5 Tips When Calling the IRS – How to Talk to a Real Person

Calling the IRS

If you need to call the IRS and talk to a person to get help, you most likely are already frustrated and stressed. Placing the call doesn’t help your anxiety level because it is easy to get lost in the myriad of automated responses… “Choose 1 for this”, “Choose 2 for that”, etc. Sometimes you find yourself in a never ending loop, and you just want someone to help you.

Maybe, listening closely to the automated messages and making the correct choices will get you to the right department, but even then, there may not be an option to actually talk to a person. Automated response systems often are built on the assumption that the caller knows specifically what they need and can help themselves.  There are many I already know the information that the automated system is trying to provide, and I want to talk to a person to get additional information or to determine what my options are.

 Updated 2/16/2015… I was reading a recent tax industry newsletter that said the IRS will not be helpful in answering tax questions. In the past, we’ve discussed the low accuracy rate of answers the IRS agents have given callers, but that is not what this report meant by “not be helpful”. In 2015, callers will most likely not even be given a direct answer, but will be referred to an IRS Publication or another resource on the IRS.gov website so that the caller can help themselves. This truly is “not being helpful”. The only exception is if your questions pertain to the health reform law.  But you still have to get through to a live person first. It’s been reported that the IRS expects to only be able to answer fewer than half the calls it receives.

Here are 5 helpful tips to get through to a real person:

1. Have all the information close by that you will need to demonstrate tat you are who you say you are, and then discuss the specific factual matters of the issue.

2. Be prepared to wait while you are on hold. I always have something to work on so that I’m not wasting my time. It can be 5 minutes, or 30 minutes. If you are prepared for this wait, then it isn’t as bad as it would otherwise be. By the way, I hope you like to listen to classical music. The IRS’s on-hold music of choice for the last gazillion years is “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” by Tchaikovsky from the Nutcracker.

3. Make sure you are calling the right telephone number. After waiting for such a long time, and then carefully explaining the situation, you don’t want to hear that you need to call someone else in the IRS because they aren’t the right department. If you are calling in response to a notice or letter that you received, check for the appropriate telephone number in the correspondence. This may be your only way you can talk to a real person.

Once you get through to a real person at the IRS, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the help you need. If you need it, please get professional help (see step 5. below). CPAs and other professional tax advisors have additional options to communicate directly with the IRS and assist you in getting to the bottom of the problem.

4. Calling the published telephone numbers.  If you don’t have a telephone number readily available, go to the IRS Telephone Assistance Page on the IRS web site. Listen carefully as you navigate through the automated choices to get to the correct department. You will need to enter the appropriate information, and the information you receive will be automated responses from the computer looking up data. I hope you are able to get the answer you need, but I’m usually looking for the less obvious and the standard IRS phone numbers seldom work for me.

I really hate these systems and applaud companies that have a real person answer the telephone when I call Customer “Service”.

This post has been updated because the following two tricks using the published numbers no longer work:  🙁

  • I used to be able to select “0” for Operator at any point, tricking the system and getting transferred to a person. I would then summarize the situation, and be directed to the correct department. The IRS has changed their automatic response system, and that no longer works.
  • Then, I was able to trick the system by not responding at all. After awhile, I would get transferred to a person, briefly summarize the situation, and then be sent to the correct department. But, they have changed their system so that this also no longer works.

If anyone has learned a new trick to get through using the published telephone number, please share it with us by commenting below!

5. Let Your Tax Professional Call for You.  Sometimes, you just need help. Tax professionals are provided with a Practitioner Priority Service that we can communicate directly with experienced, knowledgeable IRS agents. As of January 6, 2014, the IRS has limited the types of communications it will process through this service, but as long as it is from tax professionals who are actively working with their clients to resolve tax account issues, we can help obtain the information needed to make progress. Form 2848 “Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representation” are required to establish the proper authorization to speak in your behalf.

Were you able to get through to a real person? If so, please leave a comment below and share your trick. Maybe you can help someone else.


Circular 230 Disclosure: This is to advise you that, unless expressly stated, nothing in this communication (including any attachment or other accompanying materials) was intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties, or for promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to anyone.