The Whys and Hows of Reaching The IRS


If you’re like most people, the thought of contacting the IRS and getting through to a representative isn’t something at the top of your “to do” list. After all, who has all that time to be on Eternal Hold? The IRS is responsible for enforcing tax laws and codes, processing tax returns, and answering tax-related questions. If you’ve ever tried to reach the IRS by phone, you know their customer service department is busy.

Why It’s So Hard To Get Through

Unfortunately, the IRS, like most government agencies, has endured a series of funding and staffing reductions in recent years. The end result? Long wait times on the phone and slow response rates for written correspondence. According to the Government Accountability Office, telephone wait times so far this year have been up to one hour. Most people don’t have that degree of free time, so if you’ve waited on hold only to hang up, you’re not alone.

Response times for letters aren’t much better. At last count, the response time for IRS correspondence was over 45 days, giving a whole new meaning to “snail mail.” Prior to the economic downturn, more staff were available to respond to taxpayer letters and forms.

Unlike most businesses who offer online chat or email options, the IRS doesn’t offer those services due to the sensitive nature of taxpayer information. Since email and chat portals aren’t as secure and due to the large flow of sensitive information, the IRS has not adopted these customer service technologies. Lack of funding has also delayed implementing any technological upgrades or phone system upgrades.

The Best Way To Get Through

Since the IRS doesn’t have email or chat customer service options, the best way to contact the IRS is by phone. IRS representatives can be reached via their Help Line at (800) 829-1040. This line is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you’re calling late in the tax season or during the day, you could be in for a longer wait than if you called early in the tax season and/or earlier in the morning when call volume is lower.