Tax refunds. Tax payments owed. Stimulus checks. There are many reasons to call the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and while the automated system is set up to answer many common tax-related questions, not all tax problems can be handled by a computer.
When you have tax-related issues the automated system can’t answer, you can find a roundabout way to reach a live IRS agent.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that wait times are usually long. IRS customer service representatives have heavy workloads; they received about 73 million calls in the 2022 filing season. As you can imagine, that creates an environment where reaching a live person at the IRS can be difficult. But it can be done.
Table of Contents
- How to Reach a Live Person at the IRS
- When Is the Best Time to Call the IRS?
- How to Have a Productive Phone Call with the IRS
- Other IRS Phone Numbers
- Tax Issues You Can Resolve on the IRS Website
- Watch Out for IRS Phone Scams
How to Reach a Live Person at the IRS
When you need to speak to a real person at the IRS, you’ve got two options.
You can access an agent via the main federal phone number or, if you’re not having much luck that way, you can also try contacting one of the local Taxpayer Assistance Centers.
Call the Main Federal IRS Phone Number
Your first option is to call the main IRS phone number. That number is 1-800-829-1040.
When you call the IRS, here’s what you will hear:
- You’ll get a prompt to choose your language.
- 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 tax refund. Doing so will ensure you’re transferred to another automated system. Instead, choose option 2, for personal income taxes.
- 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.
- Press “4” to be transferred to an agent.
You should then 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 real person when calling the main number of the IRS.
Call Your Local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center
Along with the main federal IRS number, local IRS offices are also in many cities. Sometimes, contacting your local Taxpayer Assistance Center can be faster than calling the federal number.
However, expect long wait times when calling your local IRS office as well.
To find the number for your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, go to this webpage. Local offices have taxpayer advocates who make appointments for residents needing tax help.
When Is the Best Time to Call the IRS?
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 contact the IRS 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 p.m., try to call the IRS between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekdays. This is another time when the phones might not be quite as busy.
How to Have a Productive Phone Call with the IRS
You’ve called at the right time, you’ve gone through the automated systems, and after probably a very long wait, you’ve finally reached someone. Congrats! But to make the most of your call, you’ll want to make sure you’re well-prepared before picking up the phone and dialing.
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 Number (SSN) and/or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)
- Birth date
- The tax returns you’re calling about
- Any letters or other documentation from the IRS
- Your prior year’s tax return
Having all the information you need ready will help your call go faster and smoother.
Don’t Forget to 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 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 tax professional, you will be able to bring them up to speed easily.
Here’s how to make sure you document everything correctly:
- 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.
- Write down the information you’re given. Record the call with your phone so you have additional proof (if permitted by law). The IRS does record the calls that come in but it would be nice to have your own copy if you ever need it.
- 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.
Other IRS Phone Numbers
The information above is for questions about personal income taxes. Here are some of the other IRS numbers you may want to note, depending on your tax questions:
- For businesses: 1-800-829-4933
- For non-profit taxes: 1-877-829-5500
- For estate and gift taxes: 1-866-699-4083
- For excise taxes: 1-866-699-4096
- For callers who are hearing impaired (TTY/TDD): 1-800-829-4059
If you’re calling from overseas, you’ll need to check the international page of the IRS website.
Tax Issues You Can Resolve on the IRS Website
Depending on your tax question or issue, you may not need to call the IRS. Here are some things that you can do online via IRS.gov, without having to wait on hold to speak to someone:
- Make a payment or set up a payment plan
- Get a tax transcript
- Check on your tax refund
- File your tax return online
- View your account
There’s also an online interactive tax assistant that may be able to answer some tax law questions. You input your personal information (which will not be stored and remains anonymous), and the system gives you an answer.
Before you call the IRS and get stuck waiting for a real person, it may be worth checking if the auto system can help you out.
Watch Out for IRS Phone Scams
Unfortunately, far too many people fall victim to shady scammers pretending to be with the IRS. These characters will typically contact you with threatening messages about your supposed tax debt and demand payment immediately.
Don’t fall for it! The IRS will never contact you by email, text, or social media to request personal financial information. Nor will they contact you by phone or email demanding immediate payment. If you do owe taxes, you’ll likely receive a bill in the mail from the IRS — in fact, pretty much all IRS correspondence will begin via regular mail, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
According to the IRS, there are several ways to spot whether someone is impersonating an IRS agent:
- If they demand immediate payment
- If they demand you pay your taxes in a specific way
- If they ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
- If they threaten to have you arrested or to take other legal action
Most importantly, if you haven’t already received a notice in the mail, then it’s probably not the IRS contacting you.
You can report scammers to the U.S. Treasury’s tax fraud hotline website or by calling 1-800-366-4484.
People need to contact the IRS and speak to a real person for several reasons. 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. Calling early in the morning or after 5 p.m. will help shorten your wait times.
Documenting the details from your call will help you if further action is needed.