Sometimes an employment tax dispute is more than that. For a New York businessman, stashing the payroll taxes became a habit, and then a tax crime.
It is the responsibility of business owners in the U.S. to withhold certain wage taxes and pay those taxes over to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) along with payment of their own withholding taxes. Seems pretty simple. Unfortunately, employment tax fraud is common. That pot of cash withheld from employee taxes can sing a siren song to business owners short of cash, trying to improve their bottom line, or just dreaming of a new car or other fancy trimming.
As we have discussed before, the efforts of the IRS to pursue business owners for their tax obligations is just as common as the crime itself. In the case of Mr. Dean Whittles, an IRS criminal tax investigation found Mr. Whittles failed to pay $617,843 in payroll taxes. An experienced entrepreneur, Mr. Whittle formerly owned several businesses in the Syracuse area, including the popular collegiate watering hole DJ’s on The Hill, Dejon’s Hair Designs, and several other salons.
Between the years of 2016 and 2019, Mr. Whittles collected employee withholding taxes but never quite got them to the IRS. Instead, Mr. Whittles paid other business and personal expenses. While the story is not new, there are underlying points to be made here. As a criminal tax matter, spending employee withholding is fairly likely to be identified by the IRS. Failing to pay over withholding is not a victimless crime. Employees expect the benefits of paying into the American social safety net.
Disputes over employment taxes that have been embezzled never end well for business owners who are held personally and professionally responsible for the lost funds. In this case, it was the business owner who took the funds—and pled guilty to the charge. As a result, he will be repaying $617,843 of those taxes to the IRS. In other cases, an employee siphons off the funds, which still leaves the business owner on the line through Trust Fund Recovery. Business owners are responsible for payment of withholding taxes regardless of their delegation of the role.
The last point of payroll tax theft and other business-related tax crime—speak with a criminal tax defense attorney as soon as possible if you want to avoid incarceration. Mr. Whittles has divested himself of his New York businesses and moved to sunny Arizona. At least for now. With sentencing scheduled for June of this year. Mr. Whittles faces a potential five years in prison and another $250,000 in fines.
Experienced legal advice if you are challenged by a tax controversy in Cleveland, Chicago, or abroad
If you are concerned about business compliance, an offshore tax question, or need guidance with an IRS civil or criminal audit, the tax group at Robert J. Fedor, Esq., LLC can help. We deliver seasoned, strategic tax guidance. Call us at 800-579-0997 or contact us online.