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September 25, 2017

With New Policy Changes, In-Person IRS Appeals Conferences Are Likely Not a Realistic Option for Taxpayers

As tax attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, we assist many individuals and businesses with tax examinations, tax audits, appeals, and litigation relating to civil tax matters at the federal, state, and local levels. Further, the tax attorneys at Nardone Limited routinely advise taxpayers about their appeal rights as part of our tax controversy work. As an example, we assist taxpayers with filing appeals requests at the administrative level with the appropriate taxing authority, including the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the Ohio Department of Taxation, and then any necessary appeals. Taxpayers may be able to request an in-person appeals conference if the taxpayer meets certain unique facts and circumstances. This article is a follow-up to our previous article, IRS Limiting the Number of In-Person Appeals Conferences.

In-Person Appeals Conference Requests

Once a taxpayer determines that the benefits of an in-person appeals conference may outweigh the potential costs, a taxpayer may request an in-person appeals conference. It is important to remember, however, that although the IRS may grant a taxpayer’s request for an in-person appeals conference, the taxpayer may be required to travel a long distance for the in-person appeals conference. For example, the specific appeals officer assigned to the case may be located in Oklahoma, while the taxpayer is located in Ohio. As a result, traveling to the in-person appeals conference would end up being very expensive for the taxpayer. Thus, even if the IRS ultimately offers an in-person appeals conference to a taxpayer, the reality is, the expenses incurred to attend an in-person appeals conference may not be worth the potential benefit.

Prior to agreeing to an in-person appeals conference, the IRS directs its appeals employees to offer a virtual service delivery conference if such technology is available within 100 miles of the taxpayer’s address. IRM 8.6.1.4.1. If the necessary technology is not available, or the taxpayer declines the offer opportunity for a virtual service delivery conference, then the IRS may agree to an in-person appeals conference, in limited circumstances. Ultimately, the Appeals Team Manager must agree to an in-person appeals conference based upon various factors, as detailed below, and communicate their decision to the taxpayer. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.

When considering whether or not to grant a request for an in-person appeals conference, the Appeals Team Manager looks at various factors, including whether: (i) there are substantial books and records to review that cannot be easily referenced with page numbers or indices; (ii) the Appeals employee cannot judge the credibility of the taxpayer’s oral testimony without an in-person appeals conference; (iii) the taxpayer has special needs that can only be accommodated with an in-person appeals conference; and (iv) there are numerous conference participants that create a risk of an unauthorized disclosure or breach of confidentiality. IRM 8.6.1.4.1. If the Appeals Team Manager agrees to an in-person appeals conference, the appeals officer may conduct circuit riding to travel to a specified location to hold the in-person appeals conference.

Circuit Riding

An appeals officer assigned to the case may sometimes travel to the taxpayer for an in-person appeals conference in what is considered circuit riding. Not all IRS offices allow for circuit riding. In fact, from Nardone Limited’s perspective, the taxpayer is generally required to travel to the location of the appeals officer for an in-person appeals conference. But, according to the IRS, the appeals officer and the taxpayer may agree to meet at a mutually convenient location, as long as the taxpayer’s address is more than 100 miles from a customer facing virtual delivery service or 150 miles from the nearest appeals Office. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.2. Further, the Appeals Team Manager may also allow circuit riding if the nearest appeals office to the taxpayer cannot take the case due to a heavy case load or lack of local expertise. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.2.

According to the IRS, if the specific appeals office (i) does not accommodate in-person appeals conferences; (ii) is not reasonably convenient for the taxpayer or representative; or (iii) does not conduct circuit riding, the assigned officer must request case assistance to participate in the in-person appeals conference. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.1. But, case assistance does not cause the case to be transferred to the assisting appeals officer. Instead, the appeal, and the final determination of the case, stays with the original assigned appeals officer. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.1. The assigned officer will help the assisting appeals officer schedule the conference, provide the assisting appeals officer with the necessary documents for the conference, and lead the conference over the telephone. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.1. The assisting appeals officer will be present at the in-person appeals conference and both appeals officers will ultimately discuss their observations of the conference. The originally assigned appeals officer still makes the final decision regarding the taxpayer’s case. IRM 8.6.1.4.1.1.  In this instance, it may not be worth the taxpayer spending the money to travel to an in-person appeals conference when the taxpayer would not even be meeting with the specific appeals officer making the final decision. Thus, although it appears that the taxpayer has the option for an in-person appeals conference, in reality they do not. The cost of traveling for an in-person meeting with an individual who will not be making the final decision likely is not worth any potential benefit for the taxpayer.

Conclusion

In the end, although a taxpayer may request, and the IRS may grant, an in-person appeals conference, a taxpayer living in Ohio may be required to travel to Oklahoma, for example, for the conference. This could potentially be very expensive for the taxpayer. Thus, the taxpayer must decide whether the cost of traveling that far for an in-person appeals conference is worth it. In many cases, incurring the necessary travel expenses will not be worth any potential benefit for the taxpayer. In sum, choosing the right method for an appeals conference will ultimately save the taxpayer time and money. But, in reality, due to the IRS’s recent policy changes discussed in our previous article, IRS Limiting the Number of In-Person Appeals Conferences, taxpayers likely only have one option for an appeals conference, which is via telephone.

Contact Nardone Limited

Nardone Limited frequently represents individuals and businesses in federal, state, and local civil tax matters, including appeals. If you or your business have been contacted by the IRS or the Ohio Department of Taxation, or are struggling with tax liabilities, you should contact one of our tax attorneys today. We will thoroughly review your case to determine what options and alternatives are available to you.

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September 25, 2017

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