Tax Resolution Hot Sheet™ #4: Appeals – Digital Signatures, Digital Case Files

In this issue:

  • Reissuance of digital signature guidance for Appeals
  • Extension of electronic case file pilot for Examination Appeals
  • Make just one more cold call

Extension of Digital Signature Guidance
Today, we have a pair of Appeals-related guidance extensions to discuss. First up is memo AP-08-0521-0015. In response to the pandemic last year, Appeals basically had no other choice than to create a procedural deviation to allow for digital signatures on many documents. More specifically, this change related to digital images of signatures, which are usually verboten.

In other words, Appeals was able to temporarily accept signatures that were drawn on computer — e.g., there was never a wet ink signature to start with. It’s also important to note that these are NOT true “digital signatures”, which have some sort of authentication protocol attached to them. This is literally just drawing a signature with your mouse, or taking a photo of a signature with your phone and cropping it, and then copy/pasting it into the IRS form, with no security provisions.

In other departments, such as the CAF Unit, we’ve already seen relatively quick (by government standards) creation of true digital signature options. It’s my hope that the Service will expand those technologies to all departments sooner rather than later, making life easier for everybody.

Also in this procedural deviation is the ability for Appeals personnel to receive taxpayer documents via email and to send taxpayers documents via SecureZip. We can only hope that this is going well, and that in the future we can do the same with Collections and Examination. Then we’d really be living the dream, eh?

These temporary provisions were set to expire, but have been extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Electronic Case Files in Field Examination Appeals
IRS field units still use paper files for the vast majority of the work they do. When a taxpayer is getting put through the ringer on either the Collection or Exam side, there’s a massive amount of paper created. Running an audit from an iPad? Pfft, maybe by 2050, if we’re lucky. 🙂

But, at least there are some steps in the right direction. Within SB/SE, there has been a pilot program running for a little while (pre-COVID) that allows for digital case files for certain types of field examination. These are mostly individual income tax examinations that are being run under this program. Payroll tax, excise tax, gift tax, etc. are not included in this pilot program.

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It had been set to expire earlier this year, but memo AP-08-0321-0010 extends this pilot project for another two years. Both docketed and non-docketed unagreed Field Examination Appeals cases, again, mostly 1040, are eligible. Additional offices will soon be included in the program, too, so your chances of “catching” such a case as a practitioner will be increasing. The goal of the program is, of course, to move to a paperless process for all Field Exam cases. This is not only more efficient, but will help prevent issues inherent in the case file having to be physically shipped from place to place. The referenced Appeals directive has a process chart that, while intended as instructions for internal staff at the Service, guides YOU through how the digital workflow runs. This can be helpful when you’re working an Exam Appeal.

Stay up to date with the latest on the Collections side of things with the 2021 Tax Resolution Update webinar on August 25. Earn 2 CE/CPE hours. Use promo code OWL when you register to save $30. Click here for details. 

Make One More Cold Call
I hate cold calling. Hate it with a passion. Despise every step of that damn process.

That’s why I’ve always been saddened by how well it works — because it means I’ve always had to incorporate it in early marketing and sales efforts whenever I start a new business. It’s too effective to ignore. I’ve generated millions of dollars in revenue via cold calling campaigns — most of that when I was selling tax resolution services.

If you’re a solo practitioner, cold calling in one form or another is very likely to be part of your marketing plan (or should be). One of my favorite stories about cold calling effectively comes from my favorite author/trainer on the subject, Stephan Schiffman, and is worth repeating, again, especially for solo practitioners.

The story is about a life insurance rep at a large company. This sales rep consistently outperformed his peers, and was the company’s top producer for many years in a row. He used the company-provided scripts, and the company-provided sales leads. He was doing nothing special — none of his own direct response marketing, no seminars, no speaking. What was the secret to his success?

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At the end of every day, as everybody was closing up shop to head home, he would do the same thing. But after throwing on his suit jacket, he would sit back down in his chair and make one more cold call.

That’s it. That was the entire reason for his success. He would end his day by taking an extra minute to squeeze in one more call. He did this consistently for years, day in and day out.

When I went into private practice, I did the same thing. After 5-6 hours on the phone, I’d be burned out from cold calling business tax liens. It’s mentally exhausting grunt work — there’s no other way to really put it. But near the end of the day, as late afternoon approached, I would shift focus for 5-10 minutes and make one more cold call in the time zone that was nearing 6pm.

Not 5pm — but 6pm. It was always interesting how often I would get the small business owner directly answering the phone, because the rest of their staff had already done home for the day. None of the other tax resolution companies were calling them that late, either, because those folks had already gone home, too.

One of the differentiators between truly successful business owners and those that basically just have a job and make a living is that they consistently do this “extra mile” sort of thing, both in their customer service and in their sales & marketing efforts. Before turning off the lights today, send one more email to another tax pro to inquire about referral relationships. Send one more letter today — hand addresses and real stamp — to a new business entity to offer your advisory and bookkeeping services. Cold call one more tax lien. Respond to one more tax question on Bigger Pockets or Twitter. All those little things you do every day for marketing — do one more before you go home.

Embracing this principle can make a huge difference in your bank balance over time.

To your success,
~Jassen Bowman

P.S. Want more marketing tips, marketing materials, tax resolution sales training, and more? Then our Champions membership level inside Tax Resolution Academy® might be a good fit. Learn more here.