Compelling Compliance: Notices Preceding an IRS Summons

A few years ago, comedian and television host Steve Harvey fashioned a new method of delivering legal documents. He apparently sent his ex-wife a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates containing a romantic card and a court summons. Although many taxpayers might welcome it, the IRS isn’t one to provide gifts of that nature.

IRS Documents

The arrival of a summons should not be a surprise to the individual being investigated, as they are typically preceded by several other IRS notices. However they may be a surprise if received by a business partner or client.

Typical notices the IRS will send before issuing an IRS Summons

  • Explanation of Items (IRS Form 886-A). This multipurpose IRS form is used most often to request information during an audit or to explain an auditor’s proposed adjustments.
  • Information Document Request (IDR) (IRS Form 4564). Form 4564 is also used by the IRS to request information from a taxpayer during an audit, or a more serious investigation. Questions asked by the IRS on an IDR should be direct and specific – you are not required to comply with open-ended questioning and fishing expeditions.
  • Delinquency Notice (Letter 5077). This first step of the enforcement process will be issued within 10 days of the IDR response date and should have its own response date that is no more than 15 calendar days from the date of the Notice. The examiner must provide opportunities for the taxpayer to meet and receive an explanation of the next steps.
  • Pre-Summons Letter (Letter 5078). The pre-summons letter should be issued no later than 14 calendar days after the due date of the Delinquency Notice. It usually has a 10 calendar day response date.
  • Summons (Form 2039). A summons will ask for the taxpayer or a third party to provide records and/or to testify before an IRS investigator. There is no set date by which a summons must be issued, but it will likely be issued immediately after the Pre-Summons Letter response date and not more than 65 days from the IDR response date.

IRS Form 2039 is used for all purposes – other summons forms may be used for specific reasons:

  • Summons Collection Information Statement (Form 6637). This summons may be served on a taxpayer to collect an assessed tax.
  • Summons Income Tax Return (IRS Form 6638). This summons may be served on a taxpayer to secure their unfiled return.
  • Financial Records Summons ( IRS Form 6639). This summons may be served on third parties, such as Banks, Lenders, Credit Card Companies, Accountants, and Tax Preparers.

Contact an experienced tax attorney

Audits are becoming increasingly aggressive and invasive. If you have received any of the documents described above, you should contact an experienced tax attorney immediately. Third parties who receive a summons regarding the potential tax liability of another taxpayer are also advised to have legal counsel assist them with any and all IRS inquiries.

The tax attorneys at Moskowitz, LLP appreciate the trust our clients place in us by choosing our firm to represent you.

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