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Careful! Handle payroll taxes the wrong way and you could end up in an IRS agent's office.

In this blog post, we are going to discuss the consequences of delinquent payments of payroll tax. Those consequences may surprise you! Let's start by examining a case involving an Illinois company- Urgent Care Center, Inc. and its employee Mr. Kazmi.

First, a Little Background

Urgent Care Center Inc. employed Mr. Kazmi as a part-time hourly bookkeeper. 

He had no ownership interest in Urgent Care. 

He was not an officer of Urgent Care. 

His name was not on any of Urgent Care’s bank accounts. 

He did not have check-signing authority for Urgent Care or any power to make payments on behalf of Urgent Care. 

At all times, Mr. Kazmi worked under the authority and direction of Dr. Senno, the sole owner of Urgent Care, an S corporation.

The Problem

Urgent Care, Inc. did not pay its payroll taxes. The IRS claimed that Mr. Kazmi was a responsible person—meaning that he was now on the hook for the unpaid taxes and the 100 percent trust fund penalty. Mr. Kazmi’s amount at risk: $10,375. 

In this case, the record before the court included IRS Form 4180, “Report of Interview with Individual Relative to Trust Fund Recovery Penalty or Personal Liability for Excise Taxes.” 

During that interview with the IRS revenue officer, Mr. Kazmi described his job title as “bookkeeper” and his duties as “to take care of payroll.” On the form, he indicated the following: 

  • He did not determine financial policy for Urgent Care.
  • He did not authorize payments of bills or to creditors.
  • He did not authorize payroll.

During the interview, he indicated that he was authorized to transmit payroll tax returns and make federal tax deposits. He was also aware that Urgent Care did not remit the employees’ withheld taxes.

So here we have the part-time, hourly paid bookkeeper who could not sign a check or authorize payments with $10,375 of payroll tax trouble—attributable entirely to Dr. Senno.

Missed Opportunity

The IRS sent by certified mail IRS Letter 1153 to Mr. Kazmi. He signed the postal service form signifying he had received the letter. 

Letter 1153 set forth that the IRS considered Mr. Kazmi a person responsible for the unpaid payroll tax and subject to the 100 percent trust fund penalty—the $10,375. Mr. Kazmi had 60 days to challenge by submitting a written appeal. He did not. 

A Plea for Mercy

In a letter before the court, Dr. Senno had this to say: 

“Mr. Kazmi, as a part-time bookkeeper, is not responsible for collection or accounting, or making payments for any tax obligation for the corporation.” 

“His duty is to perform whatever task is given to him by me.” 

“He is not authorized to sign any check or document on behalf of the company.”

“Hence, I request to have his name removed as a person for any tax obligation for Urgent Care Center Inc.” 

Dr. Senno then added: “By the way, I have an installment payment agreement of $450 per month with IRS for Urgent Care.” 

Here’s the deal: Dr. Senno is a responsible person for the payroll taxes. But the IRS was unable to collect the total tax liability from Urgent Care or Dr. Senno personally. To get all the money, the IRS then determined that Mr. Kazmi was a responsible person, jointly and severally liable for the taxes and penalties.

The Result

The court ruled that Mr. Kazmi had to pay $10,375.

However, you can see in this opinion that the court does not rule that Mr. Kazmi was a responsible person. Instead, the court ruled that the IRS did its job correctly and that Mr. Kazmi owes the money because he failed to respond to Letter 1153. 

Key point- had Mr. Kazmi responded to Letter 1153, the IRS likely would not have considered him a responsible person based on his facts and circumstances. 

The Takeaways?

  • Payroll taxes should be managed and paid by an experienced bookkeeper. Someone with experience knows the full weight of the consequences of delinquent payroll tax payments. 
  • Always respond to IRS correspondence and do it promptly. Need some help understanding a letter from the IRS? Again, this is where an experienced bookkeeper is a serious asset.

Would you like more information about the bookkeeping and payroll services provided by Gold Standard Tax & Accounting? Click here to schedule an appointment with one of our seasoned bookkeepers.

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