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UNITED STATES V. POWELL, 379 U. S. 48 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48 (1964)

United States v. Powell

No. 54

Argued October 14-15, 1964

Decided November 23, 1964

379 U.S. 48


On the ground that the respondent corporate taxpayer's returns had been examined for certain years and that, absent fraud, the statute of limitations barred assessment of additional deficiencies, respondent the taxpayer's president refused to produce records summoned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unless it disclosed its basis for believing that fraud had been committed. The Government brought an enforcement proceeding under § 7604(b) of the Internal Revenue Code in the District Court, which held that the agent be allowed to reexamine the records. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 7605 (b) barred "unnecessary examination" unless the IRS could show reasonable grounds or probable cause to suspect fraud, a condition not satisfied by the agent's affidavit filed with the enforcement petition that he suspected that the taxpayer had fraudulently overstated expenses.


1. Section 7604(b) does not apply to a non-contumacious refusal like the individual respondent's to comply with a summons; but recommencement of the proceeding will not be required, since the Government sought no prehearing sanctions of arrest and attachment under that statute, which is otherwise similar to §§ 7402(b) and 7604(a). The proceeding is therefore considered under those almost identical sections, which give general power to enforce summonses "by appropriate process." Pp. 379 U. S. 51-52.

2. In order to enforce a summons for records, the Commissioner, either before or after the limitations period has expired, need not show probable cause to suspect fraud. Unless the taxpayer raises a substantial question that judicial enforcement of the summons would abuse the court's process, the Commissioner must only show that the investigation is pursuant and relevant to a legitimate purpose; that the information is not already in the Commissioner's possession; that the Secretary or his delegate has determined that the further examination is necessary, and that the other administrative steps required by the Code have been followed. Pp. 379 U. S. 52-58.

325 F.2d 914, reversed and remanded. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 379 U. S. 49

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