Appeals mediation — Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Mediation—also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)—can help you if you have an unresolved issue with the IRS or disagree with an IRS decision or action. It’s informal, confidential and voluntary.

An appeals officer who is trained in mediation techniques works with you and with the IRS employee assigned to your case. Mediators fulfill their role of helping the parties reach an agreement by:

  • Facilitating communication between you and the IRS,
  • Helping identify core issues or barriers to settlement,
  • Helping identify possible settlement terms,
  • Providing perspective and encouragement, and
  • Ensuring a level playing field and mutual respect during the mediation session.

Mediation is:

  • Voluntary to both parties,
  • Nonbinding, meaning each party retains 100% control over whether or not to settle the case. No one, including the mediator, can force either party to do something they don’t agree to do,
  • Effective when both parties have a desire to resolve the disputed issue,
  • Appropriate when all issues are fully resolved except the issue for which mediation is requested, and
  • A chance to avoid a lengthy appeal process or costly litigation.

Mediation isn’t:

  • Required by either party in any instance,
  • A replacement for the audit or collection process,
  • A process in which the parties in the dispute offer arguments directly to the mediator hoping to “win,”
  • Effective if either party believes the only way the dispute will get resolved is if the other party concedes or gives up on its position,
  • A time to present new information or raise new issues or
  • A chance to try and get a better deal or buy more time before IRS closes its case.

Mediation may be right for you if:

  • You want to resolve the dispute at the earliest stage of your audit as possible,
  • You don’t have many disputed issues,
  • You gave the IRS information to support your position, and
  • The IRS is still considering your case and your issues are unresolved.

Mediation works best if you’ve prepared yourself for success. Find out what you can expect from Appeals.

Where you go for mediation depends on who is currently managing your case.

I had an audit or collection activity, and have already worked with my appeals officer; I still have unresolved issues.

I had an audit and I'm a large business, a business/individual with international interests or have an estate/gift tax issue; I want to work quickly with my appeals officer.

  • Taxpayers with such issues may be able to elect mediation at the start of their appeal. Ask your appeals officer if you’re eligible for the Rapid Appeals Process. This voluntary process allows Appeals to convert the pre-conference meeting between you and the IRS examiners into a mediation session where Appeals helps the parties resolve unagreed issues. If mediation is unsuccessful, Appeals will use the traditional Appeals process to negotiate a settlement with you.

To determine which IRS person is assigned to your case, look at the person’s title and the key terms in the letter(s) you received.

  • Your contact is an IRS examiner if their title is revenue agent or tax compliance officer and key terms found in the letter include examination, unreported income, proposed adjustment or explanation of changes.
  • Your contact is an IRS collection officer if their title is revenue officer and key terms found in the letter include unpaid tax, balance due, seize, levy, lien or collection.
  • Your contact is with the IRS Independent Office of Appeals if their title is appeals officer or settlement officer and key terms found in the letter include hearing, conference, determination or sustain.

If the letter(s) you received has no individual IRS person’s name listed as the person to contact in the upper right portion of the first page of the letter, then mediation is not an option and you should follow the instructions in the letter.

If you need clarification on the above items, direct your questions to the person assigned to your case.