If you’ve been hit with an assessment from the IRS, for instance, as the result of an audit and you disagree with the results, you are entitled to present your case in Tax Court. However, an IRS administrative appeal may produce desirable results without the need to go to court. As a taxpayer, you are entitled to dispute the results of an IRS assessment through the administrative appeal process for any reason other than religious, moral or political, conscientious objections. The professionals at Optima Tax Relief can determine whether an administrative appeal is the right course for your situation.
IRS Administrative Appeal Categories
The IRS Appeals division operates as a separate entity from IRS offices that conduct investigations. The two types of administrative appeals available are Collections Appeal Process (CAP) or Collections Due Process (CDP) hearings. Administrative appeal hearings may be conducted by mail, telephone or in person. You may represent yourself or be represented by an accountant, attorney or individual enrolled to practice before the IRS. If your tax return was prepared by a third party who is not enrolled with the IRS, he or she may be a witness, but may not represent you.
Submitting Your Request for Administrative Review
For assessments resulting from an audit of less than $2,500, you may approach the auditor directly or submit your request through the appeals system. Protests involving assessments of less than $25,000 may be submitted as a Small Case Request. Use Form 12203 – Request for Appeals Review, available from the IRS website, or the form referenced by your assessment. You may substitute a written statement including the items to which you disagree and your reasons for disagreement. Assessments of $25,000 or more require a Formal Written Protest including all of the following items.
- Your name, address, and a daytime telephone number.
- A statement of intent to appeal the IRS findings to the Office of Appeals.
- A copy of the letter showing the proposed assessment.
- The tax period(s) or year(s) involved.
- A detailed description of each item with which you disagree.
- The reason(s) for your disagreement for each item.
- Facts supporting your position for each item.
- Any law or legal authority that supports your position on each item.
- The following penalties of perjury statement stated exactly: “Under the penalties of perjury, I declare that the facts stated in this protest and any accompanying documents are true, correct, and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief.”
- Your signature beneath the penalties of perjury statement.
If your request for appeal is prepared by your representative, he or she must substitute the declaration for penalties of perjury statement for individual taxpayers with a statement that includes each of the following elements:
- An affirmation that he or she submitted the protest and any accompanying documents, AND
- A statement of personal knowledge of stated facts in the protest and accompanying documents and a declaration that the facts are true and correct.
Collections Appeal Process
CAP generally produces faster decisions than a CDP. A CAP filed to protest a wrongful levy may be filed either before or after property has been seized, but must be filed before the property is sold. Filing a request for CAP within 30 days of the rejection or termination of an installment agreement prevents the IRS from issuing or executing a levy until the appeal has been settled. However, you cannot dispute owing additional taxes through a CAP. You are also barred from proceeding to Tax Court if you disagree with the conclusions of the CAP. You must file Form 9423 – Collection Appeal Request to initiate a CAP review. CAP can be used to address the following IRS actions:
- Prior to or after the filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien
- Prior to or after levy or seizure of property by the IRS
- Proposed or actual termination of an installment agreement
- Rejection or modification of an installment agreement
- Rejection of proposed trust fund recovery
- Denial of a trust fund recovery penalty claim
- Denial of abatement request for late payment, late filing or deposit penalties
- Rejection of an Offer in Compromise
Collection Due Process
Unlike the CAP, a CDP hearing allows you to proceed to Tax Court if you disagree with its findings. You must file Form 12153 – Request for a Collection Due Process or Equivalent Hearing, available for download from the IRS website, or a letter containing the same information as Form 12153 to request a CDP hearing. You generally have 30 days from the date you receive your assessment or audit examination report to submit your CDP appeal. After 30 days, you may request an Equivalent Hearing, but collection activities will not be suspended. You will also not be able to request a judicial review of the results of an Equivalent Hearing; you cannot appeal the results in Tax Court. You may request a CDP or Equivalent Hearing to request a review relating to any of the processes listed below:
- Collection proposals (e.g. installment agreements or Offers in Compromise)
- Lien subordination (relinquishing priority claim)
- Withdrawal of Notice of Federal Tax Lien
- Innocent Spouse defense claims
- Existence or amount of additional tax assessment ( ONLY if there was no notice of deficiency or other opportunity to dispute tax liability)
- Claim of economic or other hardship resulting from collection of tax liability
The Administrative Hearing Process
After submitting your request for administrative review, you generally have at least 60 days to prepare for the hearing. Draft a rough outline of the information you wish to include in your presentation. Categorize any other relevant information in spreadsheets or in visual displays, with separate folders for each item.
It’s wise to request a copy of the auditor’s file under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) immediately; FOIA requests can take at least a month to process. The letter should cover all relevant tax years and provide an offer to cover copying costs. Send the letter by certified mail or other traceable means.
The hearing itself will be fairly informal. You are entitled to take notes or record the hearing if you wish. Be prepared for requests for further information. If that happens, don’t hesitate to ask for more time.
If you reach a verbal settlement during the hearing, the settlement will be transcribed onto IRS Form 870 – Waiver of Restrictions on Assessment and Collection of Deficiency in Tax and Acceptance of Overassessment, which can require months to show up in the mail. Double check all the figures and do not sign the form unless you understand and agree with everything contained within it. The professionals at Optima Tax Relief can address any questions you may have regarding this process.
Likewise, do not sign the form if you’ve found other mistakes by the auditor or appeals officer. Once you sign the form, you are barred from making further appeal to the Tax Court.
It’s Worth the Effort
The administrative review process can be daunting, but the odds of winning your case are very good. Investopedia reports that according to at least one edition of the book Stand Up to the IRS, published by legal portal Nolo, claims that taxpayers who appeal their audits have their assessments reduced by an average of 40 percent. With Optima Tax Relief on your side, you have a good chance of achieving favorable results, too.