The IRS Independent Office of Appeals (“Appeals”) has issued a procedural memo, AP-08-0321-0009: Memorandum for Required Use of Virtual Conferences, that requires Appeals employees to offer a virtual conference to taxpayers who request an in-person conference that can't be accommodated. Offering a virtual Appeals conference previously wasn't required in this situation.
Most taxpayers with an active tax controversy can request a conference with Appeals to try to settle their tax controversy. (Code Sec. 7803(e)(4))
This new procedural memo requires Appeals employees to offer taxpayers a “virtual conference” in certain circumstances.
For example, an Appeals employee is required to offer and conduct a virtual conference if the taxpayer (or their representative) has requested one. In addition, the Appeals employee should offer a virtual conference if the taxpayer (or their representative) has requested an in-person conference, but that request can’t be accommodated by Appeals.
Prior to COVID, Appeals would generally hold an in-person conference if a taxpayer requests one. However, Appeals stopped conducting in-person conferences at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and has not yet resumed holding them.
Appeals employees are not required to offer a virtual conference when a taxpayer (or their representative) has requested a phone or correspondence conference. In this case, the Appeals employee should use their judgment and experience to determine whether to voluntarily offer a virtual conference to that taxpayer.
If the taxpayer declines the offer of a virtual conference, then the Appeals employee should continue with normal case processing procedures.
The Memo notes that this procedural deviation doesn't replace in-person conferences when Appeals begins holding them again. Appeals will still hold in-person conferences when Appeals can accommodate them and such conferences are appropriate.
This guidance is effective as of March 22, 2021and will be incorporated into IRM 8.6.1 within two years of this date.