5 Easy Ways to Contact the IRS for Tax Help

IRS Building in Washington
••• Pgiam / Getty Images

Tax season is stressful enough as you decide whether to do your taxes yourself with an online software program or hire a pro to calculate your refund or figure out how much you owe. When you're not a tax expert, the process can be intimidating and overwhelming, but the IRS is standing by to guide you through it.

If you have questions about completing your tax return, want to check your tax refund status or need help from the IRS for another tax-related purpose, the agency makes itself accessible in multiple ways. Staff members are on hand to help you with any questions or problems that might arise so you can get your return completed and filed with as little hassle as possible.

Here are the easiest ways to contact the IRS when you need a hand:

1. Connect With the IRS Online

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re connected to the internet. Thanks to the availability of the internet today, one of the best ways to get the information you need is directly from the IRS website at "www.IRS.gov". You can download virtually any form or publication from the website.

Aside from the instant 24-hour access to forms, you'll find a tremendous amount of information right at your fingertips, including frequently asked questions, tax law changes and even planning calculators. While it's not a substitute for talking to a tax expert directly, the site can point you in the right direction when you need answers to basic tax questions.

2. Contact the IRS by Phone

If you need to get in touch with the IRS but don’t have a computer handy, the next best option is the telephone. There are several few toll-free numbers set up to assist you. You can call:

  • 1-800-829-3676 – If you need to order forms, publications or instructions
  • 1-800-829-1040 -- If you have tax questions regarding your personal income taxes
  • 1-877-777-4778 – The Taxpayer Advocate, for tax questions that you’re unable to resolve
  • 1-800-829-4477 – This is a collection of pre-recorded messages that cover a wide variety of tax topics

Note that wait times on the second number, which will connect you with a live human who can answer questions, can be significant, especially in the "tax season" months of February, March, and April. If this problem occurs, you might need to seek the answer to your question online or try again during early morning hours.

3. Correspond With the IRS by Mail

If you don’t mind waiting a while for your response, you can always send traditional correspondence via snail mail—a stamped and mailed letter.

The most effective way to get in touch with someone by mail is to contact the director for your local IRS district or your local taxpayer assistance center. You should allow 30 days for a response, although in recent years many responses have taken 45 days or longer.

And remember that if you're mailing your tax refund, that can delay the processing of your tax refund. Expect it to take 6 to 8 weeks for your refund to be issued by paper check, versus three weeks or less if you choose to e-file and get your refund by direct deposit.

4. Visit Your Local IRS Office

The IRS maintains a network of local offices, known as taxpayer assistance centers, where you can go to ask questions and get service. You can visit the IRS website to search for a nearby taxpayer assistance center office.

Some centers operate by appointment, while others offer walk-in service. Use the IRS website listing to determine the hours and policies of your preferred center. Also, multilingual service is available in every office.

But, be prepared for a wait if you're headed to a local IRS office during peak tax season. It may be to your advantage to check every online avenue available to find the information you need first.

5. Get IRS Forms and Instructions by Fax

Finally, you can get most IRS forms or instructions sent to you directly via fax. Use your fax machine to call the IRS TaxFax service at 703-368-9694. Make sure your fax machine allows you to hear the audio prompts. After following the instructions, the forms you requested will be faxed to you.

Get In Touch Sooner, Rather Than Later If You Can't Pay

If you owe a tax bill this year and you're not able to pay in full, don't put off reaching out to the IRS. You should file your return promptly by the filing deadline and pay as much as you can, but the IRS may be able to help you work out an Installment Agreement to pay the rest. This can help minimize penalties and interest on what you owe.