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How to Challenge an IRS Search Warrant or Summons

How to Challenge an IRS Search Warrant or Summons

Dealing with the IRS can be intimidating. If you receive a summons or search warrant from the IRS, it’s important to know your rights and options. This article will walk through the key things to understand when challenging an IRS search warrant or summons.

What is an IRS Summons?

An IRS summons is a legal order for you to provide information or records to the IRS. This could include financial statements, bank records, or testimony. Summonses allow the IRS to gather information to determine if there are any tax issues or liabilities.

There are different types of IRS summonses[1]:

  • IRS administrative summons – Used during an audit or investigation to obtain records and testimony.
  • IRS third-party summons – Sent to banks, employers, or others who may have information about your finances.
  • IRS John Doe summons – Seeks information about an unknown taxpayer the IRS suspects may have broken tax laws.

In most cases, the IRS administrative summons is used. This is when the IRS is examining your tax returns and wants documentation to verify items on your returns.

What is an IRS Search Warrant?

An IRS search warrant allows the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS CI) division to search a home or business and seize evidence. Search warrants are obtained when the IRS suspects serious criminal violations of tax law, such as tax evasion or filing false returns.

To get a search warrant, IRS criminal investigators must demonstrate probable cause to a federal judge. This means showing evidence that indicates a crime has likely been committed.

Reasons the IRS Uses Summonses and Search Warrants

There are a few common reasons why the IRS may issue a summons or search warrant[2]:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
2024-03-12
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  • To verify items reported on your tax return during an audit, such as business expenses or charitable donations.
  • To investigate when income is suspected to be underreported.
  • To examine records from foreign bank accounts or assets.
  • To look into potential criminal violations of tax law.

In short, summonses and search warrants allow the IRS to gather the information and evidence needed to determine if tax laws have been broken.

Should You Comply with an IRS Summons?

In most cases, it’s wise to comply with an IRS summons. If you don’t, the IRS can take you to court to enforce the summons. Ignoring a summons can lead to fines or even imprisonment for contempt of court. There are very limited reasons under the law to quash or fight an IRS summons.

However, this doesn’t mean you must comply immediately. You may be able to negotiate aspects of the summons, such as the timing or scope of documents requested. Consulting with a tax attorney can help you understand your options.

How to Respond to an IRS Search Warrant

If your home or business is searched by IRS criminal investigators, your best move is to cooperate within the parameters of the search warrant. Interfering with a search warrant can lead to obstruction charges.

That said, there are still steps you can take to protect your rights[3]:

  • Ask to see the warrant and read it carefully.
  • Note which areas the agents are allowed to search.
  • Observe what items are seized as evidence.
  • Politely state you do not consent to the search if you object.
  • Contact an attorney as soon as possible.

While the warrant must be followed, an attorney can help ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

How to Challenge an IRS Summons

There are limited grounds under the law to challenge an IRS summons. These include:

  • The information requested is protected by privilege, such as attorney-client privilege.
  • The IRS already has the requested information.
  • The IRS is abusing the summons process.
  • The summons seeks information unrelated to a legitimate investigation.

To fight a summons in court, you must file a petition to quash the summons. This petition argues the summons is improper or unconstitutional. You may need to appear in court and prove the summons should be quashed. Negotiating with the IRS directly often resolves summons disputes more quickly.

File a Petition to Quash

To file a petition to quash, follow these steps:

  1. Consult with a tax attorney experienced with summons cases.
  2. Have your attorney draft the petition detailing the legal arguments.
  3. File the petition in the U.S. District Court in the jurisdiction where you reside.
  4. Serve copies to the IRS agent who issued the summons.
  5. The court will schedule a hearing to consider the petition.

It’s critical to meet all deadlines and follow proper procedures when filing to quash an IRS summons. Missing deadlines can cause the petition to be rejected.

Negotiate with the IRS

Rather than battling in court, often the best approach is negotiating directly with the IRS. For example:

  • Ask for a meeting with the IRS agent to discuss the summons. Explain why certain records may be irrelevant or overly broad.
  • Request more time to comply. For instance, ask for 90 days rather than the 21 days typically allowed.
  • Offer alternatives, like providing summaries or limited portions of records.
  • Argue the records are protected by attorney-client or other privilege.
  • Point out records that would be unduly burdensome to produce.

The IRS may agree to modify the summons to make it more reasonable. This could include allowing more time, narrowing the scope, or withdrawing it altogether. Negotiating requires understanding the IRS’s position and finding compromise.

If negotiations fail, you can still pursue filing a petition to quash. This puts the dispute before a judge. However, trying to work it out directly with the IRS first is often faster and less expensive.

Enlist Help from a Tax Attorney

Consulting a tax attorney experienced with IRS summons cases is highly recommended. An attorney can:

  • Advise if you have valid grounds to challenge the summons.
  • Handle negotiations with the IRS on your behalf.
  • Draft the petition to quash if needed.
  • Represent you in court hearings.

Navigating IRS summons disputes requires understanding complex tax laws and court procedures. A qualified tax attorney can protect your rights and interests throughout the process.

How to Challenge an IRS Search Warrant

Challenging an IRS criminal search warrant is difficult but may be possible in certain situations by filing a motion in court. Possible grounds to challenge a search warrant include:

  • The warrant affidavit contained false or misleading information.
  • The warrant was overly broad or vague.
  • Evidence was seized outside the scope of the warrant.
  • Evidence was mishandled or tampered with.

An attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence, arguing it was obtained improperly and should be excluded from the case. The judge will hold a hearing to evaluate the merits of the challenge.

Alternatively, if items were seized that you believe are privileged or unrelated to the investigation, you can petition the court for their return. However, most challenges to an IRS search warrant face an uphill legal battle.

Steps to Challenge a Search Warrant

If you wish to fight an IRS search warrant, take these steps:

  1. Consult with a criminal tax attorney as soon as possible after the search.
  2. Review the search warrant affidavit for any potential issues.
  3. Identify improper conduct or procedural errors by the IRS agents.
  4. Have your attorney file a motion outlining the legal arguments.
  5. Argue your motion at the court hearing.

While challenging a search warrant is difficult, an experienced attorney may identify arguments that could result in evidence being suppressed or returned.

The Bottom Line

Receiving an IRS summons or search warrant can be unsettling. But understanding your rights and options is key. In most cases, cooperating with the IRS while protecting privileged information is advisable. For support navigating the process, consult with a qualified tax attorney.

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