Tax refunds. Tax payments owed. Stimulus checks. There are many reasons to call the IRS and while the automated system is set up to answer many common questions, not every question can be handled by a computer.
When you have questions that the automated system can’t answer, you can find a roundabout way to reach a live person at the IRS.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that wait times are usually quite long. IRS phone representatives have heavy workloads, they field 100 million calls every year. As you can imagine, that creates an environment where it can be difficult to reach a live person at the IRS. But it can be done.
When you need to know how to speak to a live person at the IRS, you’ve got two options.
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Call the Main Federal IRS Number
Your first option is to call the main federal IRS phone number. That number is 1-800-829-1040.
When you call that number, here’s what you will hear.
- You’ll get a prompt to choose your language. (1 for English, 2 for Spanish)
- From there, you’ll be asked what your call is about. If you’re calling about your tax return, do NOT choose option 1 to find out about your refund. Doing so will ensure you’re transferred to another automated system. Instead, choose option 2, for “Personal Income Tax”.
- Press “1” for “form, tax history, or payment”
- Press “3” for all other questions
- Press “2” for all other questions
- You’ll be asked to enter your Social Security or Tax ID number. Don’t enter anything.
- After it asks two times, you’ll get another menu
- Press “2” for individual tax questions
- Then press “4” to be transferred to an agent
At that point, you should be transferred to the “live person” phone queue. I realize this is a long process, but it’s the fastest way to speak to a live person when calling the main number to the IRS.
You do have another option that may work as well.
Call Your Local IRS Phone Number
Along with the main federal IRS number, there are also local IRS offices in many cities. Sometimes contacting your local IRS office can be faster than calling the federal number.
However, expect long wait times when calling your local office as well.
To find the number for your local IRS office, go to this webpage. Local offices have taxpayer advocates that take appointments for residents needing tax help.
When is the Best Time to Call?
Normal IRS hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. But as you can imagine, the phone lines light up pretty quickly. Rumor has it that the very best time to call is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays. Most people are ready to be done with responsible tasks for the week and are getting ready to relax.
If you can’t call on a Friday after 5, try calling between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays. This is another time when the phones might not be quite as busy.
What Information Should I Have Ready before I Call?
Once you have an IRS representative on the line, you won’t want to waste your time or theirs. For that reason, be certain you have all the necessary information available, such as:
- Social security or tax ID numbers
- Birth dates
- The tax return you’re calling about
- Any letters or other documentation from the IRS
- Your prior year’s tax return
Having all of the information you might need ready will help your call go faster and smoother.
Don’t Forget to Get Document the Call
When you do reach a live person at the IRS, it’s important to document your call for your own records. Keep any important documents and your notes about the calls in one place so you have an organized file of everything. This will help if there are problems down the road. If you need to meet with a lawyer or advocate you will be able to easily bring them up to speed.
First, you’ll want to write down the date, time, and full name of the agent you spoke to. Every IRS phone agent is required to give their full name when you call.
Second, you’ll want to write down the information you’re given. If possible, record the call with your phone so you have additional proof. The IRS does record the calls that come in but it would be nice to have your own copy if you ever need it.
Third, once you feel as if you have the information you need, repeat it back to them so you can be sure you understand what you need to do or what you’re being told. In other words, clarify and verify the information you hear. This is simply another way to check and recheck for verification purposes.
Tax issues can be complicated, confusing, and stressful – so be sure you are 100% clear on what you need to do before you get off the phone.
There are several reasons people need to call the IRS and speak to a live person. If the federal number isn’t giving you what you need, try the local IRS office to speak to someone or even set up an appointment to meet with an advocate in person. Calling early in the morning or after 5 pm will help shorten your wait times.
In addition, documenting the details from your call will help you if further action is needed.