The IRS Independent Office of Appeals (Appeals) interacts with taxpayers and their representatives through correspondence, telephone and personal conferences, either in person or virtually. During a pilot Appeals conducted using Webex software for virtual conferencing, we found that most taxpayers who participated in Webex conferences indicated they would prefer Webex over traditional phone calls for future conferences with Appeals. As a result, Appeals expanded the availability of Webex for conferences in cases pending with Appeals. Under this expansion, Appeals Officers (AOs) who volunteer to use Webex may choose to offer Webex conferences to 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 opportunity, improving communication between the parties and assisting in resolution of the tax matters at issue. 1. Why is Appeals offering Webex conferences? Appeals' objective in offering Webex conferences is to provide taxpayers and their representatives an additional conference option. Conferences are intended to provide taxpayers the opportunity to be heard and present their position to Appeals, allowing Appeals to resolve tax controversies, without litigation, on a basis which is fair and impartial to both the taxpayer and the government. Some taxpayers may feel they can best present their position to Appeals through an in-person conference at an Appeals office. Others may prefer the telephone. A Webex videoconference allows taxpayers to be both seen and heard, and to visually share documents, without coming to an Appeals office. While taxpayers who are geographically remote from an IRS office might find Webex a useful and more economical alternative to traveling for an in-person conference, even taxpayers who aren't geographically remote may prefer the convenience of Webex. 2. Will Webex replace in-person conferences? No. Webex won't replace in-person conferences in Appeals. Appeals' aim is to provide taxpayers and their representatives the ability to have their cases heard. Appeals will continue to interact with taxpayers and their representatives through correspondence, telephone conferences and in-person conferences, when requested. Webex is simply an additional conference option, not a replacement for in-person conferences. 3. What will I need to participate in a virtual conference? You’ll need a computer, tablet, or other mobile device with a high-speed internet connection; video camera capabilities are preferred. You’ll 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 don’t have a video camera, you can still participate in a WebEx conference for audio and the visual sharing of documents and you’ll be able to see other participants who use their cameras, but they won’t be able to see you. 4. What is Webex software? Webex is free commercial software, made by Cisco, which provides meeting participants the ability to interact through audio, video and the visual sharing of documents. It's been approved for use by the IRS for purposes of visually sharing information. Using this service allows all parties to participate in an interactive conference to discuss the facts and/or legal positions of a case. For an overview of Webex, you may wish to view this YouTube video. 5. Who is eligible for a virtual conference? Not all cases before Appeals will be offered a Webex conference, as only certain Appeals Officers (AOs) who volunteer to use Webex 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 3 above. Appeals will not conduct a Webex conference unless you agree to it. If you desire a Webex conference but the AO assigned to your case does not use Webex, you will have to conduct your conference using more traditional means; your case will not be transferred to an AO who uses Webex. 6. Why won't all Appeals employees offer Webex? Webex is new technology to Appeals. Because it's new, Appeals employees can incorporate it as an additional conference option on a voluntary basis. We aren't currently requiring Appeals employees to use Webex and we're not requiring taxpayers to use it. 7. How do I get and install Webex software? You can test your system's compatibility with Webex by visiting the Cisco site. If you choose, you can also download the Webex software from this site. When you agree to a Webex conference, the AO will email you a link to attend the conference. This email will include information on how to join the conference and optimize the audio portion. 8. I didn't think the IRS sent emails. How is this allowed? Internal Revenue Manual 10.5.1.6.8.1, Emails to Taxpayers and Representatives, provides that when a taxpayer requests email contact and accepts the risk, the IRS may send an email with a brief, unencrypted message confirming the date, time or location of an upcoming appointment. However, we aren't permitted to include information about the nature of the appointment or send any follow-up email discussing your account or case. 9. 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 won't record Webex meetings and, although documents can be visually shared onscreen, no actual file transfer will take place. 10. Can I join a Webex conference from public location? While you can participate in a Webex conference from a public location with internet access (library, coffee shop, etc.), it's not advised as you may be exposing your private information to others. If you choose to use a public location, you are responsible for ensuring the privacy of the conference and the AO may terminate the conference if he or she has concerns about the potential for disclosure. 11. What are the benefits of Webex? A Webex conference: provides a virtual face-to-face opportunity to meet, ensuring engagement and facilitating communication, reduces the time and effort associated with taxpayer travel to an Appeals office, and allows visual presentation of information in real time. 12. If I visually share an application, what do the other participants see? The other participants in the Webex conference only see the application you select to share. They can't see your desktop, other pop-up menus or folders that may display on your screen while you are choosing the application to share. As you participate in the Webex conference, you should only have the file(s) in the application that you wish to share open on your computer, to avoid any inadvertent display of information you don't want to share. 13. Are there any limitations with Webex conferences? 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. High-speed cable connections work better than DSL and hard-wired modem connections are recommended over wireless connections. While it's Appeals' desire that each Webex conference run smoothly, we recognize that technical difficulties may impact the success of each meeting. In the event your Webex conference encounters such difficulties, the AO will conference with you using more traditional means. 14. How will Webex be used in conferences? Webex has many features, but Appeals isn't using all of them. Appeals will use the videoconference, document viewing, and chat features of Webex. Appeals isn't using the Webex features for recording a conference or for the electronic transfer of files.