New IRS Commissioner, Charles Rettig

Earlier this month the Senate confirmed Charles P. Rettig as the 49th Commissioner of the IRS. Rettig was managing principal of the Beverly Hills law firm, Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez, a firm specializing in high profile tax controversy cases. The biggest challenges he’ll face as commissioner are the same ones that have existed for years, namely improving the effectiveness of an agency that doesn’t get the funding it really wants or needs, improving public perception & confidence, and now implementing a whole host of new tax laws. Rettig has spent basically his entire career with the same law firm and his peers definitely think highly of him.

With each new commissioner, the question that always comes to mind for me is, will he be sympathetic to the common taxpayer? I am definitely encouraged by the fact that he has real hands-on experience representing taxpayers seeking tax relief and going up against the agency that he now runs. Also, he’s a California attorney, so he is intimately familiar with the unique struggles of local people like our own clients. I’m sure many of his clients are from the Los Angeles area, but there’s no reason to think he has not also assisted taxpayers in Northern California towns like Sacramento, Modesto, or Fresno. The commissioner is usually someone with vast amounts of experience in administration, but limited knowledge of taxes. However, Rettig is well versed in all aspects of tax controversy, including (according to the practice areas listed on his firm’s website) audits, appeals, offshore accounts, penalty abatement – surely almost anything related to IRS collections. We don’t know if Rettig will be that champion of taxpayer rights that we always hope for; he actually seems middle-of-the-road politically. But he at least knows the point of view of the taxpayer and knows from experience what it means to go face-to-face with the IRS. In my book, that’s a fantastic start.

IRS Appeals & Alternative Dispute Resolution

If you have an IRS tax debt and are unable to achieve a satisfactory resolution with the office originally assigned to handle your matter, you may need to call on the IRS Appeals Office to take a second look.  Last time I wrote about the procedures and steps leading up to Appeals.  Today I will discuss some of the options available to taxpayers already in Appeals.

Once the controversy has advanced to the stage of appeals the IRS offers a variety of “alternative dispute resolution” options designed to keep the matter out of court.

The mission of Appeals is to resolve tax controversies, without litigation, on a basis that is fair and impartial to both the Government and the taxpayer, and in a manner that will enhance voluntary compliance and public confidence in the integrity and efficiency of the Service.

~ IRS Pub 4167

Fast Track Mediation (FTM)

  • Intended for Small Business/Self Employed taxpayers
  • Case remains in SB/SE
  • Parties must agree to FTM using Form 13369
  • Taxpayer meets with IRS representative and third party Appeals personnel
  • Solution normally reached within 40 days
  • Solution is not binding (i.e., parties are not obligated to accept the outcome)
  • Automated Collection Service (ACS) cases excluded

Fast Track Settlement (FTS)

  • Available to most other taxpayers (not just SB/SE)
  • Must complete application, Form 14017
  • Decision normally reached with 60-120 days
  • Taxpayer may withdraw at any time and retains all traditional appeal rights

Arbitration

  • For factual issues only (no legal issues)
  • Outcome is binding
  • Most collection issues excluded