In United States v. Clarke, et. al., decided June 19, 2014, the Supreme Court held that a taxpayer, as part of a summons enforcement proceeding, has a right to conduct an examination of Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) officials regarding their reasons for issuing a summons when the taxpayer points to “specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith.”

When a taxpayer does not comply with an IRS summons, the IRS may bring an enforcement action in district court. The taxpayer may urge the court to quash the summons on the basis that it was issued for an improper purpose. As part of this proceeding, a taxpayer is entitled to examine an IRS agent when he can point to specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith. Although bare allegations of improper purpose are not enough to entitle a taxpayer to question IRS officials, circumstantial evidence can suffice.