What is “TAM” on a Fax Machine?

LAST UPDATE: April 17th, 2019


In the context of fax machines and phones, ‘TAM’ stands for ‘telephone answering machine.’


A phone line with multiple answering mechanisms – such as a fax machine and an answering machine – uses a TAM.

When a phone line rings, a TAM can check the call to see if the call is a voice or fax call. Once it has decided, it routes the call to the appropriate device.

A TAM will not work with voicemail.

TAM on a fax machine

Some fax machines have a ‘TAM’ feature – it means that when they answer a ringing line if the call is a fax tone, it will start receiving a fax.

If the call is not a fax tone, then the call will be answered by the fax machine’s answering machine, or by an answering machine plugged into the extension of the fax machine.

TAM as a standalone unit

A TAM can act as a standalone unit that sits ahead of a fax machine and answering machine.

With a standalone unit, there are individual ports to plug in the fax machine and answering machine. Some models may allow for modems or an extra phone line.

With a standalone unit, a best practice is to set the number of rings on the fax machine to one or two more than the TAM is set.

When the TAM receives the call, it checks whether it is a fax tone while it keeps the fax machine ringing. If the call is a fax tone, then it lets the fax machine pick up the call, otherwise, it disconnects the fax machine.

TAM challenges


As the TAM temporarily answers a call to see if it is a fax or not, callers can experience a temporary delay in the call while the TAM is checking to see if it is a fax or not. To an individual is calling the line, the time where the TAM is checking the call may sound like the call has dropped.


Voicemail will not work with TAM.

Compared with an answering machine (that connects to the phone line in the home or office), voicemail is a service run by the phone company.

For the TAM to work, it needs to temporarily answer the phone line to understand if the call is a fax or not.

If the call is answered and found not to be a fax call, the TAM will disconnect the fax machine. The phone company would consider the call answered, and the phone company’s voicemail would not answer the call. To the caller, it would appear that someone answered the line and then immediately hung up the phone.

Sources and more resources

HP All-in-One or Fax Product – Using the Product with a Telephone Answering Machine (TAM) – the most complete guide we’ve found to setting a fax machine up with a TAM service.