Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why Is IRS Appeals So Busy?

Sheldon Kay, deputy chief of IRS Appeals, stated during a February webcast that the case inventory for IRS Appeals reached 148, 000 for fiscal 2011. This is the highest it has ever been. To be fair, Appeals case closures were also at a record level, but not enough to gain ground.
A tax CPA working representation will be quite familiar with Appeals. The normal process is that a taxpayer is selected for examination, i.e. the “audit.” The audit can be through the mail, which is called a correspondence audit. The audit can be at the IRS offices, in which case you go to them. A third type is when they come to you, also called the “field” audit. You are working with a revenue agent. If you disagree you can appeal the agent’s adjustments to the agent’s supervisor, also called the “group manager.”
If you have no settlement there, you are bound for Appeals.
The cases in Appeals fall into two types: collection and exam. What we described above is exam. A collections case has normally gone through exam, and now the IRS is pressing for money. Congress gave taxpayers more protection from IRS collections in 1998 with the IRS Reform and Restructuring Act. Collections have now become half or more of the cases in Appeals.
Back to Sheldon Kay. He explained that the situation has been aggravated by IRS budget constraints. We have seen that here in Cincinnati, as the Appeals office is becoming a ghost town. It is not just the budget, though. Some long-term IRS careerists have also been retiring, reflecting incentives to retire as well as the demographic march of the Baby Boom generation.
There is also another reason. Practitioners comment among themselves that exam is experiencing a brain drain. I agree that a new hire cannot replace the experience and judgment of a career examiner. In the past, the group manager provided some continuity and savvy, but today it is possible that group manager has been there only slightly longer than the examiner.  The “system” is – too often – just not working.
Whether responding to examination or collection frustrations, practitioners are taking their clients to Appeals. The frustration may be because of IRS budgetary constraints, inexperienced personnel, excessive automated collection practices, unrealistic Congressional demands or other reasons. Practitioners are seeking the more experienced personnel available in Appeals.

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