Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ross v. United States

United States District Court, District Circuit

June 14, 2013

PETER ROSS, Plaintiff,


JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.

More than six years ago, Plaintiff Peter Ross pled guilty to tax evasion resulting from his failure to pay employment taxes on behalf of Spectrum Ltd., an acrylic-furniture company he solely owned. As a result of the plea, Ross was ordered to serve 60 months of probation and pay $203, 651.43 in restitution. Independent of the plea, he was also assessed approximately $146, 000 in civil penalties under 26 U.S.C. § 6672, a provision of the tax code that allows the IRS to hold officers personally liable for certain taxes that the corporation fails to remit. To secure payment of both the restitution and the 6672 penalties (plus fees and interest), the IRS filed tax liens against Ross's real property. Following the sale of the property, the liens were released, but Ross, believing he had overpaid, brought this suit seeking a refund of $152, 347.41. The IRS has now moved for summary judgment, contending that no refund is owed. Agreeing, the Court will grant the Motion.

I. Background

The Court will provide a brief sketch of the relevant employment-tax framework before venturing into the details of Ross's civil and criminal tax liabilities.

A. Employment Taxes

Under the Internal Revenue Code, an employer is required to remit federal employment taxes to the IRS on a quarterly basis. See 26 U.S.C. § 3101 et seq.; 26 C.F.R. §§ 31.6011(a)-1(a)(1), .6011(a)-4(a)(1), .6071(a)-1(a)(1). These taxes include three distinct components: (1) federal income taxes withheld from employees' wages under 26 U.S.C. § 3402(a); (2) FICA (Social Security plus Medicare) taxes withheld from employees' wages; and (3) the employer's FICA tax contribution (matching the employees' contributions). See Mot. at 3; see also Gessert v. United States , 627 F.Supp.2d 942, 946-47 (E.D. Wis. 2009) (describing components of employment taxes owed by a corporation). The first two components are considered to be held in a "special fund in trust for the United States" until they are remitted to the government, see 26 U.S.C. § 7501; Slodov v. United States , 436 U.S. 238, 243 (1978); accordingly, they are designated as the "trust-fund" portion of employment taxes, while the third component is the "non-trust-fund portion." See 26 U.S.C. § 7512; 26 C.F.R. § 301.7512-1.

To illustrate, if an employee earns $45, 000 in wages and $4, 000 was withheld in federal income tax, the trust-fund and non-trust-fund portions of the employment tax would be calculated as follows:

Amount Income Tax Withholdings $4, 000.00 Social Security (12.4 % wages) Employee's Share (6.2 % wages) $2, 790.00 Employer's Share (6.2 % wages) $2, 790.00 Medicare (2.9 % wages) Employee's Share (1.45 % wages) $652.50 Employer's Share (1.45 % wages) $652.50 Total Employment Tax $10, 885.00 ___________ Trust Fund Portion $7, 442.50 (Income Tax Employee's Share of Medicare & Social Security) Non-Trust Fund Portion $3, 442.50 (Employer's Share of Medicare & Social Security)

The distinction between the trust-fund and non-trust-fund portions of employment taxes is critical, as a separate provision of the tax code, 26 U.S.C. § 6672, provides the IRS with an additional vehicle for collecting the former portion of the tax. This section "allows the IRS, in effect, to pierce the corporate veil and proceed against individual officers or employees responsible for collecting the offending company's quarterly employment taxes." United States v. Farr , 536 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2008); see also United States v. Schroeder , 900 F.2d 1144, 1146 (7th Cir. 1990) ("Section 6672, in effect, gives the United States the ability to collect wayward trust fund taxes not only from an erring business, but also from those individuals responsible for guarding against such an error.").

Specifically, § 6672(a) provides:

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 pay a penalty equal to the amount of the tax evaded or not collected or not accounted for and paid over.

The IRS's ability to collect under § 6672 only applies to the taxes that the employer was obliged to withhold on the employees' behalf, not to the non-trust-fund portion of the employment tax. See 26 U.S.C. §§ 3402, 3102, 3301. While labeled as a "penalty, " § 6672 is not punitive insofar as it does not authorize the IRS to collect any amount over and above the withheld tax itself. See Erwin v. United States , 591 F.3d 313, 319 (4th Cir. 2010) ("Although labeled as a penalty, ' § 6672 does not actually punish; rather, it brings to the government only the same amount to which it was entitled by way of the tax.'") (quoting Turnbull v. United States , 929 F.2d 173, 178 n.6 (5th Cir. 1991)); East Wind Indus. v. United States , 108 Fed.Appx. 723, 727 (3d Cir. 2004). Interest, however, can accrue on 6672 assessments that go unpaid. See 26 U.S.C. § 6601(a) (Treasury Department's general power to collect interest).

Because the IRS may collect payments for the trust-fund portion of a corporation's liability both from the corporation itself and from the individuals charged with a 6672 assessment, this could conceivably lead to its collecting many times the corporation's original tax liability. IRS policy dictates, however, that once an amount equal to the original liability is in hand, payments in excess will be returned to responsible persons, thus preventing a "double collection." USLife Title Ins. Co. v. Harbison , 784 F.2d 1238, 1243 n.7 (5th Cir. 1986); see also East Wind Indus. , 108 Fed.Appx. at 727.

In sum, § 6672 allows the IRS to collect trust-fund portions of a company's unpaid employment taxes directly from the corporate officers who should have withheld them, as long as it takes no more than what is owed. Non-trust-fund portions, however, can be collected only from the company.

B. Ross's Civil & Criminal Liability

Spectrum's failure to remit employment taxes to the IRS, coupled with Ross's subsequent actions to willfully defeat the collection of these taxes, subjected him to both civil and criminal liability. The Court will discuss each in turn.

1. Civil Liability Under § 6672

From the Third Quarter of 1998 through the Second Quarter of 2002, Spectrum failed to submit more than $200, 000 in employment taxes to the IRS. See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Fact (Def.'s SUMF), ¶ 8. A breakdown of the corporation's overall employment taxes, as well as the trust-fund and non-trust-fund portions, is set forth below:

Table A: Employment Taxes Tax Period Total Employment Tax Non-Trust-Fund Portion Trust-Fund Portion Exhibit Income Tax Withholdings Income Tax Withholdings Employer's Share of Soc. Social Security (12.4% of wages) Security (6.2% wages) Employee's Share of Soc. Security (6.2% wages) Medicare (2.9% of wages) Employer's Share of Medicare (1.45% wages) Employee's Share of Medicare (1.45% wages) Q3 1998 $ 70, 081.90 $19, 784.24 $ 50, 317.64 76-M Q4 1998 Q11999 Q2 1999 $ 26, 466.68 $ 7, 824.33 $ 18, 642.35 76-L Q3 1999 $ 25, 104.70 $ 7, 283.61 $ 17, 820.99 76-K Q4 1999 $ 24, 698.25 $ 6, 675.84 $ 18, 022.30 76-J Q1 2000 $ 1, 418.15 $ 431.32 $ 986.77 76-I Q2 2000 No documentation submitted for this quarter. Q3 2000 $ 7, 020.65 $ 2, 070.35 $ 4, 950.61 76-H Q4 2000 $ 13, 836.32 $ 4, 143.89 $ 9, 692.31 76-G $ 12, 037.34 $12, 037.34 n/a 76-F; Q1 2001* 77-F Q2 2001 $ 9, 134.28 $ 2, 971.52 $ 6, 162.70 76-E** Q3 2001 $ 7, 696.61 $ 2, 496.98 $ 5, 199.29 76-D Q4 2001 $ 15, 095.92 $ 5, 041.52 $ 10, 054.41 76-C Q1 2002 $ 9, 335.08 $ 3, 154.68 $ 6, 180.31 76-B** Q2 2002 $ 11, 224.92 $ 3, 633.21 $ 7, 591.64 76-A Total $233, 150.80 $77, 548.83 $155, 621.32 *While the IRS indicates that no 6672 Assessment was made for this quarter, see Exh. 76-F, and thus provides no breakdown of the trust-fund and non-trust-fund portions, Spectrum failed to remit taxes in the amount of $12, 037.34. See Exh. 77-F. The Court has thus noted this amount in the Total Employment Tax column and has placed the entirety of this in the Non-Trust-Fund Portion Column, as no portion of these taxes was ever assessed to Ross under § 6672. **The exhibits submitted by the IRS contain errors with respect to certain calculations; these errors have been corrected in this Table. The Court notes that other minor discrepencies result in the totals being off by negligible amounts.

While the total employment taxes owed by Spectrum for this period totaled $233, 150.80, Ross could only be personally liable under § 6672 for the trust-fund portion: $155, 621.32. See Section I.A, supra.

Pursuant to its authority to collect the trust-fund taxes from Ross, the IRS assessed the following "IRC 6672 - Trust Fund Penalty Assessments" ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.