Posts from: September 2016

Taxpayer Held Liable For Withholding Tax Penalty After Agent Embezzles The Funds

Plaintiff was the owner of a corporation which was the owner-operator of five McDonald’s restaurant franchises. Plaintiff paid certain withholding penalties assessed against him and sought to recover penalties and related interest paid to IRS for the corporation’s alleged failure to make Federal tax deposits and pay taxes regarding its payroll taxes.

Plaintiff alleged that beginning “some 30 years ago,” the corporation engaged an outside payroll service to process all aspects of the corporation’s payroll, including the issuance of paychecks to the corporation’s employees, the withholding of federal and state taxes from these paychecks, the preparation of employment tax returns, and the depositing of withheld taxes with the IRS. The corporation would electronically transfer the funds necessary for payroll and associated taxes from its bank account to a third party payroll service. Plaintiff claimed that it “reasonably relied upon the outside payroll service and the clearinghouse bank to discharge their duties to remit withheld employment taxes to the IRS,” but instead, “the payroll service and/or the bank absconded with the timely submitted Federal Tax Deposits, which were not remitted to the IRS, resulting in the imposition upon Plaintiff of penalties and interest.

Plaintiff claimed that it learned that its payroll tax deposits to the IRS and had been embezzled, perhaps by the bank or the payroll service. It was later informed by representatives of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General’s Office that the bank was the subject of a Federal grand jury investigation. Plaintiff alleged that:

Through no fault of Plaintiff, unscrupulous third parties illegally diverted the EFTs intended for the payment of Plaintiff’s payroll taxes to their own purposes and failed to tender such amounts to the IRS. Plaintiff reasonably relied on [the payroll service] to tender its tax deposits to the IRS and exercised reasonable business care and prudence in so doing. An employer, like Plaintiff, is entitled to rely on a professional payroll tax service, such as [payroll service], to deposit payroll taxes from the employer’s sufficient available funds with a federal-authorized depositary, like [the bank], and to thereby discharge the employer’s obligations under the Internal Revenue Code and related Treasury Regulations to pay over withheld payroll taxes.

The Court held that, “at the heart of this action is plaintiff’s contention that its good faith delegation-to a third-party agent-of the responsibility to pay taxes in a timely manner may constitute “reasonable cause.” The Court concluded, as many other courts with similar facts have concluded, “a taxpayer may not avoid the adverse consequences of the failure of its agent to perform the taxpayer’s responsibility to timely file and pay federal taxes.”

If you have any questions regarding withholding tax liability, please contact:

Morris Saunders at:

msaunders@lgattorneys.com or (312) 368-0100.

If You Sell Stock In Your Start-Up Business Can You Exclude the Gain From Income?

You started your business and it grew beyond your wildest dreams. Now, a potential purchaser has approached you to acquire your business. Your first thought after, “I’m going to be rich!”, is “How much of my money will the IRS want from me?”

If your stock qualifies as “qualified small business stock” (QSBS) then that big payoff could escape income tax. Prior to 2015, Internal Revenue Code Section 1202 provided a tax free benefit in certain situations for stock acquired after September 27, 2010, but before 2015. The “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015” (PATH Act) restored the QSBS provisions for stock acquired in 2015 and thereafter.

Now, subject to certain limits, you may exclude from gross income 100% of any gain realized on the sale or exchange of QSBS held for more than five years. Also, the excluded portion of the gain from eligible QSBS is not treated as an alternative minimum tax preference item.

Stock qualifies as QSBS only if it meets all of the following tests:

  1. it must be stock originally issued after Aug. 10, 1993;
  2. as of the date the stock was issued, the corporation was a domestic C corporation with total gross assets of $50 million or less (a) at all times after Aug. 9, 1993 and before the stock was issued, and (b) immediately after the stock was issued;
  3. in general, you must have acquired the stock from the corporation, either in exchange for money or other property or as pay for services to the corporation; and,
  4. during substantially all the time you held the stock:  the corporation was a C corporation; at least 80% (by value) of the corporation’s assets are used in the active conduct of one or more qualified businesses; and the corporation was not a foreign corporation, or certain other types of companies.

A qualified business cannot be: a business involving services performed in the fields of health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, or brokerage services or a business whose principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees; a banking, insurance, financing, leasing, investing, or similar business; a farming business (including the raising or harvesting of trees); a business involving the production of products for which percentage depletion can be claimed; or a business of operating a hotel, motel, restaurant, or similar business.

For each tax year, the amount of gain eligible for the exclusion is limited to the greater of: $10 million ($5 million for married persons filing separately), or 10 times your total adjusted basis in QSBS of the corporation disposed of by you in the tax year.

The above is a brief synopsis of the rules regarding QSBS. If you’d like to discuss these rules or any other business issue you might have, please contact:

Morris R. Saunders at:

msaunders@lgattorneys.com or (312)368-0100

Illinois Freedom to Work Act Prohibiting Non-Compete Restrictions for “Low-Wage Employees” is Signed in to Law

On August 19, 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Illinois Freedom to Work Act. The new law, which is effective January 1, 2017, prohibits employers from entering into covenants not to compete with low-wage employees and provides that any agreement entered into in violation of the Act is illegal and void.

Under the Act, a “low-wage employee” is any employee who earns the greater of: (1) the hourly rate equal to the minimum wage required by the applicable Federal, State, or local minimum wage law; or (2) $13.00 per hour.

Covenants not to compete prohibited by the Act include agreements that restrict a low-wage employee from performing:

  1. work for another employer for a specified period of time;
  2. work in a specified geographical area; or
  3. work for another employer that is similar to such low-wage employee’s work for the employer with which the employee entered into the agreement.

The Act appears to apply only to covenants not to compete and does not expressly apply to non-solicitation agreements prohibiting low-wage employees from soliciting the employer’s customers or employees. The Act also does not prohibit non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements to protect an employer’s confidential information.

If you have any questions regarding the Illinois Freedom to Work Act or would like to discuss the preparation of employment agreements for your business, please contact:

Kristen E. O’Neill at:

koneill@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.

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