The answer to this question depends a lot on the circumstances in which you have received the IRS summons and the facts of your case.
First, it is important to know that there is a big difference between an IRS administrative summons and a court-issued summons. An IRS summons is a Form 2039 and will look like the form at this link: IRS Summons. An IRS summons typically asks for a person to appear before an IRS agent to provide testimony or books and records. If your summons is in relation to court matter it will have the name of the case, a case number, the name of the court in which you have been sued, and will give a certain number of days from the date you were served for you to file a response, answer, or appear in court. This FAQ does not address a court summons, but, needless to say, you should not hesitate to contact our law firm if you are being sued in relation to a tax liability.
A summons can be issued to the taxpayer the IRS is investigating or to an owner or officer of the taxpayer-business. It can also be issued to banks holding your accounts, your vendors, your clients, your spouse, or your tax return preparer and accountant.
If you are a person who has received a civil examination summons, unless the summons was issued for an improper purpose like harassment, you will likely eventually have to comply with the IRS’s request. Even if the summons is defective procedurally, the IRS can simply reissue the summons correcting any of those errors. If you have received notice that a third party has been sent a summons for your tax examination, you have a limited time to act if you want to challenge that summons. Third party summonses in collections and criminal matters don’t afford you the same rights as summonses in civil tax cases.
Ignoring the IRS won’t make them go away and can often compound your problems. If the IRS summons is ignored, the IRS can seek an order from the U.S. District Court requiring you to comply. Given that avoiding the IRS is not a wise tactic, how you respond to the IRS is probably the most important consideration. For that reason, you should at least consult with a tax controversy attorney before you decide how to respond to an IRS summons.