If You Receive an IRS Summons, Here’s What to Do

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With the exception of the highly-awaited refund check, any IRS correspondence can induce stress in even law abiding citizens. There are two types of IRS summons: administrative summons and a court-issued summons. An IRS summons is a Form 2039 and typically asks for a person to appear before an IRS agent to provide testimony or books and records. For summons that relate to a court case, the summons will include the name of the case, a case number, the name of the court in which you have been sued, and due date to file a response, answer, or appear in court.

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A summons can be issued to the taxpayer the IRS is investigating or to an owner or officer of the taxpayer-business. It can also be issued to banks holding your accounts, your vendors, your clients, your spouse, or your tax return preparer and accountant.

When the IRS issues a summons, you can comply, refuse, or ignore it. Alternatively, you can go to court and attempt to settle it. Ignoring the IRS won’t make them go away and can often compound your problems. If the IRS summons is ignored, the IRS can seek an order from the U.S. District Court requiring you to comply. 

Can You Refuse? If So, On What Grounds?

Yes, but you probably won't win. Common grounds that citizens site are attorney-client privilege or work product protection, but the standards are high. The IRS uses its summons power frequently today, and court fights are becoming more common. Taxpayers generally lose these cases, which means the IRS generally gets the documents in the end. Given that avoiding the IRS is not a wise tactic, how you respond to the IRS is probably the most important consideration.