How to Speak to Someone at the IRS
Tax season is here and filling out tax forms can feel daunting. You may have questions as you gather your documents, particularly if you’re helping another person or you’re tying up the estate of a deceased loved one.
Getting through to an IRS representative takes time, so before you call, look for answers online at irs.gov. Start with Tax Information for Individuals or try the IRS’s list of Complex Tax Topics for more complicated situations. For refund questions, search the Tax Season Refund FAQ page and use the embedded search feature.
If the IRS website doesn’t answer your specific question, here’s what to know about speaking to a representative at the IRS.
Which Number to Call at the IRS
The main IRS phone number is 800-829-1040, but the agency maintains different departments with their own phone numbers to help callers with specific areas. Help lines are open Monday through Friday. Here’s a list of primary departments to call:
Note: Alaska and Hawaii residents should follow Pacific time. Puerto Rico phone lines are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time.
- Individuals: 800-829-1040, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
- Businesses: 800-829-4933, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
- Nonprofit taxes: 877-829-5500, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time
- Estate and gift taxes (Form 706/709): 866-699-4083, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time
- Excise taxes: 866-699-4096, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time
- Overseas callers should use the International Services page
- Callers who are hearing impaired: TTY/TDD 800-829-4059
If you have a question about something even more specific, like a missing child tax credit payment or how to order a tax transcript, the IRS has additional phone numbers for those kinds of questions. NerdWallet maintains an extensive list of lesser-known IRS phone lines.
What to Expect and Best Time to Call the IRS
Unfortunately, it’s not easy getting a live person at the IRS on the line to talk to you—the agency received more than 100 million calls in 2020. Don’t give up, but do be strategic.
Hold times during tax filing season (January-April) will average around 13 minutes, according to the IRS, while post-filing calls (May-December) average 19-minute wait times. But if you call at peak times, you could wait up to an hour or longer.
Extended holds are difficult to avoid, but East Coast callers have found that calling early, before 9 a.m. local time, may reduce the wait time. On the West Coast, calling after 5 p.m. can help.
Information to Gather for Your IRS Call
Because tax information is highly confidential, you’ll need to be prepared to verify who you are once you’re speaking to an IRS representative. Gather the following documents so you can refer to them during the call. You’ll likely need to answer some highly specific questions to proceed:
- Social Security numbers (SSN) and birth dates
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxpayers without a Social Security number
- Filing status — single, head of household, married filing joint, or married filing separate
- Prior-year tax return
- Tax return you’re calling about
- Any correspondence the IRS sent you
If you’re calling about specific forms or accounts, you’ll want to have as much information on hand as possible.
Calling the IRS on Behalf of Another Person
If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, you’ll need authorization (either verbal or written) to discuss their account. For verbal consent, that person must be on the line with you in order to authorize the discussion with the IRS representative. Verbal consent, also known as an oral disclosure, is limited to the current conversation – you’ll need verbal consent every time you start a new conversation with the IRS.
On top of that, you’ll also need:
- Their taxpayer name, and SSN or ITIN
- Their tax return you're calling about
- Valid Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization or Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative
- Your preparer tax identification number or personal identification number (SSN or ITIN)
If you’re calling about someone who is deceased, you’ll need a copy of that person’s death certificate and either a court approval letter or a completed copy of IRS Form 56 (Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship).
How to Handle the Conversation with an IRS representative
When you do call, keep in mind that IRS representatives handle basic questions and issues related to your tax return. They may not be able to help with particularly complex questions. And just like many other industries, the IRS is experiencing processing delays due to the pandemic. That might also affect your experience on the phone. Bring your patience.
Taxes are stressful, but IRS representatives aren’t your enemy. They want to help you. The more prepared you are going in, the easier and more productive the conversation will be. Know what you want before the call starts.
If you’re calling to set up a repayment plan for back taxes, it’s important to understand you can’t negotiate the outcome. The IRS has very specific guidelines for how plans are constructed. The representative should be able to walk you through your options.
When to Consult a Tax Professional
If the online or phone resources don’t address your issue, you may be better off scheduling a face-to-face appointment with your local IRS office.
Taxes can be complicated. If you have multiple sources of income, own your own business, have investments, or have accounts in foreign countries, you likely would benefit from working with a CPA or other certified tax expert.
Are you concerned about a looming tax bill? MMI doesn’t provide specific tax advice, but let’s review your budget and help you prepare for any potential changes to your financial situation.