Do I have to comply with the IRS summons I was issued?

If you receive a summons from the IRS, it is important to exercise caution with regard to your response. Whether you opt to contest or comply with the summons can impact the outcome of your tax problem. You must also be careful to ensure that you are acting in accordance with the law. Fortunately, taxpayers are entitled to seek guidance and oversight from an experienced attorney when dealing with a summons from the IRS, but being aware of your options is the best first step to take.

Grounds on Which You May Contest an IRS Summons

Whether you should contest or comply with an IRS summons depends largely on the unique facts and circumstances of your particular tax problem and the summons you received, but you have the following options:

  1. Your attorney can accompany you to respond to a summons.
  2. You may claim a legal privilege, such as the attorney-client privilege or the privilege against self-incrimination, in your response to the questions or requests raised as part of your appearance.
  3. While the IRS can request that you provide certain records as part of the summons, it cannot require that you create any documents or prepare returns that were not in existence on the date the summons was issued.
  4. You can contest a summons on substantive grounds, meaning that you question whether a particular matter is part of a legitimate investigation or whether the persons or information being summoned is relevant to an IRS investigation.
  5. If you contest a summons on technical or procedural grounds, the IRS can issue another summons that corrects the technical or procedural errors.
  6. If the summons is overly broad, you can contest it on the grounds that it constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
  7. If the IRS obtains a judicial enforcement of the summons, you can contest it by appealing the decision to the appropriate circuit court of appeals.

Ultimately, the decision as to how best to respond to a summons will depend on your particular matter. In order to avoid issues with the IRS, it is important to seek assistance. We encourage you to learn more about dealing with the IRS by checking out our free guide, The Ultimate Guide for IRS Problems.