In May of 2019, Mr. Andrew Keyso, a deputy chief of the IRS Office of Appeals, stated that the Appeals Office is in the early stages of rolling out the technology to conduct video conferences as an option for Appeals conferences. This is great news for tax practitioners – an IRS Appeals video conference is a very convenient option for doing business with the IRS.
IRS Appeals Video Conference: WebEx Platform and Early Testing
The IRS Appeals video conference option will be based on WebEx video conferencing software developed by Cisco. It is secure and convenient, but some training is necessary to use it efficiently.
The IRS has already successfully tested WebEx software for appeals video conferences in early 2018. In October of 2018, IRS made the software more broadly available to its employees so that they can offer video conferences.
IRS Appeals Video Conference: IRS Wants Employees to Use It More
Unfortunately, not all IRS employees at the Appeals Office offer video conferences. Neither do many taxpayers seek them (undoubtedly due to lack of knowledge about them). Those who do so, however, find this option very attractive.
The IRS definitely wants its employees to use the IRS Appeals video conference option more. Speaking at the American Bar Association Section of Taxation conference in May of 2019, Diane Ogawa, an IRS appeals officer in Honolulu, stated: “We are trying to get more appeals officers training and on board with WebEx”. Sherayzen Law Office believes that, as more Appeals employees, taxpayers and tax practitioners become familiar with WebEx, the usage of the IRS Appeals video conference option should greatly increase.
IRS Appeals Video Conference: Positive Reaction from Tax Lawyers
The tax lawyers are generally in favor of using the IRS Appeals video conference option. They find it a convenient and effective way to conduct a hearing conference. There is also an additional benefit of reduced costs: there is no need to waste time and money on traveling to the IRS office.
IRS Appeals Video Conference: Potential Problems
This option, however, is not without potential problems. Besides the potential technical issues, the biggest problem is privacy. An unrepresented taxpayer may try to hold a video conference in a public place (like Starbucks) and the IRS will simply not agree to it. A represented taxpayer will not likely run into this problem, because his representative should know about these privacy issues.
The bigger privacy concern, though, comes from tax lawyers. They need to make sure that the prying eye of WebEx technology does not catch the other clients’ files, names and so on in the background of the WebEx video. Lawyers should strive to protect the attorney-client privileged information to the maximum extent possible.
Sherayzen Law Office Supports the IRS Video Conference Option and Hopes the IRS Expands It to Audit Interviews
As an international tax law firm, Sherayzen Law Office has clients throughout the United States and, indeed, the world. Flying to a meeting with an IRS agent is sometimes inconvenient for both, the taxpayer and the attorney; it is also expensive. Video conferencing is a perfect solution to this issue, and Sherayzen Law Office fully supports the current IRS video conferencing efforts.
Moreover, we encourage the IRS to apply video conferencing to other areas, such as IRS audit meetings.