On September 20, 2016, we posted No More Face to Face Meetings at IRS Appeals Division? where we discussed that the IRS announced that effective Oct. 1, 2016, it will rarely conduct Appeals Conferences in person.
More specifically, Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) 126.96.36.199, blandly entitled “Conference Practices,” provides that ALL conferences will be held by telephone except under certain specific enumerated circumstances.
The mission of the IRS Appeals Division is to “resolve tax controversies, without litigation, on a basis which is fair and impartial to both the Government and the taxpayer and in a manner that will enhance voluntary compliance and public confidence in the integrity and efficiency of the Service.” We then stated: "Unfortunately, This New Policy Will Not Further That Mission, and Indeed Will Impede It."
Now the IRS agrees with us and even though the IRS is still cash-strapped, the decision to reduce the number of in-person meetings it grants taxpayers during appeals may defeat the agency's goal to save resources if it is forced into litigation as a result of less effective communication by mail, telephone or videoconferencing.
Web-Based Virtual Conferences
On July 24, 2017 The Internal Revenue Service Office of Appeals issued IR 2017-122
where they stated that the IRS will pilot a new web-based virtual conference option for taxpayers and their representatives. This virtual face-to-face option will provide an additional option for taxpayer conferences. The IRS expects it to be especially useful for taxpayers located far from an IRS Appeals office.
While a phone call works well for most taxpayers, others prefer face-to-face interaction. Appeals’ pilot program will use a secure, web-based screen-sharing platform to connect with taxpayers face-to-face from anywhere they have internet access.
Appeals started the pilot on August 1, 2017 and will assess the results, including taxpayer satisfaction with the technology.
Optional Requested Face to Face Conferences Now according to BNA IRS Appeals will revert to accommodating taxpayers who want in-person conferences rather than phone conferences, an IRS official said.
- “Step one is going to be for field cases to turn the decision back over to taxpayers,” Andy Keyso, acting deputy chief at the Internal Revenue Service Office of Appeals, said at the American Bar Association tax section meeting in Austin, Texas. “Do you want an in-person conference? If so, you’ll get it.”
- Step two is to include campus cases. Currently, Appeals is unable to offer in-person conferences for smaller cases that are worked out of the IRS campuses, Keyso said.
“For campus cases, we have some adjustments to make internally before we can do that...” Keyso said
Long term IRS Appeals has to realign its workforce, “which is difficult to do right now.”
The IRS will issue guidance to employees about the agency’s rollback of the in-person conference issue, Keyso said. The guidance will include information on what IRS employees need to be prepared for taxpayers in field cases who want in-person conferences as well as issues with campus cases.
Still, Appeals isn’t working well for small business and individual taxpayers, Nina E. Olson, IRS national taxpayer advocate, said during the panel.
About 75 percent to 80 percent of individual taxpayer appeals are conducted by correspondence, Olson said, and no employee is assigned to any correspondence examination. Individual taxpayers should be able to get the opportunity to speak with someone from the IRS, Olson said, to understand the agency’s side of a tax dispute.