- 25.5.4 Examination of Books and Witnesses
- 220.127.116.11 Overview
- 18.104.22.168 Purpose of Examination of Books and Witnesses
- 22.214.171.124 Administering an Oath
- 126.96.36.199 Withdrawal of Consent to the Use of Records
- 188.8.131.52 Limitations on Authority to Summon
- 184.108.40.206.1 Relevancy and Materiality of Summoned Information
- 220.127.116.11.2 Examinations Barred by Statute of Limitations
- 18.104.22.168.3 Statutory Restrictions on Unnecessary Examinations
- 22.214.171.124.4 Statutory Limitations on Issuing a Summons After a DOJ Referral
- 126.96.36.199.5 Statutory Limitations of IRC 7609 on Summoning Information from a Third Party
- 188.8.131.52.6 Statutory limitations on Acquiring Credit Reports From a Consumer Reporting Agency-Summons Required
- 184.108.40.206.7 Limitations on Summoning Tax Accrual Workpapers
- 220.127.116.11.8 Effect of a Statutory Notice of Deficiency Or a Tax Court Proceeding On a Summons
- 18.104.22.168.9 Compelling a Taxpayer To Sign a Consent Directive To Obtain Foreign Records
- 22.214.171.124 Notice of Contact With Third Parties
Part 25. Special Topics
Chapter 5. Summons
Section 4. Examination of Books and Witnesses
July 14, 2015
(1) This transmits a revision to IRM 25.5.4, Summons,Examination of Books and Witnesses.
(1) IRM 126.96.36.199(4) added reference to allow payment for information when received under IRC 7609(j).
(2) IRM 188.8.131.52 added new subsection to explain how an oath should be administered and provided wording for the oath.
(3) IRM 184.108.40.206(10) added reference to enforcement of a summons when there is withdrawal of consent to the use of records.
(4) IRM 220.127.116.11(2) added paragraph to state all requirements to be valid and enforceable apply to summonses served both on the taxpayer and on third-party witnesses.
(5) IRM 18.104.22.168.1(3) reformatted paragraph to show example of a dual-purpose summons.
(6) IRM 22.214.171.124.3(2) added IRM cite to reference Delegation Order 4-7.
(7) IRM 126.96.36.199.4(4) added statement when Associate Area Counsel should be consulted if a current DOJ referral is in effect.
(8) IRM 188.8.131.52.6 added reference to 31 USC 3711(h)(2) as the authority to obtain a credit report without a summons when attempting to collect an assessed tax.
(9) IRM 184.108.40.206 updated references made to Publication 1 and expanded information when summoning a numbered bank account.
(10) Editorial changes, grammatical changes and organizational structure updates were made throughout this section.
Rocco A Steco
Acting Director, Collection Policy
This section contains the following topics:
Purpose of Examination of Books and Witnesses
Withdrawal of Consent to Use the Records
Limitations on Authority of Summons
Notice of Contact with Third Parties
A summons may only be issued to examine books, papers, records or other data of taxpayers and third parties and to obtain testimony under oath that may be relevant or material in:
Ascertaining the correctness of any return;
Making a return where none has been made;
Determining a tax liability;
Collecting such liability;
Inquiring into any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws (26 USC 7602).
Any person having knowledge relating generally to a tax investigation may be required to testify and produce records that may be relevant to the investigation. Information may be obtained by a summons to identify records a witness possesses by interviewing the witness under oath. A subsequent summons may then be issued to compel the production of records. The summons requiring production of records should not be oppressive or unreasonable, for a summons may be held to be so onerous as to constitute an unreasonable search.
IRC 7609 does not restrict the authority of the Service to examine any books or witnesses without issuing a summons, nor does it require the Service to give notice in the case of an examination without a summons. IRC 7609(j) expressly provides that nothing in section 7609 shall be interpreted as limiting the Service’s ability to obtain information, other than by summons, through formal or informal procedures authorized by IRC 7601 and IRC 7602. Credentials or circular letters citing IRC 7602 authority may be used to obtain records from financial institutions except when:
The financial institution is located in the Tenth Circuit (for a list of Tenth Circuit states, see IRM 220.127.116.11.1(2), Documents from Financial Institutions in the Tenth Circuit),
The information sought concerns taxpayers residing in the Tenth Circuit (regardless of where the financial institution is located), or
The Service’s office is located in the Tenth Circuit (regardless of where the financial institution is located or where the taxpayer resides). Refer to IRM 18.104.22.168.1(1–6).
In the circumstances noted in a, b and c above, the Service must issue a third-party summons and follow IRC 7609 procedures.
Apart from payments made for public records, payments for expenses incurred in providing information are authorized underIRC 7610 when issuing a summons or when receiving information informally under IRC 7609(j) .
A summons can only require a witness to appear on a given date to give testimony and to bring existing books, papers, and records. A summons cannot require a witness to prepare or create documents, including tax returns, that are not currently in existence.
By issuing an administrative summons, the Service cannot force a taxpayer to create a document, including a Collection Information Statement or a delinquent tax return. However, if a summoned taxpayer is willing to do so, collection personnel are authorized to:
Prepare or assist the taxpayer in preparing such statements or returns based on the records produced.
Prepare summaries or lists from books, papers, records, and testimony obtained at the time of examination.
A summons may not be used in aid of a grand jury investigation but may be used in an administrative investigation.
Depending on the facts of the case, an examiner may decide to administer an oath to the taxpayer and/or witness at the beginning of the interview. Review IRM 22.214.171.124.6, Authority to Administer Oaths and Certifications, to determine who has the authority to administer an oath.
The oath can be administered in the form of a question or statement. The examiner will have the witness stand and have the witness raise their right hand. The examiner can:
Ask the witness to repeat the following statement, "I solemnly swear or affirm that the evidence that I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." or
Ask the witness, "Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the evidence that you shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"
An owner of records who produces summoned records to the Service without being ordered to do so by a court may at any time request their return. Such a request constitutes a withdrawal or revocation of consent to the use of records. The request may be formal or informal, written or oral, regardless of phrasing.
Promptly photocopy records after their receipt and return them to the owner of record in the following circumstances:
If there is reason to believe that consent will be withdrawn; or
When an owner of records provides the sole set (whether originals or copies) of records.
The Service is entitled to retain copies that are made before a summoned owner of records withdraws consent to the use of records.
Honor a withdrawal of consent even if the owner of the summoned records retained copies of the records provided to the Service.
When consent is withdrawn, use of the records, including photocopying, should cease.
If consent is withdrawn and the records are no longer needed, return the records to the summoned owner of records.
If consent is withdrawn and the records are still needed:
Immediately seal them in an appropriate container.
Mark the container with the date and time sealed.
Secure the records according to area guidelines. This should occur on the date that consent to use of the records is withdrawn.
Within two workdays of the withdrawal of consent, advise the summoned owner of records in writing:
That the records have been sealed and secured.
The records will not be used effective from the date and time the request was received.
The Service will seek to enforce the summons.
The records will not be returned pending the enforcement of the summons.
Retain copies of the letter to the summoned owner of records for the case file and for the summons referral.
Within three workdays from the date of receiving the withdrawal of consent, refer the summons to the appropriate function. The three workdays include the date of receipt of the withdrawal of the consent. See IRM 25.5.10, Enforcement of Summons.
If notified that the summons will not be enforced, immediately arrange to return the records to their owner.
To be valid and enforceable, a summons must:
Seek information that may be relevant to the investigation,
Be issued pursuant to a proper purpose,
Seek information the Service does not already possess, and
The Service must have followed all of the administrative steps required by the Internal Revenue Code.
The above requirements apply to all summonses, whether served on a taxpayer or a third-party witness. The Service should never serve a summons that makes arbitrary, irrelevant, unreasonable, or oppressive demands. Other limitations on information that can be summoned are discussed in the following subsections.
As required by IRC 7602(a)(2), all summoned information must be of a type that "may be relevant or material" to the Service's investigation.
The "may be relevant" standard of section 7602 means any information that "might shed light" on the correctness of the taxpayer's return (or any other proper issue in a legitimate investigation, such as the location of collectible assets). The word "might" in this standard means that the Service has a realistic expectation, rather than an idle hope, that something useful may be discovered.
It is important to note that when seeking records of a third party, the standard of relevancy is slightly higher. The Service must show a transactional connection between the third-party's records and the taxpayer's activities that are being investigated.
A summons cannot be issued for an improper or ulterior purpose. For example, a summons cannot be issued to harass the taxpayer, to pressure the taxpayer into settling collateral disputes, or for any other purpose adversely reflecting on the good faith of the investigation.
Special John Doe procedures must be used when the sole purpose of a summons is to investigate the tax liabilities of unknown and unidentified persons. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Service is not required to serve a John Doe summons when, during an investigation of a known taxpayer’s liability, it serves one summons to obtain information that may be relevant to the known taxpayer’s liability and to obtain the names of other taxpayers that the Service wishes to investigate. (This is known as a dual-purpose summons.) However, the Service must show that the identities of the unknown taxpayers may be relevant to the investigation of the known taxpayer.
Counsel should be consulted for advice before the issuance of a dual purpose summons.
The Service is investigating a tax shelter promoter’s potential liability under IRC 6700. As part of this investigation, the Service issues a summons requiring the promoter to produce records identifying those persons to whom he sold partnership interests. The summons is enforceable because the summoned records are relevant to the investigation and calculation of the promoter’s liability. This is true even though the summons serves the dual purpose of identifying unknown taxpayers that the Service wishes to investigate.
Books and records sought by the summons must be of a type that may be relevant to the tax investigation and must be described with reasonable detail in the summons, including the periods relating to the investigation. Clearly explain the relevance of records requested for periods outside of the investigation time frame. This explanation should appear in the agent's declaration.
The statute does not require the Service to show probable cause to suspect fraud. Where a summons has been served covering a closed year, the government need only show that the summons meets the requirements for validity described above in IRM 126.96.36.199(1), Limitations on Authority to Summons. However, if the taxpayer’s books of account have already been inspected, and the Service has determined that a second inspection is necessary, the Service must give notice under IRC 7605(b) as discussed below in IRM 188.8.131.52.3, Statutory Restrictions on Unnecessary Examinations..
A taxpayer seeking to prevent enforcement of a summons because it covers closed years has the burden of showing it would be an abuse of court process. The taxpayer does not satisfy that burden by merely showing the statute of limitations has run out or the records have already been examined.
IRC 7605(b) provides that no taxpayer shall be subjected to unnecessary examinations or investigations of his or her tax liability and that only one inspection shall be made of a taxpayer’s books of account for each taxable year except upon notice from the Commissioner or upon the taxpayer’s request.
Review IRM 184.108.40.206, Delegation Order 4-7, Notice of Additional Inspection of Books of Account, to determine who can sign the notice to the taxpayer stating an additional inspection is necessary.
The taxpayer may refuse access to his or her records until he or she has been given notice in writing.
The limitations imposed by IRC 7605(b) apply only to the taxpayer under investigation and not to a third party.
The facts of each investigation will determine whether enforcement of a summons to examine records will be prohibited as unnecessary. While the Service can summon persons having information or documents that may be relevant to the investigation, the Service should never issue a summons to pursue a "fishing expedition" for information unrelated to the taxpayer’s liability. Such a summons will not meet the requirements of United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48 (1964).
Once an examination is open, the examination continues until the Area closes the investigation. Therefore, a subsequent review of the taxpayer's books and records is not considered a second examination when performed pursuant to a continuing investigation.
No summons may be issued nor summons litigation commenced if a DOJ referral is in effect with respect to the taxpayer pursuant to IRC 7602(d). A DOJ referral is in effect if:
The Service recommends to the Attorney General that a grand jury investigation of, or a criminal prosecution of, such person be commenced for any offense connected with the Internal Revenue laws; or
The Attorney General (or Deputy Attorney General or Assistant Attorney General) makes a written request to the Service for any return or return information relating to a taxpayer which sets forth the need for disclosure for tax administration purposes.
A DOJ referral ceases to exist when the Attorney General notifies the Service, in writing, that:
The taxpayer will not be prosecuted for any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws;
A grand jury investigation will not be authorized with respect to such offense;
Any such grand jury investigation will be discontinued;
A final disposition has been reached in a criminal proceeding, instituted by the Department of Justice against the taxpayer, relating to the enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws (this notification does not have to be in writing);
The Department of Justice will not prosecute such person for any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws relating to any written request for any return or return information. This notice could be from the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General or Assistant Attorney General.
A DOJ referral remains in effect until it is terminated in accordance with the preceding section. Summonses may not be issued to obtain information in response to a DOJ request for supplemental investigation. Consult Associate Area Counsel before serving a summons where CI and Associate Area Counsel are considering whether the case should be resubmitted to DOJ under protest procedures.
Treat each taxable period (or, in the instance of excise taxes, each taxable event) separately. The Service may issue a summons for one taxable year even if a DOJ referral is in effect for another taxable year. Consult Associate Area Counsel before issuing a summons if any tax year or event has a current DOJ referral in effect.
If CI decides to refer a recommendation of criminal prosecution or grand jury investigation to DOJ, seek the advice of Associate Area Counsel about issuing or seeking enforcement of any additional summonses.
The IRS must meet the procedural requirements of IRC 7609 when summoning a third party to produce a taxpayer’s records or to give testimony. All parties not exempt from notice per IRC 7609(c)(2) must be given no less than 23 full days after the date notice is given to file a petition to quash the summons. Therefore, set the appearance date no earlier than the 24th day after giving notice. These requirements are discussed in detail in IRM 25.5.6, Summonses on Third-Party Witnesses.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts the means by which the Service can obtain a taxpayer’s credit report from a consumer reporting agency. The Service must not try to obtain a credit report by informal means. Where the Service has an assessment lien against the taxpayer, has reduced a taxpayer's liability to judgment, or has entered into an offer in compromise or settlement agreement with the taxpayer (i.e. the credit report is used to collect an assessed tax), the Service can obtain a full credit report pursuant to 31 USC 3711(h)(2) without issuing a summons.
The Service must serve an IRC 7609 third-party summons on the consumer reporting agency when the purpose of the summons is not to assist in collecting an assessed tax. . The consumer reporting agency must produce the summoned materials unless a noticee files a timely petition to quash. It is not necessary for the Service to obtain a district court order enforcing the summons before the consumer reporting agency is allowed to produce the summoned documents. The consumer reporting agency may rely on the Service’s certificate stating that the consumer has not filed a timely petition to quash. This certificate is found on the reverse of the summons form and is titled "Service of Summons, Notice and Recordkeeper Certificates."
The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows a consumer reporting agency to provide government agencies with a consumer’s name, address, former addresses, places of employment, or former places of employment. The Service can obtain this information without issuing a summons. As indicated above, the Service can also obtain a credit report without a summons if the sole purpose of securing the report is to collect an assessed tax.
See IRM 4.10.20 , Requesting Audit, Tax Accrual, or Tax Reconciliation Workpapers, for detailed procedures for requesting audit, tax accrual, or tax reconciliation workpapers.
The Tax Court has established a framework for determining when it is appropriate to prevent summoned information from being entered into evidence if the Service's use of a summons conflicts with the court's interest in administering its discovery rules.
If a summons is issued after a Tax Court petition is filed and that summons pertains to the same taxpayers and same taxable years as those before the court, the court will exercise its supervisory power and exclude the information, unless the Service can show the summons was issued for sufficient reason, independent of that litigation. If the post-petition summons pertains to different taxpayers or different taxable years as those before the court, the court will not normally exercise its supervisory power unless the taxpayer can show a lack of an independent and sufficient reason for the summons.
In all but extraordinarily rare cases, the Service must not issue a summons after a Statutory Notice of Deficiency (SND) is mailed to the taxpayer to continue the investigation of the same taxable periods and liabilities covered by the SND. After an SND is mailed, the Service should no longer be in the process of gathering the data to support a determination because the SND represents the Service's presumptively correct determination and indicates the examination has been concluded. If the Service issues a summons after mailing the SND, this could be perceived as an effort to circumvent the Tax Court's discovery processes, which might lead the court to exclude the summoned evidence.
It may be appropriate to issue a summons after an SND has been mailed but before a Tax Court petition has been filed in rare situations in which an independent and sufficient reason exists to justify this action. An example of an independent and sufficient reason is when the Service is approached by a confidential informant after an SND is mailed. The informant identifies an issue that was not found during the examination, such as a hidden source of unreported income, and the Service needs to obtain evidence to prove the existence and amount of this income. In any case in which the Service seeks to issue a summons after an SND is mailed, the Service should obtain Associate Area Counsel's approval before issuing the summons. If field counsel approves the summons, the Service should make a record for its administrative file of the circumstances that gave rise to the post-SND summons and why field counsel concluded the circumstances justified the summons. This information may be necessary if the taxpayer seeks to exclude the summoned information from the Tax Court record.
During an investigation, the Service may need access to books and records outside the United States, such as a taxpayer's foreign bank account records. Foreign entities or individuals may refuse to release the records without the taxpayer's consent, which he or she can give by signing a consent directive. A consent directive, sometimes known as a disclosure directive, is a document signed by a taxpayer that authorizes and directs a specific foreign person (a bank, trustee, or other entity or individual) who possesses documents belonging to or controlled by the taxpayer, to disclose those documents to the IRS.
Example: A situation where a consent directive is useful is when the IRS summonses a U.S. branch of a foreign bank or a U.S. bank with a foreign subsidiary. The bank will claim that it cannot produce records without violating the bank secrecy laws of the foreign jurisdiction. The consent directive, when signed by the taxpayer, gives the bank assurance to comply with the summons without violating the bank secrecy laws of the foreign jurisdiction.
In some cases, a consent directive can be obtained voluntarily from the taxpayer. When a consent directive is obtained voluntarily, some foreign countries will view this favorably and will allow compliance with the consent directive.
A summons cannot be used to directly compel a taxpayer to sign a consent directive. However, if a summons for the foreign records is served on the taxpayer while in the United States, a federal district court can enforce the summons by directly ordering the taxpayer to produce the documents in his or her custody or control. Moreover, the Service can seek an order under IRC 7402(b) compelling a taxpayer to sign a consent directive authorizing the foreign institution to produce its records. Some countries may not honor a consent directive that was compelled by court order.
Consult with Area Counsel prior to considering a Consent Directive. Area Counsel will coordinate as necessary with the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (International). See Chief Counsel Directives Manual 220.127.116.11, Issuance of Summons for Books and Records Abroad, for guidance. Any summons drafted for this purpose must receive pre-issuance review by the appropriate Associate Area Counsel office.
IRC 7602(c) requires that the IRS:
Provide advance notice to the taxpayer that third-party contacts may be made.
Periodically provide a list of all contacts to the taxpayer.
Provide a list of contacts to the taxpayer upon request.
If a third-party contact is made, complete Form 12175 , Third Party Contact Report Form, for each contact made. A copy of Form 12175 will be retained in the case file and a copy will be faxed to the third-party contact coordinator (for the employee's state). The third-party contact coordinator will provide the record of contacts to the taxpayer upon request. The third-party contact coordinators are listed on the IRWeb at: http://mysbse.web.irs.gov/Collection/toolsprocesses/3rdParty/contacts/default.aspx.
IRC 7602(c), Notice of contact of third parties, does not apply when:
The taxpayer has authorized contact;
A notification would jeopardize collection of any tax;
A notification would result in reprisal against any person; or
There is a pending criminal investigation.
Serving a third-party summons is treated as a third-party contact. However, third-party summonses subject to the notice requirement under section 7609(a) do not require a third-party contact record (Form 12175) be made or provided to the taxpayer because the taxpayer has been given a similar record pursuant to another statute (the 7609(a) notice). Collection summonses are exempt from the notice requirement of 7609(a) and therefore a third-party contact record (Form 12175) must be made. If a third-party Collection summons is generated through the Integrated Collection System (ICS), the third-party contact record is captured electronically. If the Collection summons is generated manually, the Form 12175 must be completed and faxed per paragraph (2) above.
Other third-party summonses listed in section 7609 for which a record of contact must be kept under section 7602(c)(2) are:
Summonses issued to determine whether or not records of the business transactions or affairs of an identified person have been made or kept, and
Summonses issued solely to determine the identity of any person having a numbered account with a bank. In general, numbered bank accounts should no longer exist with legitimate U.S. financial institutions so this exception is very limited in its present scope.
Consult with Counsel if you are dealing with a third-party summons for which a court, pursuant to IRC 7609(g), has authorized service without giving notice under IRC 7609(a).
For further guidance, see IRM 18.104.22.168.12, Third Party Contacts -- Background,IRM 4.11.57, Third Party Contacts, and IRM 25.27.1, Third Party Contact Program.