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IRS Office of Appeals going virtual

What can be lost in a phone call? For starters, in a face-to-face interaction of several minutes as many as 10,000 non-verbal cues are exchanged. This is just a start, but a face-to-face sit down can often resolve disputes that a phone call might not.

Last October, the IRS revised its Internal Revenue Manual in a move to have Appeals Officers hold conferences by telephone instead of in person. Changes were needed based on dwindling agency resources. A new pilot offering virtual tax appeals may help bridge the gap.

When can you request a virtual meeting?

The Office of Appeals handles more than 100,000 taxpayer appeals each year. This step in the process can often resolve a tax dispute without requiring a trip to tax court.

A new secure, screen-sharing platform will allow face-to-face conferences at certain IRS offices during the pilot. The new software offers greater convenience and more features than existing agency video-conferencing systems. The pilot begins on August 1, 2017.

Are in-person conferences still available?

The answer is a qualified yes. Circumstances that qualify for in-person conferences have been limited and include cases involving:

  • Complex books and records that are not easily indexed
  • Disability such as a hearing impairment that cannot be accommodated in a phone/virtual conference
  • Credibility determinations that can only be assessed in person

When disputing an agency decision, an appeals case can be assigned anywhere in the country. This means a hobby loss case related to a winery may be assigned to an Appeals Officer in Chicago. This individual may not have adequate knowledge of local market forces, weather conditions or other relevant factors in your case. Providing additional information may be necessary to educate and ultimately obtain the best possible outcome.

Requesting a virtual conference might mean you are able to better convey your side and resolve the matter without a prolonged court battle. Speak about your situation with a local tax attorney to determine the best strategy forward.

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