Business workshop: Small business fast track

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Small businesses can now benefit from an Internal Revenue Service program that up to now has only been available to larger corporations.

The IRS recently announced the roll-out of a streamlined program for businesses to resolve their differences with the federal tax collector. The Fast Track settlement (FTS) program uses alternative-dispute resolution techniques to help small businesses and self-employed individuals avoid a lengthy administrative appeal or litigation.

The IRS predicts that with FTS, the agency will usually resolve its differences with an audited small business within 60 days, as opposed to the months or years it can take going through standard procedures.

Any small business whose taxes are under examination by the IRS Small Business and Self Employed Division is eligible for FTS, as long as the total amount in question is less than $25,000, and there are a limited number of issues about which the IRS and the small business disagree.

Either the small business or the IRS agent on the case can initiate the FTS process, typically before the IRS issues a “30-day letter,” which details the reasons for a tax adjustment and gives the taxpayer 30 days to appeal. The business works with representatives from both small business division and the appeals division, with the appeals representative serving as the mediator.

One particular advantage of FTS is that going through the process does not require a small business forfeit legal rights. If the business doesn’t like the results of the mediation, it can still appeal.

The expedited settlement program is modeled after a similar program for quickly resolving disputes between the IRS and large companies that has been available for years.

— Herb Wolfson, Wittlin, Simon & Newman,

Business workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. To contribute, contact Business Editor Brian Hyslop at

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