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IRS plays hardball and increasingly uses summons

Many people in California may be unaware of all of the tools that the Internal Revenue Service has at its disposal. If you are an individual, sole proprietor or business owner, you may one day have the first-hand experience of opening a letter from the IRS in which they request more information about a tax return.

Recently, the IRS has been playing hardball in its attempts to collect every penny that it believes is due into the U.S. Treasury. In previous posts we have discussed offshore accounts and amnesty as well as the crackdown on identity theft through false tax returns. To that list we add another tool in the effort to gain compliance from corporations and individual taxpayers. That tool is the administrative summons.

According to reputable sources, the IRS is focusing their audit efforts on international businesses, midmarket companies and partnerships. Included in this group would be wealthy individual taxpayers. The initial request is typically a letter requesting information documentation. If the taxpayer does not provide the information or document requested, the IRS can then issue an administrative summons.

This is where the IRS shows that it means business. If the taxpayer still does not furnish the information, the Justice Department can get involved with a court order to enforce the summons. The next step would be sanctions for criminal or civil contempt.

Any taxpayer that has received the initial letter requesting information would be wise to consult with the legal tax professional. Attorney client privilege can be very helpful during audits and certainly in knowing how to respond to an administrative summons.

Source: Reuters, "IRS wields summons to pry info out of wealthy, companies," Kim Dixon, Aug. 17, 2012.

At our San Francisco Bay law office, we represent clients with IRS issues including tax litigation, audits and administrative summons from the IRS.

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