IRS Seek Input on Enhancing Video Conference Options for Taxpayers and Tax Professionals
The IRS Independent Office of Appeals invites public input on best practices for conducting video conferences with taxpayers and tax professionals who have cases pending before Appeals.
Appeals' mission is to resolve federal tax disputes without litigation in a way that's fair and impartial to taxpayers and the government. If a case qualifies for an appeal, the office will review the issues with a fresh, objective perspective and schedule a conference with the taxpayer or their representative.
Appeals offers conferences by telephone, video or in person, and can also resolve a taxpayer's dispute through correspondence. Generally, it's the taxpayer's or representative's choice how they meet with Appeals. The type of conference chosen doesn't impact Appeals' decision; employees can successfully resolve taxpayer disputes with the IRS using each type of conference.
To meet taxpayer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Appeals expanded access to video conferences. A video conference allows taxpayers to be both seen and heard, and to visually share documents without going to an Appeals office. During the pandemic, Appeals received positive feedback from taxpayers and tax professionals about the availability and utility of video conferences.
Video conferences will remain an option in Appeals. With the return of IRS employees to the office this summer, Appeals is pleased to resume in-person conferences along with virtual options to accommodate taxpayers' preferred choice of conference.
Public input sought for permanent video conference guidance
In March 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Appeals issued interim guidance requiring employees to conduct video conferences when requested by taxpayers or their representatives. The guidance describes in detail the employee responsibilities for scheduling and conducting the video conference, procedures for verifying authorized participants and necessary technology prerequisites.
The guidance also includes basic recommendations for establishing a professional meeting environment, such as reducing extraneous background distractions, muting audio when not speaking to avoid interruptions and ensuring Appeals employees' names are displayed for taxpayers.
As Appeals prepares to update the Internal Revenue Manual with permanent guidelines for conducting video conferences and updates to the video conferencing platform technology (Microsoft Teams), they welcome input from taxpayers and tax professionals on how video conference technology can best be used in a taxpayer's Appeals hearing. Appeals has already heard some common themes from taxpayers and tax professionals:
- When managed effectively, video conferences can often provide a better taxpayer experience than a telephone conference. Some taxpayers feel they're better able to present their case.
- The role of the Appeals employee leading the conference is critical. That employee should ensure every participant is introduced and participants turn on their cameras.
- Video conferences that allow for screen sharing of documents can lead to a more comprehensive discussion of the issues and, potentially, earlier resolution for the taxpayer.
- Taxpayers for whom video conferencing technology is a challenge should not be disadvantaged by their inability to participate in an Appeals conference by video. Appeals should endeavor to keep technical requirements for video conferences to a minimum and ensure other channels for conducting an Appeals conference (such as in person or by telephone) remain available for these taxpayers.
Appeals welcomes comments on all aspects of video conferencing to help inform IRS policies for conducting video conferences with taxpayers into the future. Public comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.