The Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel today announced the Settlement Days program will continue remotely enabling unrepresented taxpayers to work towards resolving their pending United States Tax Court case despite “stay-at-home” orders in many jurisdictions. The first two events are for docketed cases with place of trial in Detroit or Atlanta. Future events may be scheduled in other cities throughout the United States.
Virtual Settlement Days is a coordinated effort to resolve Tax Court cases by giving taxpayers not represented by counsel the opportunity to receive free tax advice and possible representation from Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) or other pro bono organizations. Taxpayers can discuss their Tax Court case and federal tax issues with members of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Appeals and Collections. The program is geared to help unrepresented taxpayers receive free assistance in discussing a potential fair settlement of their tax disputes in an informal setting without the need for further litigation or a trial in Tax Court. The vast majority of taxpayers participating in previous Settlement Days programs have resolved their cases; most of those who ended up with a liability have been able to enter into an installment payment arrangement.
The Tax Court canceled scheduled trial sessions in a series of Orders issued on March 11, 13 and 23, 2020. The Tax Court Orders state that it is expected that parties will continue to work together to exchange information and address pending issues. The Settlement Days events accomplish the Tax Court’s goals by allowing the parties to work towards settling case on a remote basis.
Chief Counsel has scheduled Virtual Settlement Days events for May 2020 for cases docketed on the Detroit and Atlanta Tax Court trial sessions. Chief Counsel has invited more than 100 unrepresented taxpayers to meet with Chief Counsel attorneys or paralegals via WebEx for the two events. The taxpayers will be able to speak with LITC representatives prior to the WebEx meetings. If the taxpayer desires, the LITC representatives will later join the WebEx meetings.
The Detroit Office of Chief Counsel will host its event on Saturday, May 9, in conjunction with the University of Michigan Law School LITC for the Detroit trial session cases. The IRS has invited over 100 Tax Court petitioners. The cases being selected are from recently canceled Tax Court calendars, as well as other docketed cases not yet set for trial. The event may be extended, if needed, to meet taxpayer’s needs.
The Atlanta Office of Chief Counsel will host the second event on Thursday, May 21, in conjunction with the North Georgia Low Income Taxpayer Clinic for the cancelled Atlanta trial session cases and other docketed cases. The event may extend over several days to accommodate the schedules of the participants. The IRS will focus on inviting unrepresented taxpayers whose cases sessions have been delayed due to Tax Court cancellations.
While docket taxpayers with cases currently under consideration by the IRS Independent Office of Appeals have not been sent invitations to the Detroit and Atlanta events, the IRS encourages those petitioners to contact the Appeals Officer assigned to their case to discuss resolution. Appeals continues to work cases, including use of virtual conferences. For unrepresented taxpayers who are working with an Appeals Officer and receive an invitation to the event, the IRS will work with them at the event to resolve all their issues.
In addition, IRS Chief Counsel recently prepared a Virtual Settlement Days Best Practice Guide for external use that will be released in advance of the Virtual Settlement Days events. Chief Counsel anticipates that Virtual Settlement Days will be a mainstay of its Settlement Day efforts even after this crisis is over. Chief Counsel released an initial Settlement Days Best Practices Guide in January 2020, which outlined a remote model for the program.