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By Sony Kassam
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.
Field cases include audits by a field revenue agent or office examiner, while campus cases include correspondence exam cases, according to Keyso.
The IRS has six campuses around the country, according to Keyso. He said there’s a mismatch between where IRS employees are and where they should be, because it’s unlikely that a taxpayer is going to be near one of those campuses.
Keyso also said the campus buildings don’t have conference facilities.
“For campus cases, we have some adjustments to make internally before we can do that,” Keyso said, adding that in the 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.
“We have to take these issues very, very seriously,” she said, adding that she’s “very disturbed” that campus cases aren’t being addressed at this time.
Smaller and individual taxpayers need someone to understand the conditions on the ground in the communities they’re in, according to Olson. She said she understands the IRS’s resource constraints. But, she said, it’s often the small taxpayer or the individual taxpayer “that is the most desperate for the need to establishing contact with an individual.”
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.
“I’m saying who shows up at the table? There is no employee that was assigned to that case,” she said. “There is nobody.”
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.
“Give them the choice. Empower the taxpayer,” Olson said. “You could very well get to the same place you’re trying to get to through these instructions if you presented it a different way.”
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