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How to find out how much tax I owe to the IRS and where to consult it

Having an outstanding bill with the taxman can lead to penalties and interest accumulating, so taking care of it is an urgent matter. Here’s what to do.

What is a federal tax exemption?

When it comes to taxes, ideally, you’d get ahead of the game and plan out your tax burden over the course of the fiscal year, paying taxes due on time, or having a portion of your income withheld and sent to the IRS. If all goes to plan, you could be looking at welcome bit of cash back the following year through a tax refund.

However, if your calculations weren’t right or some unforeseen change in your financial fortunes leaves you with an unpaid bill with Uncle Sam you can be sure the IRS will be in touch. But you don’t need, nor want, to wait around. You can get a jump on the situation through a few simple channels the agency provides to save yourself a heftier tax bill.

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Finding out if you owe the IRS taxes

When the IRS realizes that you have failed to file a tax return, underpaid or that you haven’t paid, the agency will send you a notification letter. Taxpayers are never contacted via email, social media or by phone. You have a set amount of time to respond to the letter or risk incurring further fines on top of penalties and interest that begin to accumulate from the tax deadline.

For this reason, if you think that you might have underpaid the IRS, you will want to grab the bull by the horns and take action. Taxpayers have a few ways that they can check if they have an outstanding balance with the IRS and how much they owe, online, by phone, or asking a professional.

Use IRS online account

The IRS created an online tool that taxpayers can use to “access your individual account information including balance, payments, tax records and more.” You will need to set up your online account if you don’t have one already.

Call the IRS

You may have to wait on hold for a while, the agency says that average filing season wait times can be 13 minutes and 19 minutes during the post-filing season, but some telephone service wait times may be longer. The best bet is to call early in the day to avoid a longer wait.

For callers in the lower 48, you can call Monday through Friday from 7 am to 7 pm local time, Alaska and Hawaii should follow Pacific time. For residents of Puerto Rico, phone lines are open 8 am to 8 pm.

  • Individuals taxpayers: 800-829-1040
  • Businesses: 800-829-4933

Asking a professional

If you are completely lost or worried about how to settle any back taxes you owe to the IRS on your own, you may want to consult a tax professional. However, the IRS warns about going with just anyone you find in the phone book or on Google. To save you some trouble, the IRS has a searchable directory of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the agency.