The IRS Office of Appeals is a division separate and apart from the Examination Division that provides taxpayers an opportunity to attempt to settle their tax or collection cases. This office was established in 1927 and its an informal administrative forum that settles tax disputes without trial. It is supposed to be fair and impartial and independent from the examination division. According to the IRS the mission of IRS Appeals is: “to resolve tax controversies, without litigation, on a basis which is fair and impartial to both the Government and the taxpayer in a manner that will enhance voluntary compliance and public confidence in the integrity and efficiency of the Service.”
Tax controversies can involve proposed tax assessments, tax collection, or other IRS actions. Once the IRS issues a final notice, taxpayers can generally seek a remedy from the courts. However, the Appeals process is less formal and less costly than court proceedings and is not subject to judicial rules of evidence or procedure. Historically, Appeals has been able to settle the majority of the cases that come within its jurisdiction. In addition, taxpayers do not give up judicial review by coming to Appeals.
Although its still part of the IRS, independence is the most important of Appeals’ core values. Independence from IRS compliance functions is critical for Appeals to accomplish its mission. To resolve disputes effectively, Appeals must show itself to be objective, impartial, and neutral in fact as well as appearance. If taxpayers perceive they will not get a fair hearing in Appeals, more tax controversies would be litigated in Tax Court, which would increase the cost and burden to both the taxpayer and the Federal Government.
The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 directed the IRS Commissioner to develop and implement a plan to reorganize the IRS by establishing organizational units serving particular groups of taxpayers with similar needs. It also specified that the reorganization plan should ensure an independent Appeals function within the IRS, including a prohibition of “ex parte” communications between Appeals officers and other IRS employees to the extent that such communications appear to compromise the independence of Appeals officers. There are instances when Appeals communicates “ex parte” with other divisions of the IRS, thus it is extremely important to call them out on it.
In 2016 , Appeals implemented several policy and procedural changes to re-emphasize the importance of independence. For additional information on those changes, please refer to the Fact Sheet – IRS Clarifies Office of Appeals Policies.