Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service modified the existing rules on permissible communications between the Office of Appeals and other parts of the IRS.

The rules for IRS appeals have been updated because the IRS has made several alternations to some of its business practices and has adopted new ones since the existing rules were implemented back in October 2000. These new rules address ex parte communications-communications between the Office of Appeals and other parts of the IRS-which take place without the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s representative.

These rules also enforce a provision in the IRS Restricting and Reform Act of 1998, which aims at ensuring that the Office of Appeals continues to be independent of the IRS’ compliance functions, all the while simultaneously remaining a part of the IRS and a flexible vehicle for settling audits and collection-related disputes between a taxpayer and the IRS.

The primary mission of the Appeals Office is to “impartially resolve tax disputes, without litigation, in a way that is fair to both the taxpayer and the government,” said Chris Wagner, IRS Chief, Appeals. The changes to the ex parte communications will allow Appeals to better do so.

One key change from the 2000 version of rules is that the Office of Appeals will no longer participate on issue management teams (IMT), but can still be briefed by IMT’s if the discussion remains generic and not specific to any particular case.

Also, in the event that there is a breach of the ex parte communication rules, the Appeals employees will now have to ask the affected taxpayer, or their representative, for input on an appropriate remedy – which will then be determined by a senior management official.