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New York Ambulance Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Employment Tax Crimes

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    According to a Department of Justice press release, a New York businessman recently pleaded guilty to failing to pay employment taxes. This story should remind taxpayers who own a business or are responsible for the payroll tax function within a company that there can be severe consequences for those who fail to properly adhere to federal employment tax withholding laws. If you have failed to properly withhold, account for, and pay over amounts withheld from the paychecks of employees, misclassified employees as independent contractors or if you have failed to properly pay payroll taxes, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced tax defense attorney to determine your best options for coming into tax compliance and reduce or eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution.

    Defendant Withheld Employment Taxes, But Used Funds for His Own Benefit

    Court records reveal that Steven Kwestel of Lawrence, New York, was the owner and operator of Courtesy Transportation Inc. The company provided ambulance transportation services in the Brooklyn, New York area. Between 2013 and 2019, prosecutors alleged that Kwestel properly withheld income taxes from the paychecks of Courtesy Transportation employees, but that he failed to pay over such amounts to the IRS. Instead, prosecutors alleged, and Kwestel admitted, to using hundreds of thousands of dollars of withheld income taxes for his and his family’s own benefit.

    The IRS and Department of Justice estimate that Kwestel’s illegal activity caused a tax loss of more than $1.3 million. Kwestel will be sentenced later this fall and could face up to five years in a federal prison. Additionally, he could be sentenced to a period of supervised release to commence upon the completion of his physical prison sentence. Lastly, Kwestel has already agreed to repay $1.2 million to the IRS in the form of restitution, representing the tax loss that he caused.

    Recognizing the Seriousness of Employment Tax Exposures and Coming into Compliance

    As we have indicated before in previous blog posts, paycheck withholding of federal income taxes is the primary mechanism whereby the federal government collects tax dollars from Americans. Thus, it should be no surprise that when business owners or those otherwise tasked with properly adhering to the employment tax withholding regime fail to do so, that criminal investigators and Department of Justice prosecutors can become involved quickly. Although there are methods whereby a taxpayer who has fallen behind on their employment tax obligations can come into compliance while avoiding a criminal tax prosecution, simply ignoring the problem, or continuing the illegal behavior is not one of them.

    If you have failed to properly withhold, account for, or pay over employment taxes, or if you have failed to file a tax return for your business altogether, you should consider contacting an experienced tax defense attorney. Together, you will first determine your level of civil or criminal exposure. Then, you will jointly agree on a strategy to bring you into tax compliance. While you are being represented by a seasoned tax attorney, you won’t have to worry about going up against the IRS alone. Lastly, addressing your or your business’s tax issues means no more losing sleep wondering when the IRS would come knocking.

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