How to Find Out How Much I Owe the IRS From Taxes Years Ago

Interest and penalties on an old tax bill from years ago can be substantial.

Owing back taxes to the IRS can be stressful and costly. Failure to pay taxes can result in penalties, interest, liens or worse. The best way to avoid these consequences is always pay your taxes on time; however, some people become overwhelmed with financial problems and lose track of owed taxes. If you owe taxes on returns filed years ago and the IRS has not already contacted you, you can find out how much you owe with one quick phone call.

Finding Your Outstanding Tax Balance

Step 1

Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Listen to the recorded message and follow the instructions to be connected with a live operator. If you are hearing-impaired, call 800-829-4059. Spanish speakers can press "8" to reach a Spanish-speaking operator.

Step 2

Ask the operator to direct your call to the individual balances department.

Step 3

Speak with an IRS representative. Inquiring about your balance should only take a few minutes. Having a copy of your tax return is helpful but not necessary. If you don't have a copy of your tax return, the IRS representative can look up your information using your Social Security number. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, the IRS does not offer this service online. If you do owe money, the representative will probably offer to set you up with a convenient payment plan, although the balance you owe will continue to accrue interest.


Contacting the IRS regarding taxes you owe will not automatically trigger an audit. However, if you owe a large sum of money or are nervous about the possibility of an audit, it may be a good idea to contact a tax attorney.

Things You'll Need

  • Copy of your tax return

  • Your Social Security number