By Ryan M. Froman
As many CPAs know, the Board of Appeals is the first formal level in adjudication of tax, rebate, and refund appeals in Pennsylvania. The Board of Appeals is expected to receive about 30,000 appeals this year, and we currently have an average turnaround time of 65 days. In the interest of continued outreach, I want to share a few tips to help you navigate the procedures of the Board of Appeals.
Tip 1 – When in Doubt, File the Appeal
Many of you are aware that the Department of Revenue has been modernizing its tax system over the past few years, and business taxes (corporate, sales, and employer withholding taxes) will be added into the PATH system in December 2022. As a result, in the coming months you and your clients may see notices that look new and different. There is quite a bit of information about the PATH system and the new PATH notices (including a new library of short videos) on the Department of Revenue website. However, if you are getting close to an appeal deadline and you are not sure what to do, I recommend filing an appeal. If you eventually determine you don’t need to appeal, it only takes a quick email to withdraw the appeal; if you miss an appeal deadline, however, the complications for your clients may be significant. If you have an appeal question, you can always call the Board of Appeals at its main line: (717) 783-3664.
Tip 2 – File Appeals Electronically
There are multiple benefits to filing your appeal electronically. The most important one is that when you file the appeal electronically you will receive a time stamped e-confirmation that establishes your appeal was received by the Board of Appeals. Practitioners who have used traditional mail delivery services have faced delivery problems in recent years, and those delivery challenges have caused jurisdiction problems with some appeals. Be safe and file your appeal electronically. (Additionally, due to internal efficiencies with electronic appeals, electronic appeals on average tend to be decided 10% to 20% sooner than paper filed petitions.)
Tip 3 – Stay in Communication with the Board
After a timely appeal is filed, it will be assigned to a hearing officer. You will receive an acknowledgement letter with the name, phone number, and email address of the hearing officer (email is preferred). You should feel free to contact the hearing officer with any questions or clarifications pertaining to your appeal. Certainly, there may be times when you disagree with a decision of the Board of Appeals, but if there has been effective communication during the appeal process the outcome is rarely a surprise.
Tip 4 – Remember to Tell Us What You Want
Many appeals filed with the Board of Appeals provide a great deal of input describing what has happened up to the point the appeal is filed. Surprisingly, many appeals actually forget to specifically ask what action or relief is being requested. If you have specific tax calculations, this will also go a long way to avoid confusion about what relief is being requested.
Tip 5 – Provide Your Best Evidence with the Initial Appeal
While situations may arise when a client presents you with an assessment notice at the last minute, filing an appeal that states “evidence to follow later” inherently slows down the appeal. Separating evidence from the initial appeal can also lead to unnecessary confusion. Therefore, the Board of Appeals encourages you to submit all appropriate evidence with the initial appeal. If something is missing or unclear, the board will request more information. It is far easier to understand your appeal if the entirety of your petition and evidence are submitted up front.
A Final Comment
The Board of Appeals has experienced several retirements recently, so you may see some new names attached to your appeals. Many of you have known and worked with Lauren Zaccarelli over the years. She retired as chair this past year, and I am looking forward to building upon her legacy and willingness to actively engage in outreach to tax professionals.
As a final “FYI,” there are many areas within the Department of Revenue that currently have or will have vacancies. If you are a CPA who has ever considered working for the Commonwealth, please feel free to reach out to me directly and I will be happy to direct you toward available employment opportunities at the Board of Appeals, the Bureau of Audits, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
Ryan M. Froman is acting chair of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Board of Appeals. He has been with the Board of Appeals for over 16 years. Froman has an MBA from Carnegie Mellon and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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