IRS Near Me: What You Can and Can’t Do at an IRS Office

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Andrea Miller
Andrea Miller
October 24, 2018

  • In-person service at a Taxpayer Assistance Center requires an appointment as of the 2017 tax season and beyond.
  • Prepare for your appointment by gathering the necessary tax documents and financial information about the issue for which you need assistance.

If you’ve recently searched for an IRS near me, chances are you have a tax issue you want to discuss with an Internal Revenue Service representative. You can do so in person at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in your area. Online and phone-based help is also available.

When dealing with the IRS, you should always be mindful of your rights as a taxpayer. For example, you have the right to courteous, professional service when you are dealing with an IRS representative, and the right to contact a supervisor if there are issues with the service you receive. You also have the right to the information you need to settle your tax debt.

Making an IRS Appointment

Although appointments were not always required to visit a Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), the agency began offering appointments in 2015 on an experimental basis and began mandating appointments for the 2017 tax season. Before 2015, you could seek help from a TAC representative in person on a first-come, first-served basis. However, this resulted in long waits and lots of frustration. Since taxpayers now have a specific time, the process should go more smoothly and limit wait times.

IRS Near Me: What You Can and Can’t Do at an IRS Office

TAC has an online tool that helps you search for an IRS help location in your area. With this tool, you can enter your five-digit ZIP code to find the closest center. You can also schedule an appointment at your local TAC by calling 844-545-5640. When you come to your appointment, make sure to bring a valid form of photo ID along with your Social Security number.

Assistance is not available on weekends and federal holidays. Remember that peak demand for TAC services occurs in February, so schedule as early as possible during that time of year to ensure your questions are answered.

Accessing Free Tax Return Assistance

Some taxpayers are eligible for free in-person assistance with preparing their tax returns. However, these programs are administered not at TAC locations but at separate offices. They include:

  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps those who have limited ability to speak English, have disabilities, or earn less than $54,000 annually.
  • The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program assists all taxpayers ages 60 and older and is available from January through April.

Both programs offer advice from IRS-certified volunteers and are often held at schools, libraries, community centers, and other central locations nationwide. In the case of the TCE program, volunteers have extra training or expertise in retirement planning, pensions, estates, and other areas relevant to seniors.

Certain types of tax filing help are not available through these programs, including assistance with filing returns involving a Schedule C for self-employment income with a loss, a Schedule D with capital gains and losses, investment income for a minor, a nondeductible IRA, premium tax credits, and the need to determine worker status.

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You can find the nearest VITA center by calling 800-906-9887 or searching the IRS website. TCE programs are operated by the AARP Foundation Tax Aide program. You can find the nearest location by calling 888-227-7669.

Seeking Help by Phone

Depending on the issue or question you have, you may not need to speak with an IRS representative in person. The agency strives for most claims to be solved on the phone or online. If you want to seek help by phone, start by calling one of these numbers between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time Monday through Friday, or 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time for residents of Puerto Rico:

  • Individual taxpayers: 800-829-1040
  • Businesses: 800-829-4933
  • Individuals with hearing impairment: 800-829-4059 (TDD).

Keep in mind that with this option, you’ll likely wait on hold. Forbes¬†reported that 70% of taxpayers who called the IRS were able to reach a representative in 2016, which was a dramatic improvement over 2015 numbers. You can increase your luck by calling first thing in the morning and avoiding Mondays and afternoons (peak hours).

Getting Online Assistance

The IRS offers many intuitive online tools to answer some of the most common taxpayer questions. Some of the functions you can easily complete at irs.gov include:

  • Entering an online payment plan agreement
  • Checking the status of your refund or amended return
  • Downloading tax transcripts
  • Accessing publications, resources, and forms
  • Making tax payments
  • Filing tax returns, including free filing services for those with an income of less than $60,000 annually.

These services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are used by approximately 700 million taxpayers every year, according to the Forbes article.

You can also use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant, which provides answers to common tax questions. Examples include questions about education credits and other credits and refunds, seeking filing status, determining the standard deduction, and figuring out who to claim as a dependent.

Some topics within the assistant offer simple tools that give you information based on your answers to a few simple questions. For example, you may be wondering if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to assist taxpayers under a certain income threshold. Just access the tool through the Interactive Tax Assistant, and you’ll be able to make the correct determination for you and your children.

Reasons to Visit an IRS Location

Although most IRS issues can be resolved online or over the phone, some problems and questions require in-person assistance. You should plan to make an appointment at your local TAC if:

  • You have applied for an individual taxpayer ID number using Form W-7 and need to have your ID documents verified. This is done only at certain participating TAC locations.
  • You received a letter or notice from the IRS and don’t understand the next steps you should take, even after searching the agency’s website and seeking phone-based assistance.
  • You need to make a monthly, quarterly, or annual tax payment and are unable to do so online.
  • You are an international visitor and need to obtain a certificate of tax clearance before leaving the United States. More information is available from Publication 513, Tax Information for Visitors to the United States.

Preparing for Your Appointment

Whether you’re visiting a TAC, TCE, or VITA IRS location, you’ll need to have most of the same documents with you. Make sure to bring the following for you and for your spouse if married filing jointly:

  • W-2 and 1099 forms as well as all other income information
  • Proof of ID for each party, as well as Social Security card
  • Receipts from daycare providers
  • Social Security number and birth date information for your dependents
  • Deduction and credit information
  • Proof of foreign status if applying for an individual taxpayer ID number
  • Copies of previous tax returns and income information where applicable
  • Bank account information.

If you are seeking help with a joint tax issue, both you and your spouse must be present at the appointment.

Corresponding With the IRS by Mail

The IRS will not contact you online, by phone, or by email with an official notice. You will receive a notice by mail from the IRS when you have a balance due, will receive a refund that is larger or smaller than expected, your return has been changed, processing of your return is delayed, or the IRS needs to verify your identity or requires additional information.

Each notice will include instructions for responding to the IRS by phone, online, or by mail. Check the top-right or bottom-right corner of the notice for the notice or letter number, which can be used to seek more information.

What to Do When You Suspect Fraud

If you think you’ve received a fraudulent notice, phone call, or other contact from someone purporting to be from the IRS, do not give this individual any of your personal information. Instead, you should report this phishing attempt to the agency. If you receive an email from the IRS that has not been solicited by an email you sent first, do not respond and forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS will not call you on the phone and ask for personal information. If you receive this type of call, refrain from engaging with the caller and report this incident to the IRS. Include a complete description of the call, the number from which the call was received, the date and time when you received the call, and the name and employee number given by the caller if applicable.

If you receive a letter from the IRS and you aren’t sure whether it is legitimate, go to irs.gov and search the notice or letter number. This will provide instructions on how to proceed if you have received that specific type of notice. Take note as to whether the IRS instructions differ from those provided in the letter. If no letter or notice number is included, it is not an official correspondence from the IRS.

The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers by text message or social media post. If you receive this type of correspondence, do not reply and do not open any attachments that are included. Forward the text to the IRS at 202-552-1226, and then delete the original text. If you accidentally open the attachment, you should contact your bank and credit card companies, so you can take steps to protect your identity, as this ploy may be used to steal your personal information.

If the IRS Visits You at Home

If you have tax debt, an IRS Revenue Officer may visit you at home or place of business to collect information about this debt. Routine casework for these agents may include unannounced visits. However, it’s important to ensure the individual is legitimate before complying with any information or document requests. Ask the visitor to provide his or her HSPD-12 credentials. This is a government-wide identification standard for federal employees and contractors. After the credentials are provided, you can call an official IRS toll-free number to verify the information.

The reason for the visit is usually to follow up on past-due taxes or missing tax returns, to conduct an investigation, or to gather documents for an audit. In the case of an audit, the agent will have already contacted you by mail to arrange an appointment time and will only visit at this previously agreed-upon time. Agents visiting to conduct an investigation will have an official federal badge.

A legitimate IRS agent will never demand immediate payment on a visit to your home or workplace. You always have the right to appeal the amount you owe before making a payment. Money for your tax debt will never be requested over the phone with a wire transfer, gift card, or other means of payment. You should only make payments following the instructions provided at irs.gov/payments. For example, all checks for taxes due should be made out to the United States Treasury.

A legitimate agent will advise you of your rights as a taxpayer. He or she should not threaten to get law enforcement involved or have you arrested if you do not pay your tax bill. The IRS likely will not threaten to have your legal or provisional immigration status revoked, have you deported, or have your business or driver’s license revoked. A visitor who makes statements such as these is not an official IRS representative, and you should ask him or her to leave your property.

In some cases, the IRS may hire a private collection agency to attempt to collect your tax debt. However, you will be given written notice of this occurrence before it takes place. In addition, a collection agency employed by the IRS will not ask for payments made by a gift card or prepaid debit card. They will accept only payments made out to the United States Treasury, not to a private collection agency.

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