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What is an IRS Summons?

Our system of taxation relies on self-reporting of taxpayer’s liability. This means that the IRS relies upon the taxpayer to disclose all information necessary for the determination and collection of taxes. If a taxpayer or a third party does not supply information voluntarily, Service revenue agents, collection officers, and criminal investigators are authorized to issue and serve administrative summons ordering the taxpayer or a third party to appear before them and to produce records and other information that the agent, collection, and investigator consider to be relevant to the examination or investigation being conducted.

A summons is a powerful enforcement tool and is generally issued when the IRS has attempted and failed to obtain the information from the taxpayer through voluntary means.

Who May Be Summoned?

The following individuals may be summoned:

  • the taxpayer (the person liable for the filing of tax returns, or the paying of taxes)
  • an officer or employee of the taxpayer
  • a person having possession, custody, or care of the books of account
  • a person who might have information which would assist the IRS in determining a liability making a return, or collecting a liability

What Information May be Requested with a Summons?

A summons may only be issued to secure information that may be relevant to:

  • ascertain the correctness of any return
  • make a return where none has been made
  • determine a tax liability
  • collect a tax liability
  • inquire into any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the internal revenue laws

Anytime a summons is issued the taxpayer or third party must appear in person — a representative cannot appear instead of them. However, at an interview of the taxpayer pursuant to a summons, the taxpayer may be represented by any representative authorized to practice before the IRS. A taxpayer cannot refuse to comply with the summons. However, a summons could be challenged or objected to by appropriate legal means.

Keep in mind that a failure to comply with a summons may result in judicial contempt against you.

If you have been summoned by the IRS, call us 1-855-GSA-TAXHELP (1-855-472-8294) immediately for help.

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