A summons requires you to provide the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with information that is relevant to your tax. The IRS will summon information after it has already informally requested the information using form 4564 – Information Document Request. The IRS uses a summons to determine whether a tax return is correct, to prepare a substitute for return when none was filed or to collect tax. To obtain this information, the IRS may serve a summons directly on the subject of the investigation or any third party who may possess relevant information. In doing so, the IRS may examine books and records including documents such as invoices or bank statements. The IRS may also summon the testimony of the person possessing the records.
In many cases, the IRS is required to notify the taxpayer about other persons or entities receiving the third-party summons. Two significant exceptions to this notice rule are: (1) the summons was issued in connection with a criminal investigation to a person who is not a third party record keeper such as a bank, an accountant, broker, enrolled agent or investment company, (2) the summons was issued in aid of collection of an assessment made or judgment rendered against the person with respect to whose tax liability the summons is issued. In other words, there has already been a judgment or tax assessment made against the taxpayer and the summons is an effort to collect monies from the taxpayer.
You should not ignore a summons because a federal court may find and hold you in contempt or, worse, you may be subject to criminal prosecution for a failure to obey a summons. If you fail to comply with a summons the IRS may petition the Federal District Court to enforce the summons. The IRS must establish that (1) the investigation will be conducted pursuant to a legitimate purpose; (2) the inquiry may be relevant to that purpose; (3) the information sought is not already in the IRS’ possession; and (4) the administrative steps required under the Internal Revenue Code have been followed. If the IRS does so you will have to contest the summons. You can contest a summons on substantive grounds, technical or procedural grounds, or on Constitutional or other privilege grounds. Substantive defenses typically include arguments over whether a particular matter is part of a legitimate investigation, or whether the persons or documents summoned are relevant to an IRS investigation. Technical or procedural defenses usually are not worth litigating because the IRS can simply issue another summons to correct the procedural errors. You can also assert privileges under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the US Constitution to prevent the summons from being enforced. These rights and privileges are asserted where the information sought is incriminating and protected from disclosure under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, or where the summons itself is so broad that it constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
If you receive a IRS summons you should contact Gregory J. Spadea at 610-521-0604 of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. Mr. Spadea worked for the IRS for over 13 years and has extensive experience responding to the IRS and will determine when, and on what basis, you might refuse to answer the questions. Mr. Spadea will also help you evaluate which documents are relevant and, more importantly, which documents should be produced.