Personal Liability For Corporate Employment Taxes: Section 6672

Personal Liability For Corporate Payroll Taxes: Responsible Person Under Section 6672

Personal Liability For Corporate Payroll Taxes: Responsible Person Under Section 6672

Corporations Shield Owners and Offices From Most Debt But Payroll Taxes Are A Huge Exception That Can Generate Personal Liability:

When corporations fail to remit payroll taxes, this can be an area of unknown trouble for corporate officers, board of directors or key employees. Please hit the Money for Lunch link above to hear me discuss this matter.

Generally, shareholders, board of directors or employees are not responsible for corporate debts. But, and this is a really big but, there are certain exceptions. Payroll taxes are one area where various individuals involved in the operations of the corporation can be held personally responsible for these corporate tax debts. When corporations have financial difficulty, their president, officers, board of directors, controllers, bookkeepers may take available money to pay general creditors and banks instead of the IRS to keep the company going. This can result in some very serious tax problems and tax liabilities for these parties that basically are preferring creditors over the IRS.

Factors and Behaviors That IRS Examines To Determine Personal Liability For Payroll Taxes:

The IRS looks at various factors and behaviors in determining whether someone involved in corporate operations can be held personally liable for such corporate payroll taxes. Here are some of the more important factors that the IRS looks to in determining responsible person status:

Actual and Significant Authority Over Enterprise Finances or Decision Making

To be liable for the payroll taxes of an entity, a person must have possessed actual and significant authority over an entity’s finances and decision making that includes paying the taxes or other corporate debt or expenses.

In addition, the IRS must prove that a responsible person either:

  • Knew the payments were not being made, or
  • Recklessly disregarded whether they had been made.

Serving As Officer of the Company or As Board of Director

Being in a supervisory capacity such as an officer or director can indicate responsible party status.

Controlling Company Payroll

Even if not an officer or director, a person controlling payroll disbursements can be found to be a responsible person. This often comes as a great and painful surprise to someone who is a bookkeeper or a check writer for the corporation.

Determining or Preferring Which Creditors to Pay and When to Pay Them

The person choosing to prefer other creditors over paying payroll taxes is generally found to be a responsible person.

Participating in Day to Day Operations

Being involved in the daily operations of the business usually is a factor indicating responsible person status.

Possessing Power to Write Checks

Even if not an officer or director, a person controlling payroll disbursements can be found to be a responsible person. Thus bookkeepers are sometimes determined to be responsible persons. Such parties are dragged into this mess having to retain tax counsel to prove that they are not a responsible person.

Having the Ability to Hire and Fire Employees

This type of power may be indicative of the type of supervisory capacity indicative of responsible party status.

Multiple Responsible Persons

An organization can be found to have multiple responsible persons. The IRS usually investigates, interviews and brings a Section 6672 action against as many persons involved in corporate operations as possible.

Bottom Line and Tax Warning:

The above discussion is just an overview of the major issues involved in this area. These cases are usually very fact sensitive so each case tends to be unique. This makes predicting the tax outcome very difficult.

The penalties here are quite severe. In the most egregious cases, in addition to personal liability for corporate payroll taxes, criminal and civil tax fraud actions are sometimes brought by the IRS.

This is one area of the tax law where great care and prudence must be exercised to avoid being a responsible party.

Steve is an excellent corporate attorney who has a deep understanding of corporate law, taxes and estate planning. He’s been extremely helpful to me in keeping my many companies and business ventures organized, focused and squeaky clean. He’s very strong in estate planning and wealth preservation as well. Finally, his follow through is air tight and utterly dependable.” Top qualities: Personable, Expert, On Time.” Retained in 1994 and continuously thereafter.
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From their offices in Philadelphia, PA, the law firm of Steven J. Fromm & Associates, P.C. provides a full range of estate planning, probate and estate administration, tax, business and corporate legal services to clients throughout eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley, the Lehigh Valley Area, the Five-County Area, Bucks County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Philadelphia County, Berks County, Lehigh County, Lancaster County, York County, Harrisburg, Norristown, Doylestown, Media, West Chester, Allentown, Lancaster, and Reading.