The Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel is expanding its Virtual Settlement Days program after the tremendous success achieved by three offices that took Settlement Days events virtual in May 2020.
Settlement Days events are coordinated efforts to resolve cases in the United States Tax Court (Tax Court) by providing taxpayers not represented by counsel the opportunity to receive free tax advice from Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs), American Bar Association (ABA) volunteer attorneys and other pro bono organizations. Taxpayers can also discuss their Tax Court cases and resolve related tax issues with members of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, the Independent Office of Appeals and Collection. By doing so, unrepresented taxpayers are often able to amicably settle their tax disputes without a trial, according to an IRS news release.
In response to office closures and social distancing requirements, the Office of Chief Counsel quickly shifted its Settlement Days event to a virtual environment. Settlement Days events have traditionally been held in-person, requiring LITC staffers, pro bono attorneys, and taxpayers to travel to a designated meeting location. Virtual Settlement Days events take advantage of WebEx audio-visual conferencing software to allow taxpayers to join events from any location, including their homes.
The Office of Chief Counsel first announced its shift to Virtual Settlement Days on May 5, 2020. (See IR-2020-87.) As part of that, Virtual Settlement Days events were held on May 9 in Detroit in conjunction with the University of Michigan Law School LITC, and on May 21 in Atlanta in conjunction with the North Georgia Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
“The response to these programs has been overwhelming, and it encouraged us to expand this initiative to help more people,” said IRS Chief Counsel Mike Desmond in the news release.
The Detroit office expanded its event to eight days. The Atlanta office expanded to two events, one in May and one in June. Between them, the Detroit and Atlanta offices resolved the cases of more than 50 taxpayers. Now, the Office of Chief Counsel is expanding Virtual Settlement Days to other offices and hosting events more frequently.
“Virtual settlement days represent a continuing effort by the IRS to deliver meaningful resolution options to taxpayers, especially during these difficult times,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in the same news release. “Virtual options represent an addition to traditional methods of communication and resolution, not a replacement. The IRS strives to assist every taxpayer, including many who do not have the ability to interact in a virtual environment. The IRS is open to innovative approaches like the virtual settlement days to help people. We welcome comments from taxpayers and others regarding additional methods by which the IRS can ease the burdens on people of our country facing tax issues.”
The Office of Chief Counsel’s Los Angeles office held its first Virtual Settlement Day on May 26, and now also has events scheduled for June 5, 9, 19 and 23, as well as July 7, 17 and 21. The Los Angeles office is working with six different LITCs to support these events. The Atlanta office also has additional events scheduled for June 16 and 17.
The Office of Chief Counsel’s Washington, D.C., office is inviting more than 60 unrepresented taxpayers to participate in its first Virtual Settlement Day on June 20, in conjunction with Catholic University Law Columbus Community Legal Services Low-Income Tax Clinic, American University Law Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic, and Morgan Lewis Center for Public Interest Tax Law and Legal Services of Northern Virginia.
“The success of Virtual Settlement Days is only possible thanks to the strong partnership between the Office of Chief Counsel, LITCs and pro bono attorneys,” Desmond said in the news release.
The Office of Chief Counsel looks forward to organizing more Virtual Settlement Days in the coming weeks. The IRS encourages unrepresented taxpayers with active Tax Court cases to contact the assigned Chief Counsel attorney or paralegal about participating in a Virtual Settlement Days event. If a taxpayer’s case is currently under consideration by the IRS Independent Office of Appeals, the taxpayer should contact the assigned Appeals Officer to discuss case resolution.