Couch v. United States
409 U.S. 322 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Couch v. United States, 409 U.S. 322 (1973)

Couch v. United States

No. 71-889

Argued November 14, 1972

Decided January 9, 1973

409 U.S. 322

Syllabus

Petitioner challenges an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summons directing an accountant, an independent contractor with numerous clients, to produce business records that she had been giving to him for preparation of her tax returns from 1955 to 1968, when the summons was issued. The District Court and the Court of Appeals concluded that the privilege against self-incrimination asserted by petitioner was not available.

Held: On the facts of this case, where petitioner had effectively surrendered possession of the records to the accountant, there was no personal compulsion against petitioner to produce the records. The Fifth Amendment therefore constitutes no bar to their production by the accountant, even though the IRS tax investigation may entail possible criminal, as well as civil, consequences. Nor does petitioner, who was aware that much of the information in the records had to be disclosed in her tax returns, have any legitimate expectation of privacy that would bar production under either the Fourth or Fifth Amendment. Pp. 409 U. S. 327-336.

449 F 2d 141, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 409 U. S. 337. DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 409 U. S. 338, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 409 U. S. 344, filed dissenting opinions.

Page 409 U. S. 323

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