Department of Justice Prosecutes for Failure to Remit Employment Taxes Collected From Employees
On December 7, 2011, Louis Alba pled guilty to criminal tax charges (Internal Revenue Code section 7202) for failing to remit to the IRS employment taxes (FICA and/or FUTA) withheld from employee wages in the amount of almost $780,000 over approximately six years. The case is United States v. Alba, case # 2:11-cr-730 (Eastern District of New York).
While the incident leading to Mr. Albas conviction is not uncommon, the prosecution is nevertheless instructive. Indeed, in tough economic times, business owners sometimes view employment taxes as a way to improve cash flow and use money collected from employees in the form of FICA and/or FUTA taxes as a de facto government bridge loan. However, as revealed by this case, the IRS views this as stealing money from the employees who have contributed to social security, and the IRS can, and has, prosecuted those “responsible persons” in the business who have the obligation to ensure that employee withholdings go to the IRS.
The language of Internal Revenue Code section 6672(a) states:
Any 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, shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be liable to a penalty equal to the total amount of the tax evaded, or not collected, or not accounted for and paid over. No penalty shall be imposed under section 6653 [IRC Sec. 6653] or part II of subchapter A of chapter 68 [IRC Sections 6662 et seq.] for any offense to which this section is applicable.
The language of Internal Revenue Code section 7202 states:
Any person required under this title to collect, account for, and pay over any tax imposed by this title who willfully fails to collect or truthfully account for and pay over such tax shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $ 10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
As these statutory provisions make clear, section 6672(a) substantially tracks section 7202, and make available to the government criminal penalties for those that failure to collect and/or remit employment taxes.
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