Settlement Program for Worker-Classification Issues: Putting the Latest Employment Tax Offer into Perspective

By Hale Sheppard

The difference between what taxpayers should pay and what they actually pay the IRS is called the “tax gap.”  A significant portion of the tax gap is attributable to non-compliance with employment tax laws, including worker misclassification.  The IRS is currently conducting a three-year research project, which entails an additional 6,000 random employment tax audits.  This research will inevitably lead to the conclusion that worker misclassification is rampant and depriving the federal government of billions of dollars in tax revenues each year.  Therefore, the IRS likely will deem it necessary to dedicate significantly more resources to enforcement of employment tax laws in the future.

Against this backdrop, the IRS announced in September 2011 a new voluntary classification settlement program (“VCSP”), which is designed to entice companies into reclassifying their workers from independent contractors to employees.  The VCSP may seem appealing at first blush, but further analysis reveals that participation in this pseudo-amnesty program may not be the best decision for many companies.  Of course, the challenge is that many companies grappling with this critical issue lack a complete picture of the options and their true implications.   These companies and/or their advisors have, as they say, just enough information to be dangerous.  The attached article, called “IRS Introduces New Settlement Program for Worker-Classification Issues:  Putting the Latest Employment Tax Offer into Perspective,” analyzes the major choices available to companies that could be facing worker-classification disputes with the IRS in the near future.  The article was published in the most recent issue of Taxes – The Tax Magazine.

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