Tax season can be an intimidating and overwhelming time when you're not a tax expert, but the IRS stands by to guide you through it. The agency makes itself accessible in multiple ways if you have questions about completing your tax return, if you want to check your tax refund status, or if you need help for another tax-related purpose.
Staff members are normally 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. However, the IRS has indicated that it's not yet working at full capacity with all staff, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Connect With the IRS Online
One of the best ways to get the information you need is directly from the IRS website at IRS.gov. You can download virtually any form or publication there.
You'll find a tremendous amount of information right at your fingertips, including answers to frequently asked questions, tax law changes, and even planning calculators. It's not a substitute for talking directly with a tax expert, but the site can point you in the right direction when you need answers to basic tax questions.
As for that tax refund you're expecting, there's a special tool available to track its status. Just go to "Where's My Refund?" and click on "Check My Refund Status."
The IRS strongly advises using electronic options for help.
2. Contact the IRS by Phone
The next best option is the telephone if you need to get in touch with the IRS but don’t have a computer handy. The IRS provides a few toll-free numbers to assist you, depending on your circumstance:
- 800-829-1040 for individuals who have questions about anything related to personal taxes, available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
- 800-829-4933 for businesses with tax-related questions, available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time
- 877-829-5500 for non-profit tax questions, available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time
- 866-699-4083 for estate and gift tax questions, available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time
- 866-699-4096 for excise tax questions, available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time
- 800-829-4059 for taxpayers who are hearing impaired, no time restrictions
The IRS has indicated that live phone assistance continues to be limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. You can expect long wait times to get through to staff. You might use the time to see whether you can find the answer online.
You can also contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) for tax questions that you’re unable to resolve. Its website provides a searchable tool to help you find an office in your state, along with contact information. All in-person locations remain closed as of May 2021, but you can reach out by phone at 877-777-4778.
Wait times can be significant, especially in the tax-season months of February, March, and April. You might want to try calling during the early-morning hours.
3. Correspond With the IRS by Mail
The IRS advises against it on its website, but you can still mail your paper tax forms and payments if you have no other option. And you can send traditional correspondence via snail mail—a stamped and mailed letter—if you don’t mind waiting a while for a response.
The most effective way to get in touch with IRS personnel by mail is to contact the director for your local IRS district or your local Taxpayer Assistance Center. You should allow at least 30 days for a response. Many responses can take 45 days or longer.
Remember that mailing your tax return can delay the processing of your refund. Expect to wait several weeks for your refund to be issued by paper check. It is more likely to take three weeks or less if you e-file and choose to receive your refund by direct deposit.
4. Visit Your Local IRS Office
The IRS maintains a network of local offices known as Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), where you can go to ask questions and get service. You can visit the IRS website to search for a Taxpayer Assistance Center office near you.
The IRS began reopening TACs in June 2020, but you can only visit with an appointment. Call 844-545-5640 to find out whether your nearest TAC is open and to reserve a time slot.
Be prepared for a wait if you're headed to a local IRS office during peak tax season. It might be to your advantage to check every online avenue available to find the information and assistance you need first.
5. Submit IRS Forms by Fax
The IRS put an end to the faxing and mailing of tax transcripts in June 2019. Receiving forms and instructions by fax isn't the best way to transmit sensitive information, but you can still fax some documentation.
Fax to the number listed on your CP06 audit notice if you have to transmit required supporting documentation during an audit of your tax return.
Get in Touch if You Can't Pay
Reach out to the IRS immediately if you owe a tax bill and are not able to pay it in full. You should file your return promptly by the filing deadline and pay as much as you can. Then, the IRS might help you work out an installment agreement to pay the balance.
You can easily apply online. This quick communication can help minimize penalties and interest on what you owe.