(a) (1) The director shall appoint a hearing officer to review all written protests submitted by taxpayers, hold all hearings, and make written findings as to the applicability of the proposed assessment or the denial of the claim for refund.
(2) Decisions of the hearing officer shall be final unless revised by the director.
(3) The hearings on written and oral protests and determinations made by the hearing officer shall not be subject to the provisions of the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act, § 25-15-201 et seq.
(b) The director may appoint one (1) or more hearing officers, but the persons occupying these appointments shall not contemporaneously with the holding of these appointments have any other administrative duties within the Revenue Division of the Department of Finance and Administration.
(c) The actual hearing on the written protest shall be held in any city in which the division maintains a field audit district office or in such other city as the director shall, in his or her discretion, designate.
(d) (1) (A) All written protests filed with the director shall be delivered promptly to the hearing officer.
(B) The hearing officer shall set the time and place for the hearing on a written protest and shall give the taxpayer reasonable notice of the hearing.
(C) If it is not possible for the hearing officer to hold a hearing and issue a decision on a protest of a proposed assessment within one hundred eighty (180) days after the taxpayer files a written protest for reasons that the hearing officer determines are beyond the taxpayer's control, the director shall waive the interest for the period from the time the written protest is filed until the final assessment is issued.
(2) At the hearing, the taxpayer may be represented by an authorized representative and may present evidence in support of his or her position.
(3) After the hearing, the hearing officer shall render his or her decision in writing and shall serve copies upon both the taxpayer and the section or division of the Department of Finance and Administration which proposed the assessment or the denial of the claim for refund.
(4) (A) (i) If the proposed assessment or denial of a claim for refund is sustained, in whole or part, the taxpayer or legal counsel for the director may request in writing, within twenty (20) days of the mailing of the decision, that the director revise the decision of the hearing officer.
(ii) No request for revision will be considered unless it is received by the director within twenty (20) days of the mailing of the hearing decision.
(iii) Either the taxpayer or legal counsel for the director shall provide a copy of any written request for revision to the other.
(iv) The director may hold the supplemental proceedings on any request for revision and shall issue a decision on the request within sixty (60) days of the receipt of the request for revision.
(B) If the director refuses to make a revision or if the taxpayer or legal counsel for the director does not make a request for revision, then the director shall send either:
(i) A final assessment to the taxpayer, as provided by § 26-18-401, that is made upon the final determination of the hearing officer that sustained a proposed assessment of tax; or
(ii) A notice in writing to both the taxpayer and legal counsel for the director, if a revision was requested, of his or her decision not to revise a decision that resulted in no tax due, including the denial of a claim for refund.
(C) (i) If the director revises the decision of the hearing officer, the director shall send the final decision of the director to the taxpayer and to the legal counsel for the director.
(ii) A notice of final assessment shall be made upon the decision of the director if the director's decision sustained a proposed assessment of tax.
(iii) No further notice will be issued for a final decision of the director that results in no tax due, including the denial of a claim for refund.
(D) A taxpayer may not request revision of a decision issued by the director under this subdivision (d)(4).
(e) A taxpayer may seek relief from the final decision of the hearing officer or the director on a final assessment of a tax deficiency or a notice of denial of a claim for refund by following the procedure set forth in § 26-18-406.
(f) (1) In addition to the hearing procedures set out in subsections (a)-(e) of this section, the director may hold administrative hearings by telephone, video conference, or other electronic means if the director determines that conducting the hearing in such a manner:
(A) Is in the best interest of the taxpayer and the department;
(B) Is agreed to by both parties;
(C) Is not fiscally unsound or administratively burdensome; and
(D) Adequately protects the confidentiality of the taxpayer's information.
(2) The director may contract with third parties for all services necessary to conduct hearings by telephone, video, or other electronic means.
(3) Any person who enters into a contract with the director to provide services necessary to conduct hearings by telephone, video, or other electronic means shall be subject to the requirements of this chapter providing for the confidentiality of all taxpayer records.