How to Speak to a Live Person at the IRS

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. 

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.

  1. You’ll get a prompt to choose your language.
  2. 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”.
  3. Press “1” for “form, tax history, or payment”
  4. Press “3” for all other questions
  5. Press “2” for all other questions
  6. You’ll be asked to enter your Social Security or Tax ID number. Don’t enter anything.
  7. After it asks two times, you’ll get another menu
  8. Press “2” for individual tax questions
  9. 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. 

Conclusion

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.

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About Laurie Blank

Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.

She's a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.

She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.

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  1. Stephen says

    Unfortunately after going through all these gyrations over and over again (20 times at least) I end up at the same point. “Due to high call volumes we cannot answer your call at this time…..” This is an extreme PITA. In the past they would gladly keep you on hold for 1-2 hours and then kindly hang up on you.

    The IRS still has not provided any feedback on my 2019 e-filed refund that was filed at the end of March. In August I received a letter requesting the documents that were listed for the tax that I paid, in doing so immediately I assumed that the their response would be fairly prompt. Estimating 2-3 months understanding their overload. Yet nothing. This is completely unacceptable.

    Now how am I supposed to file my taxes in 2021 when my 2019 refund of $4K has not yet been resolved, no one is available to discuss it and questions they may have, and the no longer have a site to visit to find the status since they are deep into 2020 returns.

    Charles P. Rettig, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, should be canned immediately along with Erin M. Collins, National Taxpayer Advocate as they have totally failed the American taxpayers. With roughly 7 million e-filers and 20+ million paper filers who cannot gain any information regarding their status, questions answered on a missing document or any other pending detail the IRS has failed massively.

  2. Ralph E. Griffith says

    I guess the IRS got rid of the public relations nightmare of “courtesy disconnects” by completely eliminating the ability to queue calls. Now you get a message that due to high call volumes your call cannot be completed at this time and it drops you off. I would rather wait an hour instead of hoping to call at exactly the correct time when an agent is ready (if there really are any agents helping people).

  3. Brian Lussier says

    The IRS is an absolute nightmare, there is absolutely no way to get into contact with a live person on the phone. Every single number you try bounces you right back out after a recording. There’s no access to information at all if you have questions. All we get is generic statements that solve nothing at all.

  4. Dave Kirby says

    I have tried NUMEROUS times to call the IRS direct using numbers they post but only once got a live person after holding for 30 minutes. In the end he did not answer my question. I’ve tried several local offices but they are not taking phone calls and require in person appts……closest office to me is hour away. My question has to do with my 2019 return which is almost a year old now. Want to know status but can’t get a hold of anyone to discuss.

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