IRS to Take Stimulus Check Calls. Good Luck Getting a Human to Answer

A woman makes a phone call.
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For the past two months, the IRS instructions for people who have stimulus check questions has been: DO NOT CALL US.

Here’s all of our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, which we will be updating every day.

But on May 18, the IRS announced that it “is starting to add 3,500 telephone representatives.” It isn’t clear from the news release what the actual time frame is for bringing customer service reps on.

The announcement says the reps will answer “some of the most common questions about Economic Impact Payments.” 

So we also don’t know whether they’ll actually be able to answer specific questions about your payment or if they’ll just be able to provide general information.

What Happened When We Tried Calling the IRS Line

The number for the Economic Impact Line is 800-919-9835. It’s listed on the letter the IRS mails you within 15 days after your payment is processed. 

When we tried calling the line on May 20, we got an automatic message with a long spiel about how your payment will be deposited and how you don’t need to take any action if you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return or receive certain benefits. It directs you to IRS.gov for your most frequently asked questions.

While the IRS news release said that those who need additional help will be given the option to speak to a human representative at the end of the message, that didn’t appear to be an option yet on May 20. 

Pressing “0” didn’t work either. It just resulted in a “You must choose one of the following options” message that leads to more pre-recorded messages.

Why It’s Pretty Much Impossible to Talk to the IRS Right Now

The IRS has been operating remotely since mid-March due to coronavirus.

As The Washington Post reported, only about 25% of the agency’s customer service and clerical workers have volunteered to come back to the office. Antiquated technology and security concerns made it almost impossible for employees to perform some tasks remotely.

And even during normal times, the IRS isn’t exactly known for being easy to reach. The National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2019 report to Congress found that of the 100 million calls the IRS received during the fiscal year, only 29% were answered by a human.

What to Do if You Still Need to Talk to the IRS

First off: Do you really, REALLY need to talk to someone at the IRS about your stimulus payment? Even once you can actually talk to a human, you can expect extremely long wait times. Plus, you don’t even know if they’ll be able to give you personal information that will help you figure out your payment status.

Still have a question? We’ve got answers to 32 frequently asked stimulus check questions. We also have answers to your questions about the $500 coronavirus child credits.

We can also tell you what to do if you got a deceased person’s stimulus check, what to do if your check went to the wrong bank account, why you won’t owe taxes on your payment, and how the process works if you’re getting someone’s check because they owe you child support.

We’ve also got some hacks for tracking your check if your payment status still isn’t available.

Want your information from the official source? The IRS is frequently updating its FAQ page about the stimulus payments.

Only if you’ve exhausted these resources and still haven’t found an answer would we recommend investing the time it will take to get through to the IRS.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected]