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Make sure you call the correct IRS phone help line

Homer Simpson dialing phone_GiphyImage courtesy SimpsonsWorld via

The Tuesday after Presidents Day generally is the busiest day of the year for calls to the Internal Revenue Service's toll-free help line.

That also means that callers find themselves on hold. Such waiting, compounded by being forced to listen to tunes that would never ever make your Spotify playlist, is common throughout the filing season.

That then leads to taxpayer frustration, which often prompts filers to try different avenues to get answers to their questions.

Don't, however, just randomly call any IRS phone number seeking tax help, cautions the IRS.

And definitely don't call help lines that don't have anything to do with individual taxpayer concerns.

All IRS help lines are not equal: That message was reiterated in a Wednesday, Feb. 21, email to tax professionals in which the IRS sought their help in getting taxpayers into the appropriate tax help channels.

Some tax pros have given the IRS' e-help desk phone number to clients.

This is not good, says the IRS.

"Each filing season, the e-help Desk receives phone calls from taxpayers because their tax preparer referred them for assistance resolving rejected returns, tax law and tax account matters," said the IRS in the email.

"This increases the taxpayer’s burden and causes lengthier delays for everyone. The e-help desk cannot help these callers and must direct them to other sources for assistance."

Specific e-help only: The e-help desk/telephone hotline that's referenced in the IRS email is the agency's Electronic Products and Services Support (EPSS) support line.

It is designed to help only tax professionals. That includes, but is not limited to, Enrolled Agents, reporting agents, electronic return originators and CPAs, not their clients.

And the EPSS e-help desk has a specific purpose. It focuses on tax pros' questions about the IRS' electronic products.

Because of this precise area of expertise, EPSS hotline representatives cannot help tax preparers with issues related to their clients' accounts.

And the e-help desk definitely doesn't provide support to those individual taxpayers who are experiencing e-filing issues, notes the IRS.

When taxpayers do call that hotline or other inappropriate IRS phone assistance numbers, they compound not only their problems, but also those of other filers seeking help.

The wrong incoming calls cause lengthier delays for everyone, says the IRS. And since the e-help desk cannot help these callers, it must direct them to other sources for assistance.

That, not surprisingly, leaves already frustrated filers feeling like the IRS is simply passing the tax help buck.

So, asks the IRS of tax pros, don't give out the e-help desk number to clients.

Online help options: It's no secret that the IRS is committed to moving to a more comprehensive digital world, dubbed the agency's Future State, to deal with taxpayers.

That's why the IRS says the best route for tax answers, whether to questions about the status of already filed returns or help in completing a 1040, is online.

That's especially true, says the tax agency, for folks looking to track refunds. The IRS urges filers to use the appropriately named Where's My Refund? online tracking tool. It's available via computer or on a mobile device through the IRS app IRS2Go.

It also directs taxpayers to a variety of electronic information sources.

For general tax law information, the IRS recommends using its Interactive Tax Assistant. This online interview program walks taxpayers through 50 tax situations, ranging from whether they need to file a return to who they can claim as a dependent to their eligibility for a variety of tax credits and deductions.

In addition — and at the risk of making the ol' blog obsolete; y'all will keep reading even with these links, right? — general tax information from the IRS can be found online at:

For help in preparing and filing a tax return, offers:

  • Free File and
  • Volunteers Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

Tax payment options are found at the IRS' payments page. If you can't make your required payment, you can find information on applying for an installment payment agreement or making an offer in compromise.

Questions about IRS notices or letters can be found by going to the main IRS page and entering "understanding your notice" in the search box.

Telephone assistance: Taxpayers who need or prefer telephone instead of online help also have numerous options.

The main toll-free IRS help lines are (800) 829-1040 for individuals; (800) 829-4933 for businesses; and (800) 829-4059 TTY/TDD for people with hearing impairments.

Other IRS dedicated, and usually automated and unless noted toll-free, telephone hotlines include:

  • Refund hotline: (800) 829-1954
  • Transcript toll-free line (800) 908-9946
  • Find a VITA location (800) 906-9887
  • Find a TCE location (888) 227-7669
  • Order Tax Forms and Publications (800) 829-3676
  • Information Return Reporting (866) 455-7438
  • Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) (800) 829-4933
  • Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TEGE) (877) 829-5500
  • Forms 706 and 709 (866) 699-4083
  • Excise Tax and Form 2290 (866) 699-4096
  • FBAR and Title 31 (866) 270-0733
  • Information Return Reporting (866) 455-7438
  • Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) (800) 829-4933
  • U.S. Military (Disaster or Combat Zone) issues (866) 562-5227
  • Telephone Assistance for Overseas Taxpayers (267) 941-1000 (not toll-free)
  • Contact a local Taxpayer Advocate (877) 777-4778 | TTY/TTD (800) 829-4059

If you do call any of these number, be prepared not only to be put on hold in many cases, but also for tougher security measures before you can get the answers you're seeking. Tax identity theft concerns mean you'll have to prove to the IRS that you are you when you call seeking specific information about your tax account.

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