Wednesday, April 23, 2008

IRS Summonses

A summons is an administrative tool used by the IRS to collect information concerning a taxpayer. A summons is best described as a forceful request by the IRS for documents or information. To enforce a summons, the IRS must bring an enforcement action in the District Court. When the matter is before the court, a judge will determine if the summons was properly issued, whether there are any valid defenses to the production of the documents and whether the summons must be complied with. Of course, in many circumstances, complying with a summons before court intervention is a good idea. For example, if there is no valid defense to producing the summoned information (attorney-client privileged, right against self-incrimination, etc.), the information should be provided. There is no need, however, to provide more information than is asked for in the summons. If you do receive an IRS summons that asks for your own information, it is likely well past the time for consulting a legal advisor. At this point, the IRS likely feels that you have been ignoring them.

When a summons is issued to a party other than the taxpayer being investigated (a third-party summons) the IRS must notify the target of the investigation of the issuance of the summons. The target has the right to bring a motion to quash the summons if he/she/it believes that some principal (attorney-client privilege, right against self incrimination, etc.) should prevent disclosure of the requested information. The recipient of the third- party summons should also consider whether the information requested by the summons should be disclosed. To make this determination, each request in the summons should be analyzed separately. A third party that receives a summons should make certain that it is required to turn over the information so that it is not violating a duty to the subject of the information.

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