Most people would rather walk on hot coals than call the IRS.
In fact, the IRS Oversight Board reports that 59% of Americans fear the IRS. But that doesn’t change the fact that, every year, 43% of taxpayers (that’s 70 million people) need to get in touch with the IRS.
They may need to ask a question, understand more about their tax situation, or solve a problem.
For most people, their status with the IRS (good, bad, ugly?) is a complete mystery
Why? Because the IRS doesn’t send you a tax scorecard telling you the details about your account history and the status of your compliance situation.
And it’s not always easy or quick to try to get your information directly from the IRS. You may have to wait on hold, jump through hoops online, or wait several weeks for your paper transcripts.
Here are four options to find out your status with the IRS.
1. Ask the IRS.
Call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040, or go in person to an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.
But beware. The IRS doesn’t readily answer tax law questions about your situation. Phone lines will usually divert taxpayers to IRS.gov for answers.
Also, getting through to speak with an IRS representative isn’t always easy because of long wait times. If you’re successful, the IRS representative can provide you with information about your status.
Start with one simple question about your overall status: “Can you do a compliance check on my account to see if there are any outstanding issues?”
2. Get your IRS transcripts.
IRS transcripts (“IRS speak” for tax records) show your tax history, including tax returns you’ve filed, your income information, and your account activity.
Account transcripts can be particularly useful if you have questions about your status. You can see any:
- CP2000 notices
- Payment amounts and dates
- Filing information
- Penalties charged
- And other activity on your account transcript
Words of caution: If you have any issues with the IRS, such as audits or back taxes, transcripts don’t provide much insight into your status and interactions with the IRS. If you’re not sure what the transaction codes mean, it’s best to call the IRS to speak to a representative who can give you more details.
Transcripts are written from the IRS point of view and aren’t always easy to translate. You may want to consult a tax professional for help.
3. Research your IRS online account for tax information.
In your online IRS account, you can view tax bills, see payments you’ve made in the past 18 months, and download your transcripts. If your transcripts show any unusual activity, you’ll have to contact the IRS to learn more.
Tip: The IRS uses a complex set of authentication measures to verify your identity and allow you to set up an online account. Many taxpayers have trouble making it through that process. If you have trouble logging in, you’ll need to call the IRS or get a tax pro to help.
4. Outsource the research to a tax pro.
Tax professionals have a special IRS hotline to get their clients’ account information. Experienced tax pros can interpret IRS transcripts and know if something is amiss. They can also interview IRS representatives to fully understand your tax situation – saving you time and potentially headaches.
How to get help
Understanding whether you’re in good standing with the IRS isn’t easy – but it’s important. That’s why many taxpayers get a tax professional to help them interact with the IRS, whether they have a simple question, want to do a compliance checkup, or need to solve a problem.