What is an IRS Summons?


An IRS summons is a tool the IRS uses to force you to hand over documents.


According to the IRS, the purpose of a summons is to:


  • Verify the correctness of existing returns.
  • Create a return where none existed before.
  • Figure out if someone is really liable for any tax owed.
  • It can also be used to inquire about any suspected offenses against the administration or collection of taxes owed.


The important thing about an IRS summons is that once issued, the IRS can use the courts to enforce their demands for information made with the summons. If you've received an IDR and fail to produce the requested documents, the IRS has ramped up its use of the Summons to take it to the next level: to force you to comply.


You have the right to remain silent…


This is where things start to get legal, and when you need to consider the services of a tax attorney to help. It’s alright if you are trying to take a stand. You may be refusing to comply for a reason, but it’s important to know the kinds of grounds the court will really accept in the situation of trying to quash or refuse a summons. You can cite attorney-client privilege, or invoke the protections for work product, but the case is not going to be easy and the IRS has a track record for winning, according to the Taxpayer Advocate.


The litigation against the demands of the summons has increased in recent years as a result of its more frequent use as a tool by the IRS in its collection efforts. In fact, taxpayers would do well to be aware that the agency is clearly using this power of investigation more often, and is having success in the courts against challenges against it.


According to an article from Reuters, the Taxpayer Advocate reports that the litigation challenges made to administrative summonses numbered 45 in 2005 and was up to 132 in 2011. Although these numbers may seem low, consideration must be given to the numbers of summons cases settled before those cases ever reached the litigation stage. It is unclear how many that may be, but it is likely to be higher than ever before.


If you find yourself in the possession of an IRS Summons, or even an Information Document Request that you would prefer not to comply with, click on the box below for more answers. If you need assistance getting your tax issue under control, contact us for a free consultation.