FAQ: What is an information document request (IDR)?

When an IRS is conducting a detailed audit of a taxpayer, it may want to see documents and records retained by the taxpayer. The examiner will ask the taxpayer what type of documents are maintained, and will request that the taxpayer produce particular documents for inspection.

The IRS uses Form 4564, Information Document Request, to request information from a taxpayer for an audit. There are several versions of Form 4564, such as those for income tax audits, tax-exempt organizations, and tax-exempt bonds. Form 4564 will list documents needed to support taxpayer items that the IRS wants to verify. Taxpayers may want to consult with legal counsel to ensure that they do not provide too much information and do not provide privileged documents.

IDR enforcement

The IRS has put into effect a new IDR enforcement process for IRS examiners to obtain information. In particular, the IRS's Large Business and International Division (LB&I) issued several memos in 2013 and 2014 to provide guidance on the use of IDRs and to explain the new IDR enforcement process. Other divisions follow, or will be following, similar procedures.

Under the guidelines, examiners are instructed to prepare one IDR for each issue being examined; the IDR should describe the issue for which the documents are being requested. IDRs should be clear and concise, and customized to the taxpayer under audit. There is an exception to the requirement that the IDR state the issue. An initial IDR that requests basic books and records and general information about a taxpayer's business does not have to meet this requirement.

Examiners are further instructed to discuss the proposed IDR with the taxpayer and to agree on a reasonable time for the taxpayer to respond. LB&I instituted a three-step process for enforcing the IDR, with strict deadlines: a delinquency notice; a pre-summons letter; and a summons. The process is mandatory. IRS Chief Counsel will enforce IDRs through summons issuance when necessary. The IRS may also apply this stricter process if it believes that the taxpayer's response is incomplete.

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