An IRS Appeal gives you a second chance to present information that you presented in your audit to a more experienced Appeals officer. The auditor looked at your information in a very rigid manner without considering any risk of litigation. This is not the case at Appeals. The Appeals Officer will review your positions and evidence while assessing the risk that the IRS has litigating your case.
Organization is a Key Element to Success in an Appeal
The more organized you are for your Appeal the better chance you have for success. You need to show the Appeals officer from the start that you are organized, prepared for litigation if necessary, and are on top of the facts. Remember, the Appeals officer is considering the hazards of litigation as they review your case; something your auditor was not allowed to do. If you are organized the scale begins to tip in your favor. The Appeals officer is considering how your presentation will look in court. An organized presentation is always more impressive in court.
Evaluate Whether you Need Professional Assistance
As you move up the IRS ladder you will face more experienced professionals from the IRS. This puts the lay taxpayer at a disadvantage. Appeals officers know the tax law and have typically testified in the Tax Court and are constantly working with IRS attorneys. They know the game and if you don't you are at a serious disadvantage. Remember, they are evaluating the hazards of litigation with your case. If you are representing yourself the scale tips substantially in favor of the IRS. Consider hiring a professional to represent you in the Appeal to level the playing field with the IRS and tip the scale back in your favor.
Present your Information
On the day of your Appeal be ready to present your information in the same organized fashion as you used to organize the data. The Appeals meeting is an informal setting. Always present the information in person, rather than over the phone. It is just too easy to say no on the phone. There is no need to over dress. Business casual is usually the order of the day. Be candid with the Appeals officer. Always have a few positions to concede if you have a few weak positions. Do not start off with these concessions. Start off with your strongest positions to start the ball rolling in your favor, then concede a few weak positions and then finish strong. Give the Appeals officer a reason to rule in your favor on questionable issues.
The Appeals Officer will Issue a Revised Report
After your meeting concludes, the Appeals officer may not have made any final decisions, but will contact you shortly after the meeting with a revised written report of the proposed adjustments. If you are not satisfied with the results you will have an opportunity to discuss these issues with the Appeals officer and attempt to get further modifications. Again, if you have to do this be organized, logical, and emphasis the law and why you believe your position is correct and you will be likely to prevail in court. If you just cannot agree on an issue, you can settle your case and leave specific issues open for argument in the Tax Court. However, it is usually best to settle the item with the Appeals officer even if you only receive a partial concession.