An IRS summons can strike fear in the heart of even the most stalwart taxpayer. Being called up to the principal’s office can be daunting and overwhelming. As much as you would like to throw away the offending piece of paper and stick your head in the sand, the best responses to an IRS summons involves the following steps.
1) Open the summons and read it.
This may seem obvious, but so often, we assume that we know what is going to be in the envelope and so we don’t bother to read the contents very carefully. This can be a huge mistake. The summons may have been issued for small matters like asking for additional information. Or, the summons could have been issued for a larger issue. Either way, knowing what the summons is seeking, the time frame in which the IRS is seeking it, and to whom the information is to be reported is the very important first step to focus your energy away from panic and toward taking appropriate action.
2) Call your lawyer.
This may be your first encounter with an IRS summons, meaning your understanding of the document will probably be a little murky. Rather than type a hasty response and send it back to the IRS, getting competent, skilled counsel in your corner is a vital step in the process that will allow you to get some valuable, third party perspective on the request and what you can do.
3) Listen to your lawyer.
If you call the attorneys at Weisberg Kainen Mark, they will begin by explaining what a summons is and is not. It is a request issued either to you or to a third party like a bank, requesting information that the IRS feels is necessary to determine a proper amount of taxes owed. A summons can also be issued to determine if a return is correct or to re-create a return that was never filed. A typical summons asks for access to documents, records, financial statements, and other documents and asks that the holder of those documents appear before the IRS.
4) Understand your options.
You have options when it comes to responding to a summons. The obvious next step is to respond, but even then, having a skilled tax lawyer advise you as to what exactly must be shared can mean the difference between handing over a few pages and handing over a book. Another option is to choose not to provide documentation, instead challenging the summons and the grounds on which the IRS is seeking the information. Again, it is critical to have competent counsel help you make these decisions to avoid turning a summons into something much more unwieldy.
5) Proceed with caution.
Again, the worst path to take is to ignore the summons altogether. This will not make the IRS go away. In fact it will make it all the more likely that they will up the ante and get a court order to review the documents. If the matter escalates to this level, you may no longer have any discretion in what you can and cannot show the IRS and it may be even more damaging in the long run.
The attorneys at Weisberg Kainen Mark stand ready to assist you upon the receipt of an IRS summons. Do not put off the call if you find yourself in this position. Contact them today to get started.