you make the call, here are a few things you should know.
You might not need to call at all
The IRS readily admits that it has high call volumes, so it makes a lot of information available on its website, IRS.gov. Some topics the agency covers include:
- Filing and e-filing
- Credits and deductions
- Refund status (check out the Where’s My Refund? tool) and other refund-related questions
- Making tax payments
- Correcting errors
A help desk is also available for general questions. You can email the agency and get a response within 48 hours. However, the IRS help desk can’t give legal advice or answer questions about your specific tax return or refund.
You may be able to find the answers you need online without the aggravation of calling the IRS and waiting on hold for a long time.
If you really, really must call …
Get your act together first
Gather up all the paperwork you’ll need to speak effectively to a live IRS agent before you make the call. Have your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number ready (if you don’t know it by heart) and be prepared to provide your birthdate and filing status. If you’re calling about a specific tax return, letter or notice you got from the IRS, have that ready.
Be ready to verify your right to call
The IRS takes steps to help protect taxpayers from identity theft. When you call, an IRS agent will need to verify your identity before talking to you about your specific issue. Having your tax return from the previous year can help with that.
And if you’re a tax professional or an individual calling about someone else’s issue, the IRS will need to confirm you have the right to act on that other person’s behalf. If you’re acting as someone else’s legally designated representative, the IRS will need written or verbal confirmation from that person, and probably some paperwork such as a Tax Information Authorization form and a power of attorney.
The IRS deals with a lot of taxpayers every day. Of course, as Tax Day approaches, more people want to talk to the IRS about their federal tax returns and filing questions. In fact, the IRS says wait times average 15 minutes during filing season (January to April), with Mondays and Tuesdays being the busiest days. After filing season (May to December), waits can be even longer, averaging 27 minutes.
Know your number
The IRS offers multiple hotline numbers, and calling the right one could help you get the assistance you need more quickly. Here are some commonly used IRS toll-free phone numbers:
- Individual tax help line: 800-829-1040
- Businesses tax help line: 800-829-4933
- U.S. Military (disaster or combat zone): 866-562-5227
- Hearing impaired help line (TDD): 800-829-4059
- To order tax forms: 800-829-3676
- International Taxpayer Service Call Center: 267-941-1000 (6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time)
The IRS typically accepts calls Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. If you live in Alaska or Hawaii, follow Pacific time, and in Puerto Rico customer service representatives are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.
If you need face time
The IRS also offers help through Taxpayer Assistance Centers located throughout the country. You may be able to get help by making an appointment to sit down with an IRS agent at such a center. You can search by ZIP code for a Taxpayer Assistance Center near you.
The IRS probably won’t call you
Because scammers can call pretending to be an IRS agent, there’s one more super-important thing to know before you talk to IRS agents: You might call them, but they won’t call you out of the blue.
In fact, the IRS says that when it needs to talk to you, it will probably send a letter first through regular old snail mail. It doesn’t normally initiate contact through email, text messages or social media. In some situations, an IRS agent may call. The agency will likely send a letter or notice first to alert you, but not always.
So how can you tell if you’re really talking to someone from the IRS or to a scam artist? Here are clues that a call purporting to be from the IRS could be a scam:
- You get a message from a “robo-call” demanding an urgent callback.
- The caller says you must immediately pay owed taxes or penalties, using cash, a prepaid debit card, credit card or wire transfer. The IRS will never call you about taxes you owe without first sending you a bill in the mail.
- The caller threatens you with arrest, deportation or revocation of your driver’s license if you don’t pay immediately. The IRS always gives you the chance to question or appeal any amount you owe.
If you get this kind of call and you know you don’t owe any taxes, hang up immediately and report the call to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484 or through the TIGTA website. You should also report the call to the Federal Trade Commission.
While you have many options for contacting the IRS and getting information, situations can arise that require you to talk to a human being. When that happens, being prepared for the call and knowing the best IRS phone number to call can help make the interaction as effective and frustration-free as possible.
Relevant sources: IRS, Telephone Assistance: Let Us Help You | IRS: Can’t Find Something on Our Website? | IRS Filing Season Statistics | IRS: Contact My Local Office Internationally | IRS: Contact Your Local IRS Office | IRS Tax Tips: How Does the IRS Contact Taxpayers? | IRS News: Phone Scams Continue to be a Serious Threat, Remain on IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season (archival)
Christina Taylor is senior manager of tax operations for Credit Karma Tax®. She has more than a dozen years of experience in tax, accounting and business operations. Christina founded her own accounting consultancy and managed it for more than six years. She co-developed an online DIY tax-preparation product, serving as chief operating officer for seven years. She is an Enrolled Agent, the current treasurer of the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors and holds a bachelor’s in business administration/accounting from Baker College and an MBA from Meredith College. You can find her on LinkedIn.