How to Talk to a Real Person on the IRS Without Waiting for Eternity
Not all questions can be answered using a computer, especially when it comes to taxes. But when you call the IRS, it can seem impossible to get a real person to answer your call. These circumstances have worsened over the past year, as the pandemic has further depleted a notoriously understaffed recruitment agency, which is also dealing with an oversupply of inquiries after an unusually difficult tax year and amid potential confusion over changes to the child tax credit leading to see monthly payments . However, sometimes you just need to talk to the person . Here’s how to get in touch with someone quickly.
How long will you have to wait to speak to someone on the IRS?
Last year, the IRS received over 100 million calls, but according to a recent report by the National Taxpayers Advocate, only one in four callers phoned an IRS officer. Most callers either get frustrated with the long wait or get tired of the complicated phone tree that only leads from one automatic message to the next, so they just hang up.
The IRS advises that if you are patient enough, you can expect an average of 27 minutes waiting time when calling between May and December , with the longest waiting times usually on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, many on social media claim that calls still take up to 2-3 hours, if not longer. In 2017, a major study by enQ, Inc. found that the best time of day to call is before 9 am on the East Coast and after 5 pm on the West Coast .
What to do before calling the IRS
The IRS recommends checking your online resources before calling. It has a list of common problems that can answer your question about your tax return, payments, or identity theft issues.
How to contact a real person on the IRS
Someone doesn’t just answer the second call when you call the IRS. You need to go through the menu to be redirected to find an agent for your problem, if available.
The IRS telephone is 1-800-829-1040 and they are available from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm local time, Monday through Friday. Accountant Amy Northard offers this cheat sheet for navigating the IRS phone menu on her blog:
The first question that the automated system will ask you is to choose your language.
After you have set your language, do not select option 1 (regarding return information).
Instead, press 2 for the answer “For answers about personal income tax …”.
Then press 1 for “If you have questions about the form you have already submitted …”
Then press 3 “for all other questions”.
Then press 2 “for all other questions”.
When the system asks you to enter your SSN or EIN to access your account information, do not enter anything .
After he asks twice, you will be presented with a different menu.
Then press 2 to ask “questions related to personal or individual taxation”.
Finally, press 4 for all other queries. The system should then hand you over to the agent.
(Lifehacker tried this several times, both early morning and late afternoon, and we were able to reach an agent in about 30 minutes on average).
Make sure you are prepared before calling the IRS with questions.
Before you call, make sure you have collected everything you might need, taking your agent with you. The IRS recommends preparing the following:
- Social Security Numbers (SSN) and Dates of Birth
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxpayers without social security number
- Filing status – single, head of household, joint filing in marriage, or separate filing in marriage.
- Tax return for the previous year
- The tax return you are calling about
- Any correspondence sent to you by the IRS
What to do if you are unable to reach someone on the IRS
If you live near a local IRS office that reopened after the peak of the pandemic, you can skip the main phone line and call it directly. They probably won’t be able to answer your questions over the phone, but your Taxpayer Assistance Center (see the state guide here ) may make an in-person appointment (with social distancing, of course) so you can get help from an agent.
If you still find it difficult to get help from a real living person, try contacting Taxpayer Advocacy . It is an independent office within the IRS that exists to help people with current tax problems.
This story was originally published in 2020 and has been updated on February 9, 2021 with new information. It was updated again on June 10, 2021 with additional context and in line with the current Lifehacker style.