Calling the IRS? Read This First.


The holiday season is known for a lot of pleasant things—eggnog, scented candles, and family time all come to mind. But if you’ve been in the payroll profession long enough, there’s a good chance you associate it with something else: federal and state tax notices. And when those come in, it’s time to pick up the phone. Gulp.

As we covered last year, tax notices can be as varying as snowflakes, though most are completely harmless. But when you do need to give the IRS or a local agency those “five golden rings,” here are few tips to make those intimidating conversations stress-free.

1. Do Your Homework

You’ll want your ducks in a row before picking up the phone. Your tax notice will typically reference a specific period or quarter, so it’s best practice to first gather data relevant to that timeframe.

Next, you’ll want your tax ID at the ready. This might be as simple as looking at the notice itself. If it’s not on there, go ahead and pull up a copy of your latest return to that respective agency, which you’ll also want to have handy. 

Once you have your ID and returns, it’s good to also have your federal ID just in case (if you're calling a state or local agency). Some will ask for one or the other, or both.

2. Keep Your Cool

So you’ve made the call—and undoubtedly waited on hold for a little while. Keep your cool and most importantly, be kind. It’s the holiday season, after all. In my experience, no matter what issue I was dealing with, courtesy almost always got me the answer I needed. The agent you’re speaking with is a human, and they’re apt to respond to your attitude. Maintaining a happy, positive tone is the best way to get a happy, positive result.


3. Write Down Contact Information

Once you get through to an agent, they’re likely to rattle off their name and ID number. Write this down! This will be helpful information to have in the event you need to call back.

In addition to the above, it’s also wise to take down any direct lines or extensions you're provided. It’s not uncommon to be transferred from department to department. Try to keep track of those contacts and their numbers. 

4. Confirm That You’re Authorized

While some tax agencies will speak to just about anyone, others require that the person calling is authorized to speak on the company’s behalf. These authorizations are typically established when your company is first set up with the agency.

If you aren’t set up as a representative, you may have to wait for a power of attorney or other authorization to be submitted. If the matter is urgent and can’t wait, a quick workaround is to just make the call with your company’s designated and authorized person on the line. I’ve called agencies alongside CFOs, managers, finance VPs, and a variety of other company leaders.

5. Rude Agent? Call Again.

I’ve spoken to agents who can’t hang up quick enough and those with the patience of a saint. If you feel that being nice didn’t get you what you needed, you can always call right back to get someone else. At the end of the day, this is your issue to deal with. If you do not get the level of service or answer you need, call and call again. Eventually you’ll get the person who can help.

There you have it, five simple steps to make any tax notice call a productive one. If you happen to get a tax notice this holiday season, don't crumple it up and throw it on the Yule log. There’s a good chance that just a quick call can have your tax record cleaner than the freshly fallen snow. 

Topics: Payroll, Taxes

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