The Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Appeals plans to test a web-based videoconferencing option for taxpayers and their representatives to hold virtual face-to-meetings with IRS appeals officers without going to the IRS’s offices.

The IRS anticipates the new virtual conference option will be attractive to taxpayers who live far away from an IRS Appeals office. Every year, the Office of Appeals listens to appeals from more than 100,000 taxpayers trying to settle their tax disputes without heading to court. Taxpayers who are involved in the appeals process can already meet with an Appeals Officer by phone, in person or virtually through videoconference technology, but the videoconferences are available only at a limited number of IRS offices and not just over the web.

The new pilot program will rely on a secure, web-based screen-sharing system to connect taxpayers with IRS appeals employees face-to-face from wherever internet access is available. As with screen-sharing programs used on phones and home computers, such as Facetime and Skype, the technology enables the IRS to provide better access, flexibility and convenience to taxpayers. The web-based system also offers more features than the IRS’s existing video-conferencing technology.

“Taxpayers who choose the web-based option will be able to get face-to-face service remotely,” said IRS Chief of Appeals Donna Hansberry in a statement. “In the future, the technology may give taxpayers greater options in engaging with Appeals and could allow us the flexibility to serve taxpayers virtually from any location using mobile devices or computers. We hope this is one more option to enable IRS employees to provide timely, efficient and effective service to taxpayers.”

The IRS Appeals office plans to start the pilot August 1. It plans to assess the results, including taxpayer satisfaction with the technology.

The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum is one of the main 10 rights guaranteed to taxpayers under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Others include the right to quality service, the right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax, the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard and the right to retain representation. For the complete list, see Your Rights as a Taxpayer.

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