In general, the IRS issues summonses only when the taxpayer (or other witness) will not voluntarily produce the information or other records. When a taxpayer or third person is willing to testify and produce documents voluntarily, a summons may not be required. With limited exceptions, the IRS has the power to issue an IRS summons without court approval. The Service should only issue a summons when it is prepared to seek judicial enforcement if the summoned party fails to fully comply.
The IRS typically asks that taxpayers provide information to the IRS. These IRS requests usually involve an "information document request." The IRS summons is the primary means for enforcing these information requests.
Internal Revenue Code Section 7602 provides the Service with summons authority.
Once served, the taxpayer must act to comply with the IRS summons or act to quash the summons. If the taxpayer fails to act, the IRS will seek to have a court enforce the IRS summons. If the taxpayer fails to act after a court has ordered enforcement, the court can and does impose sanctions on the taxpayer.
The summons does not require the witness to do anything other than appear on a given date to give testimony or produce existing books, papers and records or both. A summons cannot require a witness to prepare or create documents, including tax returns, that do not currently exist.
If the IRS issues an IRS summons, it is imperative that the taxpayer immediately contact an experienced tax attorney.