Unpaid Payroll Taxes?
By Steven A Leahy
This week I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice couple. They ran a business that was started by his parents more than 30 years ago. The business has provided a comfortable living for this couple and their family – until last year. Last year they had a big contract that was completed, but their bill went unpaid. This is how financial problems of a customer can spill over to just about any business.
Well, to complete the project required lots of manpower. That manpower required a big payroll. When a business has a payroll, that business is required to deduct federal and state taxes, Medicare and social security obligations, union dues, insurance and perhaps other expenses. The business is then mandated to turn that money, and the business’ own contributions, over to the various government and other entities on behalf of their employees. When that money is not turned over, the IRS will take action to collect the tax portion of those funds.
What happens when the business goes under and is unable to pay the outstanding obligations? Well, if the business was a corporation, or other limited liability entity, the owner may have some protection from the business taxes. However, the portion of the tax obligations that was deducted from the employee’s paycheck was the employees’ property, and the business held that money in trust for the employee.
So, the IRS will look to the person or persons responsible for collecting, accounting and paying over the taxes to the IRS. The IRS defines a “responsible person” as:
One who had the duty to perform or the power to direct the act of collecting, accounting for, or paying over trust fund taxes.
The owner of a business is almost always a “responsible person.” These “trust” taxes include three components: Federal Income tax withheld from the employee; social security and Medicare taxes withheld from the employee; and, the employer’s contribution to social security and Medicare. The “trust” portion is that portion deducted from the employees’ pay check – Federal Income Tax and the employees’ contribution to social security and Medicare. The employer’s contribution to social security and Medicare is not part of the trust taxes, because this tax was not paid by the employee and held in trust by the employer.
When the IRS looks to a responsible person individually to recover this tax, it is referred to as the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP). If there is more than one responsible party, the obligation is joint and several – that means the IRS can collect all or part from any or all of the parties. However, the IRS can only recover once. So if the TFRP obligation is satisfied by one responsible party, the obligation of the other parties is also satisfied. Complicated, right?
It gets more complicated, because TFRP are never dischargable in bankruptcy and are difficult to walk away from. But, sometimes, it can be done. If you are having IRS problems you should seek help early. Better yet, you should call me, Steven A. Leahy of Opem Tax Resolutions and The Law Office of Steven A. Leahy, PC. I will sit down with you and explain how this all works and what you can do to protect yourself. Call me today at 312-664-6649. Tell Bonnie I asked you to call to set up a FREE consultation.