If a taxpayer disagrees with an IRS decision, they may be able to avoid the time and expense of a court trial by asking the IRS Independent Office of Appeals to review their case. This office is separate from the rest of the IRS. When Appeals officers review cases submitted by taxpayers, they meet with taxpayers informally and consider their position and the IRS's position in a fair and unbiased manner.
Overview of the appeals process
Here's what taxpayers need to know if they want to appeal their case:
1. To submit an appeal request, taxpayers mail their request in writing to the office that sent them the letter with their appeal rights. For information on filing a formal written protest or a Small Case Request, taxpayers should review Publication 5, Your Appeal Rights and How To Prepare a Protest If You Disagree. The IRS function that receives the request will consider the taxpayer's protest and attempt to resolve the disputed tax issues. If that office can't resolve the taxpayer's issues, they will forward the case to Appeals for consideration.
2. Once the request is with Appeals, the Appeals officer contacts the taxpayer within 45 days by mail to schedule an informal conference to review the taxpayer's situation. Appeals conducts conferences by phone, in person and by video. Taxpayers may choose which type of conference they prefer.
3. At the conference, the Appeals officer discusses with the taxpayer the law as it applies to the facts of the case, including court rulings on similar cases.
4. If a taxpayer hasn't heard about their appeal and it's been more than 120 days since they filed their request, taxpayers can ask for a status update by contacting the IRS exam or collection office they worked with last.
5. If the taxpayer sends new information or documents to Appeals, the Appeals officer may need to send the case back to the original IRS function to review the new information. Appeals will not raise new issues or reopen issues agreed to by the taxpayer or the IRS except in cases of potential fraud or malfeasance.
6. Appeals officers review the facts, the law, the taxpayer's comments, and information presented by the taxpayer and IRS exam or collection office before they make a final decision. They will also explain to the taxpayer the reasons for the decision and their options. Generally, there are three outcomes of an appeal:
- In the IRS' favor: If the facts and laws support the government's position, the Appeals officer recommends that the taxpayer concede and give up the issue.
- In the taxpayer's favor: If the law and facts support the taxpayer's position or courts have ruled in favor of taxpayers in similar cases, the Appeals officer recommends that the IRS concede and give up the issue.
- Compromise: The Appeals officer may recommend a compromise when the facts or laws are unclear, or the courts have made different rulings on similar cases. In this situation, Appeals may recommend a settlement where the taxpayer pays a percentage of the tax due.
Interest continues to add up on any unpaid balance a taxpayer owes as Appeals reviews a case.