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Virtual Settlement Days Will Continue, IRS Says

Posted on May 6, 2020

The IRS confirmed that it plans to keep its settlement day program alive during the stay-at-home orders restricting business activity during the coronavirus outbreak.

A May 5 announcement confirms an IRS official’s recent statements that the agency will apply its virtual conferencing capabilities to help unrepresented Tax Court petitioners, starting with two virtual settlement days this month.

As previously announced, the first two sessions will be held in Detroit and Atlanta. “Future events may be scheduled in other cities throughout the United States,” according to the announcement.

Settlement days are generally organized ahead of Tax Court calendar calls to give pro se petitioners access to free legal advice and the chance to resolve their tax disputes. Perhaps more importantly, the events — sometimes called pro bono days, settlement conference days, or other variations — allow the petitioners to discuss their cases with the IRS in an environment more conducive to tax advice than a courthouse hallway.

The IRS announcement notes how the Tax Court, when canceling its trial sessions until July, admonished litigants to continue cooperating in the meantime. “The Settlement Days events accomplish the Tax Court’s goals by allowing the parties to work towards settling case on a remote basis,” it says.

According to the IRS, the settlement day meetings will be held using WebEx software. Petitioners will have a chance to speak with volunteer or low-income taxpayer clinic representation before talking to IRS attorneys and paralegals and can have the meeting include all those groups.

Both settlement day sessions will include cases from canceled trial sessions as well as other docketed but unscheduled cases. Each of the first two events isn’t limited to a single day as in-person settlement days usually are.

Finally, the announcement notes that while taxpayers with docketed cases currently under consideration by the IRS Office of Appeals weren’t invited to the first two virtual settlement days, virtual conferences are available as a means to advance those cases as well.

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