How can I speak to a human at the IRS?

The IRS and I have always had a live and let live relationship. Until now. Here’s the brief story.

My wife is in the process of applying for the US Green Card, with me as her sponsor. One of the things I need to prove is my financial viability. This should be straightforward except they are asking for my US 2020 income tax transcripts. I had never heard of tax transcripts until now, but apparently they are commonly requested for various financial assessments. Anyway, our US immigration lawyer said it would really easy to get a transcript, all I had to do was to request one online at a link she gave us. Well, not so simple, as to request the transcript I first had to set up an online account with the IRS, which, unfortunately required several very US resident-centric proofs of identify (proof of student loan, US mortgage, US mobile number, etc). I live in Switzerland and have none of these. So the online request is out of the question.

Fortunately, they also offered a phone number I could call to request a transcript, which I did. I spoke with a helpful woman who said she would send the transcript right out to me at the address on my 1040. She added that normally it would take 5-7 working days, but since I was not in the US, it could take as much as a month. Well, long story short, it ultimately took more than 2 months. More on this later.

In the meantime, getting increasingly frustrated, after about 6 weeks I tried calling the phone number again. This time, for the life of me, I could not find any way to speak to a person. I just went round and round with the automatic menus. But no worries, the system was set up to make the transcript request without any human contact. And this I did.

Then a couple of weeks later, I actually received a letter from the IRS in the mail (postmarked 2 months earlier) with the results of the first request I had made. There was some handwriting on the front of the envelope indicating my correct address. Turns out they had sent it to the wrong address.

To Swaziland.

I am completely baffled as to how this could have happened, as the address on my 1040 clearly says Switzerland, and I have successfully received things from the IRS in the past at my Swiss address. Wouldn’t the mailing address be automatically generated from the tax return address?

So it’s been over a month now since I made the second request, and no sign of those transcripts. So I suspect that those have been sent to Swaziland as well. Normally this shouldn’t really matter as I did finally receive the 2020 transcript from the first request, except now I have heard from our immigration attorney that we will likely need to send a transcript for 2021 as well!

Anyway, I really don’t want to go through this again in the spring, and it is my guess that somehow Swaziland is hardwired into their database. I really need to speak to someone.

But as I mentioned, the last time I went through the phone menu system, I could not find any way to speak to a person. So I am stuck.

Sorry for the long story, but I thought you might enjoy reading of my plight. All I am really looking for is advice on how to speak to an actual living breathing person at the IRS who can fix this address problem. I managed to reach a human a couple of months ago, but danged if I can figure out how to do it again.

If you still have the transcript with the wrong address on it, fill out a Form 8822. That’s the change of address form. Use the address on the previous transcript as the old address and use you correct address as the new one.

You could also try (or maybe try this in addition to the Form 8822), filing out a 4506t. That’s a transcript request form. That form gives you a place to fill in your “Current Address”, which is where you’d put your correct address and a “Previous Address” which is where you put the address that’s on the return you’re requesting.

FWIW, transcript requests are currently taking several months. They’re very backlogged due to all the requests being generated by businesses that are navigating the PPP and EIDL system.

When the phone tree options are given, try hitting “0” as this will often take you to a human operator.

That said, I also saw this online:

  1. The IRS telephone number is 1-800-829-1040 .
  2. The first question the automated system will ask you is to choose your language.
  3. Once you’ve set your language, do NOTchoose Option 1 (regarding refund info). Choose option 2 for “Personal Income Tax” instead.
  4. Next, press 1 for “form, tax history, or payment”.
  5. Next, press 3 “for all other questions.”
  6. Next, press 2 “for all other questions.”
  7. When the system asks you to enter your SSN or EIN to access your account information, do NOT enter anything.
  8. After it asks twice, you will be prompted with another menu.
  9. Press 2 for personal or individual tax questions.
  10. Finally, press 4 for all other inquiries. The system should then transfer you to an agent.

There is a phone number for international taxpayers: Help with Tax Questions - International Taxpayers | Internal Revenue Service

(It’s the same number as the post above, but with a couple of other options and on the IRS site.)

I’d hesitate to fill out a form that looks like they’re claiming to have recently lived in the wrong country entirely; especially when there’s a green card issue involved.

So simple, a caveman could do it.

Similar to initiating a Congressional Inquiry if you live in the USA, you could initiate a Consular Inquiry in other countries. Most developed countries, definitely Switzerland, have assigned consular employees who deal exclusively with IRS issues. They should be able to either handle your problems directly, or be able to connect you to someone in the IRS who you can talk to.

From Mr. Vimp [Mr. IRSGuy (Ret’d)]

I do volunteer tax preparation for the IRS. We are sometimes asked the same question as posed by the OP. One of my fellow volunteers found these instructions online as well. We had a couple of our clients try this routine, and both of them reported that it worked as advertised.

thanks. This seems like a practical way forward, but I am afraid that putting the Swaziland address as my ‘current’ address on the address change form might be risky, as it is definitely not the address on my 1040. I fear confusing the IRS even more than they are already.

Thanks for the heads up on the backlog.

wow. I was expecting there to be a punchline at the end, but it seems that you are serious and that this is real. I’ll give it a try. Thanks

thanks. I hadn’t thought of that. It is worth looking into (though getting access to our consular services is no picnic either!)

I think you might be able to access them more easily by phone than trying to deal with the service representatives in the US - currently they’re estimating that only about 20% of attempted calls get through. Switzerland may have a more efficient process for responding to incoming phone calls.

I tried that process a few months ago when I also had to speak to an actual person at the IRS. I was so excited after that last step because I was going to speak to a real person at last! Nope. I got a recording saying that they weren’t taking any calls, and to call back later or tomorrow. Several tomorrows later, I gave up.

The CPA I went to said he also got the same message for days but was finally able to get through.

As with all IRS matters, patience and persistence are required.

Yipes, I was way off on the likelihood of getting through to a human at the IRS. Washington Post says it is more like 2% (one in fifty calls get through).

Source here (from last April - probably behind a paywall):

Do you have to have the actual transcript? Or can you give them a copy of your 1040? If it is the former, and you’ve tried the transcript line number, with no success, I would try calling a local number for an IRS office. You can find that at the IRS website or if you give me your ZIP code I’ll get you a number.

Yep. I used that a couple weeks ago. Works. . . well, it sucks, but it works.

Actually, there are multiple IRS phone numbers too. One number I called said that the current call volume was too high and to call back later. I called another number and was talking to someone in 5 minutes or so. I would try multiple numbers, there were two different numbers on the letter we got and then others I found on-line.

Lots of places won’t take a regular copy - it’s too easy to make a phony tax return using software that was never actually filed. They will only accept a certified copy/copy directly from the tax agency/transcript and in some cases, even the copy or transcript must be sent directly to the entity requesting the information.

well, if I had a ZIP code I wouldn’t be having this problem :grinning:

I take the point about calling other numbers though

just an update to tell you that yesterday I received the second batch of transcripts that I had mentioned ordering through the automated system in October. It took these ones only six weeks to arrive. But they had the correct address.

So that makes the original error even more baffling. The only difference between the first request and the second is that I spoke to a person for the first request. Does that mean that she entered it incorrectly? It would seem to suggest so, though I can’t imagine why she would have to enter the mailing address manually…

And the six week response time without error seems to confirm the backlog that @Joey_P mentioned.

If the difference was the human, the error was human error. And the best place to confuse “Swaziland” with “Switzerland” is an alphabetical pulldown on a computer form.