This Is a Lousy Time to Call the IRS for Help. Do This Instead

A woman looks bored while waiting for someone to pick up the phone.
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We’re getting into the thick of tax season, but this is a lousy time to call the IRS. You’ll be on hold forever.

The two weeks after Presidents Day weekend are definitely not when you want to call the IRS for help. It’s so bad that the IRS put out a news alert about this last year. They really want you to go online instead of calling.

“Presidents Day weekend, when many people prepare their taxes, historically marks a peak period for IRS phone lines,” the IRS said in 2023. “During the two-week February period following Presidents Day, the IRS recommends turning first to the self-help tools available online on to avoid delays.”

And what are those tools? We’ll tell you all about them.

Use the IRS’ Online Tools Instead of Calling

Calling the IRS can often be an exercise in frustration anyway.

Though the Taxpayer Advocate Service said the telephone service saw some improvement in 2023 — it answered 35% of calls compared to 13% in 2022 — you should still see if you can get your answers online before calling.

Here is the IRS’ main page for all these online tools. And here are some of the main ones:

Interactive Tax Assistant: This useful tool can walk you through figuring out what income is taxable, what your filing status is and whom you can claim as a dependent.

Get Refund Status: When will your refund money arrive? This tool will track the status of your tax refund.

Taxpayer Assistance Locator: This can help you find your nearest Taxpayer Assistance Center if you want to make an appointment to speak with an IRS representative in person.

IRS Free File portal: You can file federal taxes for free if you’re eligible. This service is available to filers who earned $79,000 or less in 2023, and the page also links to free fillable tax forms for earners at all levels.

If You Have to Call

The deadline for filing your 2023 federal tax returns is Monday, April 15. If you really want to talk to someone in the IRS on the phone before then, here are a few things to keep in mind:

The IRS’ toll-free number is 800-829-1040 if you’re trying to reach them about an issue with your taxes.

Be prepared to wait on hold for a while — potentially for a long time.

Here’s some information from the IRS about what kinds of things you can call the toll-free number to ask about.

The IRS also says wait times are higher on Mondays and Tuesdays, during Presidents Day weekend and near the April tax filing deadline.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.