IRS adds video chat option for tax appeals

Taxpayers, and their accountants, will now be able to communicate with the IRS via video chat, in the logical next step toward a future in which all services are delivered via virtual reality.

The Office of Appeals, which handles about 100,000 tax disputes every year, is introducing a videoconferencing option. Starting Aug. 1, taxpayers will be able to video chat with the IRS from any location that has internet or mobile service through a "secure, web-based screen-sharing platform," the agency said. The software, WebEx, also includes a text chat feature and the ability to share documents.

While IRS Appeals has used video technology previously, it was accessible only from a limited number of locations. Perhaps because of this, it "has been used infrequently," the agency said. It anticipates that the new option, which is being run as a pilot program, will be particularly useful to people living in rural areas or far from IRS officers.

"In the future, the technology may give taxpayers greater options in engaging with Appeals and could allow us the flexibility to serve taxpayers virtually from any location using mobile devices or computers," Donna Hansberry, chief of IRS Appeals, said in a press release.