IRS Chief of Appeals Mum About ‘Elephant in Room’

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By Leslie A. Pappas

Oct. 17 — The head of IRS Appeals declined to comment on news reports that the agency might take settlement authority away from 35 Appeals team case leaders (ATCLs).

“Decisions will be made in due course,” Kirsten B. Wielobob, chief of Appeals at the Internal Revenue Service, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 17, offering no timeline. She made the comment after the topic came up at a panel discussion during Tax Executives Institute Inc.'s annual conference in Philadelphia.

Bloomberg BNA reported Oct. 5 that IRS Appeals is considering a change in procedure for resolving large-dollar, complex cases by consolidating settlement authority in the hands of a half-dozen managers across the country. According to attorneys, IRS Appeals officers have said recently that the agency plans to shift settlement authority from 35 ATCLs to their managers, a move that some say would weaken the appeals process.

Wielobob, participating in a panel discussion on the appeals process, remained silent on the topic when fellow panelist and former Chief of Appeals Sheldon Kay, now a principal at Crowe Horwath LLP in Washington, brought it up as “the elephant in the room.”

‘Nothing Has Happened Yet.’

In recent reports, some practitioners said they fear a change could create a bottleneck that will slow down decision-making.

Kay said he wanted to “clarify” some of what has come out in press reports. “There really hasn’t been any decision by Appeals as to whether or not” the process will change, Kay said, “Nothing has happened yet.”

Appeals is still in the process of hearing from practitioners and others, Kay said. “These are the kind of cases that are the most complex, factually and legally,” he said. “My view is that it’s always beneficial to have the decision maker in the room when you’re going through such factually and legally complicated and complex issues.”

It is in everyone’s interest to preserve an independent Appeals organization that functions in a credible way, said panelist Michael P. Dolan, national director of IRS policies and dispute resolution with the Washington national tax practice at KPMG LLP.

“At the end of the day, all of us at this table want to see an Appeals organization that remains as viable and as poignant as it’s been historically,” Dolan said.

“The trend around the world is not to find ways to administratively resolve disputes. The trend around the world,” Dolan said, sloping his hand steeply upwards, “is like this with respect to tax litigation.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Leslie A. Pappas in Philadelphia at LPappas@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

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