United States

New Appeals virtual conference

TAX ALERT  | 

On July 24, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Office of Appeals (Appeals) announced that it will begin a pilot program for a new secure, web-based virtual conference option for taxpayers and their representatives. Appeals plans to launch the pilot on Aug. 1, 2017. 

Currently, taxpayers may have their Appeals conference in person, telephonically, or virtually through videoconference technology available at a limited number of IRS offices. In 2016, IRS updated the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) to make telephonic conferences the preferred method for Appeals conferences. While the updated IRM 8.6.1.4.1 makes telephonic conferences the primary method for conducting conferences, taxpayers may request in-person conferences. An Appeals Team Manager may authorize an in-person conference after considering the taxpayer’s facts and circumstances. The relevant facts and circumstances include the ease of reviewing a substantial set books and records, the ability of the appeals officer to judge the credibility of the taxpayer’s oral testimony without an in-person conference, the special needs of a taxpayer which might necessitate an in-person conference, the number of conference participants which could create a risk of unauthorized disclosure or breach of confidentiality unless an in-person conference is granted. These disparate facts and circumstances have caused taxpayers’ success for receiving approval for in-person conferences to be inconsistent.

Many taxpayer representatives have expressed their displeasure with the IRM’s updated preference for telephonic conferences. The IRS communication announcing the virtual web-based conference acknowledges that some taxpayers prefer a face-to-face interaction and states the virtual face-to-face conference will provide that desired type of interaction.

The IRS believes the new web-based virtual conference will provide greater access, efficiency and flexibility for taxpayers and will have more features than the existing video-conferencing technology. During the pilot program, the IRS will assess the results, including taxpayer satisfaction with the technology.

Taxpayers should contact their tax advisers to discuss the available options for navigating through the appeals process and, specifically, when determining what format is best for an appeals conference.

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