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Circuit split in summons procedures

By Todd Welty and Jeffrey Glassman

As part of the examination process, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has wide latitude to obtain documents, records or other information from a taxpayer. The IRS normally requests and receives information informally. Other times, however, the IRS resorts to a more forceful tact — an administrative summons. This approach has teeth, as the federal district courts have statutory authority to compel compliance.

To have a summons enforced in federal district court, the IRS generally must satisfy four prima facie requirements established 50 years ago by the Supreme Court in United States v Powell. Those requirements are: (1) the investigation must be conducted for a legitimate purpose; (2) the summons must be relevant to that purpose; (3) the IRS must not already have the information sought; and (4) the IRS must have followed the administrative steps required by the Internal Revenue Code…

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