Avoid the rush: Be prepared to validate identity if contacting the IRS

IR-2019-16, February 14, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers and tax professionals that they will be asked to verify their identities if they call the IRS.

The days before and after Presidents Day mark the peak period for taxpayer phone calls to the IRS. To avoid the rush, callers should use IRS.gov to access resources like the IRS Service Guide, to answer their questions or be prepared to verify their identities if they need to call the agency.

Being prepared before a call or visit can save taxpayers multiple calls.

Confirming taxpayers’ identities during calls

IRS call center professionals take great care to make certain that they only discuss personal information with the taxpayer or someone the taxpayer authorizes to speak on their behalf. To ensure that taxpayers do not have to call back, the IRS reminds taxpayers to have the following information ready:

  • Social Security numbers (SSN) and birth dates for those who were named on the tax return
  • An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) letter if the taxpayer has one in lieu of a SSN
  • Filing status – single, head of household, married filing joint or married filing separate
  • The prior-year tax return. Telephone assistors may need to verify taxpayer identity with information from the return before answering certain questions
  • A copy of the tax return in question
  • Any IRS letters or notices received by the taxpayer

Confirming third-party authorizations during calls

By law, IRS telephone assistors will only speak with the taxpayer or to the taxpayer’s legally designated representative.

If taxpayers or tax professionals are calling about a third party’s account, they should be prepared to verify their identities and provide information about the third party they are representing. Before calling about a third-party, be sure to have the following information available:

  • Verbal or written authorization from the third-party to discuss the account
  • The ability to verify the taxpayer’s name, SSN/ITIN, tax period, and tax form(s) filed
  • Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) or PIN if a third-party designee
  • A current, completed and signed Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization or
  • A completed and signed Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative

Questions regarding a deceased taxpayer require different steps. Be prepared to fax:

  • The deceased taxpayer’s death certificate, and
  • Either copies of Letters Testamentary approved by the court, or IRS Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship (for estate executors)

Alternatives for faster answers

The IRS offers a variety of online tools to help taxpayers answer common tax questions. For example, taxpayers can search the Interactive Tax Assistant, Tax Topics, Frequently Asked Questions, Tax Trails and the IRS Tax Map to get faster answers. Taxpayers wanting more information about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act should review: Publication 5307, Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families, or Publication 5318, Tax Reform What’s New for Your Business.

Some taxpayers also make in-person monthly or quarterly tax payments. Those payments can be made online by using IRS Direct Pay or through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. Taxpayers seeking free tax preparation assistance should explore the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program for in-person help or IRS Free File if they want to prepare their return themselves. The IRS Services Guide links to many IRS online services.

The quickest way to check the status of a tax refund is to go to 'Where’s My Refund?' or call 800-829-1954 for automated phone service.