Some summoned parties may assert that they are not required to respond to or comply with an administrative summons. Proponents of this position argue that a summons thus can be ignored. The Second Circuit’s opinion in Schulz v. I.R.S., 413 F.3d 297 (2d Cir. 2005) (“Schulz II”) is often cited to support this proposition.
The Law: A summons is an administrative device with which the IRS can summon persons to appear, testify, and produce documents. The IRS is statutorily authorized to inquire about any person who may be liable to pay any internal revenue tax, and to summons a witness to testify or to produce books, papers, records, or other data that may be relevant or material to an investigation. 26 U.S.C. § 7602; United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48 (1964). Sections 7402(b) and 7604(a) of the Internal Revenue Code grant jurisdiction to district courts to enforce a summons, and section 7604(b) governs the general enforcement of summonses by
Section 7604(b) allows courts to issue attachments, consistent with the law of contempt, to ensure attendance at an enforcement hearing "[i]f the taxpayer has contumaciously refused to comply with the administrative summons and the [IRS] fears he may flee the jurisdiction." Powell, 379 U.S. at 58 n.18; see also Reisman v. Caplin, 375 U.S. 440, 448-49 (1964)
(noting that section 7604(b) actions are in the nature of contempt proceedings against persons who “wholly made default or contumaciously refused to comply,” with an administrative summons issued by the IRS).
Under section 7604(b), the courts may also impose contempt sanctions for disobedience of an IRS summons.
Failure to comply with an IRS administrative summons also could subject the non-complying individual to criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment. 26 U.S.C. § 7210. While the Second Circuit held in Schulz II that, for due process reasons, the government must first seek judicial review and enforcement of the underlying summons and to provide an intervening opportunity to comply with a court order of enforcement prior to seeking sanctions for noncompliance, the court’s opinion did not foreclose the availability of prosecution under section 7210. **
** Extracted from http://www.irs.gov/taxpros/article/0,,id=159932,00.html#_Toc153765510