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The Tax Practice of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
The Tax Practice of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law


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IRS Examination Appointments: What if I Don't Show Up?

Posted on in Internal Revenue Service

summons, IRS appointment, Chicago Tax LawyersIt is rarely a good idea to ignore IRS audit correspondence "inviting" you to an examination of your tax return. If the Service sends you a letter unilaterally scheduling a meeting for an office audit, confirm (or reschedule) the appointment, get professional help to prepare you, and show up.  Perhaps the only time you might want to second-guess the audit participation, is after you and your representative conclude that there are potential criminal implications, which justify a strategy of silence.  But this is certainly not the norm. What if the time for the scheduled first meeting has come and gone, and you didn’t go, out of fear, lack of preparation, or simple inadvertence?

IRS Responses to Examination "No-Shows"

Normally, the IRS will send a second letter, allowing for a rescheduling of the appointment.  But, anticipating another "no-show", the Service will generally take two simultaneous steps:  First, the auditor will start examining the return without you – securing records from third party sources (i.e., bank accounts, customer records, etc…); and 2) you may very well receive an administrative "summons" requiring your attendance at a compelled interview (and also demanding that you bring with you to the interview certain identified documents).

Failure to Obey an IRS Summons

When you fail to obey the summons, it's not the IRS that ultimately forces your compliance - it's a federal district court.  If you fail to appear in response to the summons, the IRS will typically seek the assistance of the Department of Justice to "enforce" the summons, by obtaining an order from the court. If you have a good reason for not complying, you can present your defense to the court in response to the government’s motion to enforce the summons. Or, you can be more proactive and on your own file a "Motion to Quash" the summons with the district court, seeking a ruling that the IRS has exceeded its authority in asking you for particular records or seeking your submission to an interview. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good reasons for failing to obey the summons. As long as the IRS has complied with the statutory procedural steps in issuing the summons, and so long as the information being sought is relevant, for a legitimate purpose, and not already in the government’s possession, you are pretty much stuck. You do have the legal right to attempt to quash a summons initiated by the IRS, but that's a failure-wrought legal avenue that you probably shouldn't attempt. Failure to comply with the Court order could subject you to an order finding you in contempt of court; i.e., possible time in the federal lock-up.

The One Way to Get Away with Not Showing Up

There is one part of this whole process that can save you if you take advantage of it: every taxpayer has a legal right to have their tax attorney show up for their tax audit in their place. So you can get away with not going to an IRS audit, so long as you file Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, properly and in a timely fashion. Needless to say, having a tax lawyer show up at your audit gives you a major advantage over trying to navigate this scary process on your own, so this route is definitely worth considering.  Although the IRS may nevertheless desire to speak with you directly, and could still summons you for an interview, most all of the time the Service is satisfied dealing solely with the authorized representative.

At Chicago-Kent Tax Clinic, we offer low-cost examination and audit representation from attorneys with extensive experience working for the IRS and in private practice. If you have received a notice from the IRS and are not sure what you’re next move is, contact our office today at 312-906-5041 for a free consultation with one of our skilled Chicago tax attorneys.



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