Appeals Virtual Conferences - WebEx
The IRS Office of Appeals (Appeals) is piloting the use of WebEx software to test its viability for virtual conferencing. Appeals will offer WebEx conferences to select taxpayers and/or representatives who have individual or business cases pending with Appeals. The goal of these conferences is to provide a virtual face-to-face option, improving communication between the parties and assisting in resolution of the tax matters at issue.
1. What will you need to participate in a virtual conference? You will need a computer, tablet, or other mobile device with an internet connection; video camera capabilities are preferred. You will also need WebEx software installed on your device for optimal performance, although there is an option to run a temporary application to join the meeting. If you do not have a video camera, you can still participate in a WebEx conference for audio and the visual sharing of documents.
2. What is WebEx Software? WebEx is free commercial software, made by Cisco, which provides meeting participants the ability to share computer screens, video, and audio. It has been approved for use by the IRS, for purposes of visually sharing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) information. Using this service allows all parties to participate in an interactive conference to discuss all the facts and/or legal positions. For an overview of WebEx, please view this YouTube video.
3. Who is eligible for a virtual conference? Not all cases before Appeals will be included in the WebEx pilot, as only certain Appeals Officers (AOs) who volunteer for the pilot will be involved. These AOs will provide you the option of conducting a WebEx conference in their initial contact with you. You will need to meet the equipment and software requirements as stated in paragraph 1. Appeals will not conduct a WebEx conference unless you agree to it.
4. How do I get and install WebEx software? When you agree to a WebEx conference, the AO will email you a link to attend the conference. This email will include information on obtaining and installing the WebEx software, and information on how to optimize the audio portion of the conference.
5. Is the WebEx virtual conference secure? Yes. The WebEx conference is hosted on an internal IRS WebEx server and has the same level of security and privacy as a telephone call. Appeals will not record WebEx meetings and, although documents can be shared onscreen no actual file transfer will take place.
6. What are the benefits of the initiative? A WebEx conference (1) provides a virtual face-to-face opportunity to meet, ensuring engagement and facilitating communication, (2) reduces the time an effort associated with taxpayer travel to an Appeals office, and (3) allows visual presentation of information in real time.
7. Are there any limitations with having a WebEx conference? As with many such applications, technical difficulties may arise. Audio and video efficiency may be affected by internet connectivity, bandwidth, and the equipment and operating systems being used by each party to the conference. While it is the desire of Appeals to have each WebEx conference run smoothly, we recognize that technical difficulties may impact the success of each meeting. It is for this reason that Appeals is conducting the pilot: to determine the viability of using WebEx technology for virtual conferences, to identify limitations, and to overcome them in future efforts.
8. How will WebEx be used in conferences? WebEx has many features, but Appeals is not piloting all of them. The Appeals pilot will use the videoconference, document viewing, and chat features of WebEx. Appeals is not using the WebEx features for recording a conference or for the electronic transfer of files.