Trying To Reach a Live Person at the IRS? Good Luck

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

Number of the Day

That’s how many of the 70 million calls to the IRS’s most widely used phone line were actually answered as of April 10, according to an independent taxpayer advocate service that works within the agency.

In other words, just 1 out of every 50 callers to the IRS’s 1040 toll-free telephone line had gotten through to an employee this tax season, Erin Collins, the IRS’s National Taxpayer Advocate, said in a blog post Thursday. 

The tiny fraction of answered calls underscores the trouble the tax collecting agency has faced this tax season as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates backlogs and resources are diverted to stimulus checks and other pandemic relief efforts. The failed attempts to reach someone are frustrating taxpayers as millions of tax returns are delayed by requirements to manually reconcile various items relating to pandemic provisions, Collins said. The IRS is holding more than 29 million individual and business returns for manual processing, she said.

“If a taxpayer is one of the lucky ones to get through, it’s unlikely the assistor can provide much useful information regarding the reason for the delay because IRS systems don’t identify why the return needed manual intervention,” Collins wrote in her blog. The 1040 telephone line accounts for about 60% of all incoming account management calls to the IRS, and all told, about 7% of these calls have been answered, she said.

Taxpayers can also communicate with the IRS, which acknowledges on its website that “live phone assistance is extremely limited,” in person or in writing.