Roughly seventy percent of the federal government’s revenues come from employment taxes, including FICA and income taxes withheld from employees’ wages. Consequently, threats to that source are taken quite seriously. All employers need to be aware of the significant changes in employment tax enforcement that have increased the risks faced by the non-compliant.
Traditional Employment Tax Enforcement
Historically, the failure of an employer to comply with its employment tax obligations was generally treated as a civil tax problem to be handled by the IRS. A typical payroll tax case involved penalties for the delinquent employer. If the taxes were not paid promptly, responsible individuals would be assessed with the trust fund recovery penalty, which applies to “[a]ny person required to collect, truthfully account for, and pay over any tax imposed by this title who willfully fails to collect such tax, or truthfully account for and pay over such tax, or willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any such tax or the payment thereof.” I.R.C.… Read More
Employers are required to withhold FICA and income tax from employees’ pay checks and make periodic deposits of the amounts withheld. If the taxes are not withheld and paid over to the IRS, the employer is subject to monetary penalties and individuals affiliated with the employer may face personal liability for the trust fund recovery penalty. See I.R.C. §§ 6656 (employer penalty); 6672 (trust fund recovery penalty).
The failure “to collect, account for, and pay over” these taxes is also a felony. I.R.C. § 7202. While payroll tax violations were rarely prosecuted historically, times have changed, and the Tax Division has made employment tax prosecutions a priority.… Read More
Cases challenging the classification of workers as independent contractors have been a significant enforcement priority for both the IRS and the Department of Labor. On May 10th, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to a business seeking a refund of employment taxes it paid after the IRS challenged the classification of its workers as independent contractors. Nelly Home Care, Inc. v. United States, Nos. 15-439 & 15-444, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61524 (E.D. Pa. May 10, 2016). The case is of particular interest because the taxpayer did not qualify for one of the statutory safe harbors under Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 but nonetheless prevailed by demonstrating “other reasonable basis” to support the classification decision.… Read More
An individual who has been assessed with the trust fund recovery penalty for failure to collect, account for or pay over employment taxes generally cannot obtain review in Tax Court. Instead, judicial review is available by means of a refund claim, which can be heard either in district court or the Court of Federal Claims. Normally, jurisdiction over a refund action requires full payment of the tax. Flora v. United States, 362 U.S. 145, 150 (1960). For someone who is challenging the imposition of the trust fund recovery penalty, this rule is relaxed: because the tax is divisible, jurisdiction is established if the plaintiff has paid the withheld tax for one employee for one quarter.… Read More
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Marie Sapirie of Tax Analysts on two areas of tax enforcement: employment taxes and international compliance programs. Marie’s story ran in the February 1, 2016 edition of Tax Notes; you can access it here.
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Speaking at the ABA’s Annual Criminal Tax Fraud and Tax Controversy Conference, senior officials from the Tax Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the IRS Office of Chief Counsel described a variety of priorities for civil enforcement.
Consistent with prior indications that payroll taxes will be a significant area of focused criminal enforcement, Diana L. Erbsen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Appellate and Review, indicated that practitioners should anticipate civil actions for injunctive relief in payroll tax cases, followed by contempt proceedings to enforce those injunctions. Erbsen also indicated that the Financial Litigation Unit of the Office of Review, which focuses on collecting tax judgments, has received additional staff and is expected to be more active.… Read More
Speaking on a panel this morning at the New England IRS Representation Conference, several Washington IRS executives discussed the Service’s current initiatives. We heard from Mary Beth Murphy, Deputy Commissioner, Small Business/Self-Employed Division; Rajive Mathur, Director of Online Services; Carole Madison, Acting Director of Examination, North Atlantic Region; and Darren Guillot, IRS Director of Field Collections. Below are some of the highlights from their discussion.
Employment Tax Compliance
As we have discussed before, one of the IRS’s stated enforcement priorities is employment tax compliance. According to Mr. Guillot, employer withholding of income and payroll taxes accounts for approximately 70 percent of the nation’s tax revenue.… Read More
This entry resumes yesterday’s discussion of problems that can arise for a business dealing with a temporary staffing service, or “TSS,” that is violating the law; the discussion continues to draw on the case of Mr. Victor Thach, described in yesterday’s post, who was convicted and sentenced for criminal tax violations associated with his labor leasing agency. This blog discussed civil tax issues yesterday; today it addresses criminal tax and immigration law issues, and how the legal problems of a TSS can become the problems of its clients. This is part of the broader discussion regarding employment tax crime that will occur during a panel at the White Collar Practice Seminar of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (PACDL) this Thursday, November 12, at the Union League in Philadelphia.… Read More
Traditional companies can run into problems because of unscrupulous conduct by third-party companies enlisted to provide temporary or leased employees. We will discuss this issue in part, along with many others, during a panel on criminal tax enforcement at the White Collar Practice Seminar of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (PACDL) this Thursday, November 12, at the Union League in downtown Philadelphia. My co-panelist will be Nanette Davis, a Senior Trial Attorney for the Criminal Enforcement Section of the DOJ Tax Division in Washington, D.C., who has tried some of the largest tax fraud cases ever prosecuted; our moderator will be Jim Becker, a distinguished white collar defense attorney at the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.… Read More
U.S. Department of Justice places employment taxes high on its list of enforcement priorities
We had the pleasure today of hearing the comments of Caroline Ciraolo, Acting Assistant Attorney General (AAG) for the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), regarding DOJ Tax Division’s current enforcement priorities. Acting AAG Ciraolo provided one of the keynote addresses at the American Law Institute’s Continuing Legal Education conference, Handling a Tax Controversy: Current Trends in Civil Tax Controversies and Litigation, held in Washington, D.C. This blog entry will focus on, just as Acting AAG Ciraolo did, the issue of employment tax enforcement.… Read More