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Tricks for Calling the IRS, Getting Answers, and Avoiding Long Wait Times

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Feb. 15 2022, Updated 12:07 p.m. ET

Tax season can be stressful for many Americans. Knowing that tax returns are due with the IRS leads to anxiety and many questions. Will I end up getting a tax refund or owing taxes? Do I count last year’s refund as taxable income? Will I complete the paperwork in time?

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Completing your 2021 tax returns might be more complicated than in previous years if you received a third stimulus check or monthly child tax credits. Also, if you've had changes in employment, marital status, residence, children, or other circumstances, you might want to talk to an actual person at the IRS. While the process can be frustrating, it's possible to reach a real human.

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If you call the IRS phone number, expect longer wait times through April.

The IRS notes on its website that it’s experiencing longer wait times for phone calls, which is also common during tax-filing season. The IRS says that individuals should expect a 13-minute average wait time from January through April and 19 minutes from May to December, which is down from the previous year. Callers are also advised to expect longer lead times on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as during Presidents Day weekend and closer to the April tax filing deadline, which falls on Monday, April 18, 2022.

The general number for individuals calling the IRS is 800-829-1040. The number is operational from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in your local time. There are also different phone numbers listed for specific tax-related issues like excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, and non-profit taxes.

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What are the best times to call the IRS?

A reported 100 million callers tried to reach the IRS in 2020 and only about one in four managed to speak to a person, so you might be tempted to give up. However, if you're on the East Coast, anecdotal evidence suggests that early birds who call before 9:00 a.m. have more success, while the sweet spot for West Coasters seems to be after 5:00 p.m.

In addition to timing, you may want to use the following menu prompts to speak to a representative.

  • After choosing your preferred language, choose Option 2 for “answers about personal income taxes.”
  • Select 1 for “questions about a form you have already submitted.”
  • Choose 3 for “all other questions.”
  • Choose 2 for "all other questions."
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  • Don’t enter your SSN or EIN when prompted — instead wait on the line for the next menu.
  • Select 2 for “personal or individual related tax questions.”
  • Select 4 for all other inquiries, which should lead to an agent response.
  • Be prepared to wait longer than you’d like.
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When calling the IRS, have the following required information handy:

It’s a good idea to carefully look over IRS.gov before attempting to call the IRS. First of all, you can see a list of topics the telephone operators can and can’t discuss with you. Try to find an answer to your question online if at all possible to avoid a long wait on hold for a person.

The IRS website has a list of recommended information that you should have handy before beginning your call. Many of these things you know already, but some of them you’ll need to look up in advance. 

  • Social Security number and birthdate 
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if you don’t have a SSN
  • Filing status
  • Prior-year tax return
  • Tax return you’re asking about
  • Any letter or correspondence the IRS sent you

 If calling on behalf of someone else, you’ll need their information and proof that you're allowed to speak on their behalf.

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