Williams Parker shareholder Mike Wilson recently led a Williams Parker team in the representation of several affiliated taxpayers that were under a combined audit by the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) in connection with the taxpayers’ treatment of several thousand workers as partners, instead of as employees or independent contractors, for payroll tax purposes over multiple years. By characterizing their workers as partners, the taxpayers’ took the position that the workers’ compensation was not reportable on Form W-2 or subject to withholding or payroll tax obligations. Instead, the compensation was a guaranteed payment, reportable on the workers’ Schedule K-1, and subject to self-employment tax to be paid by the workers. Not surprisingly, the Service took a very aggressive position regarding the classification of the workers as partners, arguing they were properly characterized as employees. With an exposure for the taxpayers of approximately $16,000,000 of tax, interest, and penalties, Williams Parker was able to settle the four-year dispute with the Service for approximately 12 percent of such amount.
During the course of an audit of a partnership for employment tax matters, an issue arose as to whether the tax partnership (which has numerous partners) was subject to the unified partnership audit and litigation provisions of TEFRA (the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982). Representing the partnership, Williams Parker took the position that while the partnership was subject to TEFRA for income tax purposes, it was not subject to TEFRA for employment tax or worker classification matters. Due to the multitude of partners and other factors, being subject to TEFRA would have resulted in the partnership incurring significant expense and headache in trying to comply with the various TEFRA provisions during the course of the audit and any subsequent tax proceedings. Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel agreed with Williams Parker in a published ruling, which can be found at the following link: TEFRA Ruling.