United States: Court Approves "John Doe" Summons Authority For IRS To Provide Treaty Partner With Information On US Bank Accountholders

The Justice Department has announced that it initiated ten petitions to allow "John Doe" summonses to be served on US financial institutions at the request of the Norwegian government.1 The John Doe summonses seek information from the banks about accountholders who have used certain credit or debit cards in Norway. Norway requested the information from the IRS pursuant to the tax treaty in effect between Norway and the US, which provides for cooperative exchanges of information relevant to enforcement of either country's tax laws. The Norwegian authorities have reason to believe that the use of US bank payment cards in Norway by cardholders who do not identify themselves may allow the cardholders to avoid income tax by failing to report the US account information or income on tax returns. In its press release, the Justice Department affirmed its commitment to international cooperation as part of its ongoing efforts to curb tax evasion. By cooperating with other nations, the US may have more success in the future with its own tax compliance initiatives, such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Several courts have already entered orders authorizing the John Doe summonses.2 For example, on July 24, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania approved the IRS petition to serve summonses.3 The court approved the petition without significant discussion of the issues, thereby implicitly approving the government's conclusions in its memorandum in support of the petition.

The government's memorandum to the court in support of the petition focused on the requirements for a John Doe summons in Section 7609(f).4 Generally, courts may grant leave to serve such a summons when the government shows three factors: (1) the summons relates to a particular person or group of individuals, (2) there is a reasonable basis to believe that a person or group may not have complied with internal revenue laws, and (3) the information sought is not readily available from another source. In its memorandum and related declarations, the government argued that it had established these three factors. The government stated that the summonses relate to investigations of particular individual (or joint) accountholders who may be easily identified by the banks using the relevant account numbers in the summonses. The government argued that there was a reasonable basis to believe that these particular people violated internal revenue laws. The memorandum asserted that the requirement of a failure to comply with internal revenue laws should include Norwegian laws because the relevant tax treaty requires the US government to collect information requested by Norway under the treaty using the enforcement mechanisms under the Internal Revenue Code, such as a summons, as if the Norwegian tax were a tax of the US. Moreover, the government cited authority approving the use of a summons under section 7602 to acquire records for a treaty partner. Based on the records already in the possession of the Norwegian authorities, the government argued that there was reasonable basis to believe the particular cardholders may have violated tax laws because of the high level of activity and significant dollar amounts of transactions made by the cardholders without personally identifying themselves. As additional evidence, the government cited evidence of the successes of other payment card investigations, which have uncovered tax fraud in the past. Finally, the government argued that the information requested about the accountholders who used payment cards was not readily available from other sources apart from the banks which are the recipients of the summonses. According to the Norwegian authorities, cardholder identities cannot be ascertained for certain transactions, such as ATM and debit card transactions without the help of the banks to match an account number with an accountholder's identity. In support of its argument, the government cited other cases where John Doe summonses were issued to identify US taxpayers when the IRS suspected that such taxpayers were using payment cards to avoid US taxes.


1 Department of Justice, Federal Courts Authorize Service of John Dow Summonses Seeking Identities of Persons Using Payment Cards in Norway (July 29, 2013).

2 Department of Justice, Federal Courts Authorize Service of John Dow Summonses Seeking Identities of Persons Using Payment Cards in Norway (July 29, 2013).

3 In Re Tax Liabilities of John Does, No. 2:13 cv 01066 NBF (W.D. Pa. 2013), Order (07/24/13), Tax Analysts Document Service Doc. 2013 18393.

4 In Re Tax Liabilities of John Does, No. 2:13 cv 01066 NBF (W.D. Pa. 2013), Memorandum in Support of Ex Parte Petition for Leave to Serve "John Doe" Summons (07/22/13), Tax Analysts Document Service Doc. 2013 18392.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions