Effective October 1, 2016, the IRS had revised the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) instructing appeals officers that most appeals conferences will be held by telephone instead of in person. However, Andrew Keyso Jr., acting deputy chief of IRS appeals, stated recently that the IRS Office of Appeals will issue guidance to employees in the coming weeks announcing that appeals will return to in-person appeals conferences in field cases.
IRM Section 18.104.22.168.1 was revised in 2016 and instructs appeals officers that all conferences are to be held by telephone unless the taxpayer requests a face-to-face meeting in a case which meets certain criteria. The ultimate decision to permit an in-person appeals conference was left to the appeals team manager, who was required to consider the following facts and circumstances in making the decision to hold in-person conferences:
- There are substantial books and records to review that cannot be easily referenced with page numbers or indices;
- The appeals employee cannot judge the credibility of the taxpayer’s oral testimony without an in-person conference;
- The taxpayer has a special need (e.g., disability, hearing impairment) that can only be accommodated with an in-person conference;
- There are numerous conference participants (e.g., witnesses) that create a risk of an unauthorized disclosure or breach of confidentiality;
- An alternative conference procedure (e.g., post appeals mediation or rapid appeals process) involving separate caucuses will be used; and
- Another IRS section specific to the workstream calls for an in-person conference.
If the case did not meet any of these criteria for a face-to-face meeting, the appeals officer was instructed to offer the taxpayer or representative a virtual conference as an alternative. The recent announcement by Keyso would revert back to IRS appeals’ prior rules which permitted in-person appeals conferences and eliminate the facts-and-circumstances approach.