Tag Archive for: case study

Small business owner responds to EDD audit

Now that the April filing deadline has passed, small business owners may be asking: what’s next?

As tempting as it may be to put off thinking of taxes until next year, some small business owners may be required to respond to an California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) audit.

Read on how to learn common EDD audit triggers and and how to respond.

What is a CA EDD Audit?

EDD conducts an audit to determine if the employer has paid the full and correct amount of taxes due under California law.

What Triggers EDD Audits?

The following circumstances most commonly trigger EDD audits:

  • An independent contractor filing for unemployment
  • The EDD verification process
  • Late filing of tax returns or late payment of taxes
  • Failing to pay wages on time or collect SDI and PIT

Many verification EDD audits are conducted on a random basis. These audits are not based on any assumptions of inaccurate or incomplete information. Additionally, EDD has the power to audit a company if they believe the business has purposefully misclassified workers in an attempt to avoid paying payroll taxes.

However, many legitimate businesses are unintentionally misclassifying employees. Many of these misclassifications are a as a result of new, strict worker classification regulations, related to Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5).

What is AB-5?

AB-5 is a piece of legislation that extends employee classification status to some independent contractors and gig workers depending on the qualifications outlined in the ABC test. AB-5 went into effect on January 1st, 2020, and changed how Small Business Owners (SBOs) who hire independent contractors operate in California.

Learn more about how this law came into effect, and how Dyanmex ruined it for everyone, here. 

How Can AB-5 Lead to the Misclassification of Employees?

AB-5 introduced the ABC test as a stricter guideline to determine how to classify workers as 1099 independent contractors. A worker must meet all three criteria of the ABC test to be classified as a 1099 independent contractor instead of a W-2 employee. The worker must:

  1. Be free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection to the performance of the work.
  2. Perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  3. Be customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

If the contractor misses one of the criteria in the ABC test, they should be classified as a W-2 employee.

Learn more about AB-5 and the ABC test, here.

What Happens If I Misclassify an Employee?

Employee misclassification can lead to several unfortunate outcomes, including fines and penalties.

With the new regulations, employee misclassification is more common for small businesses. As an example, let’s examine the case study of one of our clients, Ryan Brown, who misclassified his workers and was faced with EDD audit.

Check out the video below!

Meet the Client: Ryan Brown

Ryan Brown owns a construction company in Oceanside, California. His business classified a portion of the staff as 1099 independent contractors and the rest as W-2 employees.

How Can the Misclassification of W-2 Employees Happen?

The services of the hired independent contractor must be consistent with all three of the criteria established by the ABC test or they are automatically classified as a W-2 employee.

In Brown’s case, he didn’t realize that the independent contractors were providing the same services as the W-2 employees. Therefore, the employees he classified as independent contractors didn’t meet the second requirement, “[workers] perform work that is outside of the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” Thus, all staff members should be classified as W-2 employees–any worker the business claimed was an independent contractor was misclassified.

What Triggered Brown’s EDD Audit?

EDD conducted a random site sweep of Brown’s business. This sweep resulted in EDD finding misclassified workers.

What Happened When Brown Contacted Milikowsky Tax Law?

Brown called Milikowsky Tax Law and set an initial meeting. Before signing any kind of retainer, John started making calls to learn more about the audit and what steps they needed to take immediately to protect the business and provide accurate information to EDD and CSLB.

What Were the Results of Brown’s EDD Audit?

After less than a month, EDD sent a final letter indicating the decision– minor fines were due, the case was closed. For Brown, the results–and knowing his business was going to be fine– provided a sense of relief.

Ryan’s results are both exceptional and the kind of outcome our team strives for with every client. And while we can’t promise any client’s outcome will be the same as another, we can say with utmost assurance that the team at Milikowsky Tax Law is your relentless advocate in the face of EDD, CSLB, and IRS audit.

What should you pay for a tax attorney?

 

How much should you pay for a tax attorney? It depends on the issue you’re facing. If you’re a business owner, you can expect to pay a little bit more because these cases tend to have more complicated issues. Sometimes, cases can cost $2,000 to $3,000, but it depends on the complexity of the case itself. 

A sole proprietor receiving a letter from the IRS two years after filing a return may be able to work with their CPA, instead of a tax attorney. However, it depends on the amount of tax liability. If the potential tax liability is not more than $40,000, it makes more sense to try to resolve it with your CPA first. 

Now, there can be a lot of tax legal issues that come along with an IRS audit, but if it’s simple enough, your CPA should be able to resolve it. At Milikowsky Tax Law, we do work with a lot of CPAs for these types of cases. Many times, the CPA may do the majority of the work, and we provide the legal support, depending upon the technicality of the issue. 

Case Study 

Recently, we worked with a client— let’s call her Sandy— who worked as a W-2 employee in a hospital and also claimed to own a business. On that business, the client reported $100,000 of gross income and about $250,000 of expenses. Resulting in claiming a loss of $150,000. 

After filing these taxes, the IRS sent the client a letter explaining they didn’t believe the return and requested an interview. Sandy brought the letter to our office before she became a client asking for our help. 

During our conversation, I asked her what exactly she did for work because the claim reported her business as telephony, and that she is a W-2 employee at a health organization. Neither form of employment is related to each other. 

Sandy explained she invested some money in a foreign country with a man who she didn’t know too well. He would tell her that she made $100,000 in a year but would ask her to wire money to him for expenses. He explained, “we spent $250,000 so you owe me $150,000”

When IRS reviewed her filings, the agency wondered how the client was losing money every year working in telephony. Upon speaking with the IRS agent, our firm’s biggest concern became the 15-year history of tax filings reporting a loss of money.  The client essentially zeroed out her taxes through her paychecks.

What appeared to be a very simple issue in the beginning, with not a lot of value, became a bigger concern as we uncovered its complexities with the IRS agent assigned to her case, who we’ve worked with numerous times on these types of cases. 

Should I Hire an Attorney?

When looking to hire a tax attorney, it’s beneficial to call the attorney to receive initial ideas and suggestions. Any attorney who is worth their weight in gold can talk through the issues quickly, and maybe even look through your return. 

Our office can assess a case in about five minutes and let potential clients know if their case is one that needs the support of an attorney, or if their CPA can handle the case instead. 

Important factors to consider for potential clients before hiring an attorney are:

  • Do you understand what documents the IRS are looking for?
  • What are the claims? 
  • What are the issues? 
  • What years are IRS auditing? 

More simple cases include a person facing an audit who failed to report income from a distribution. In these cases, the person facing the audit will most likely pay the additional taxes required. An attorney may be able to help waive the penalty if it’s high enough, but that would be found upon an initial assessment with the attorney. 

Keep in mind the fees you, as a potential client, are willing to pay an attorney in addition to audit finding fees or penalties owed. The goal of hiring an attorney is to hopefully pay much less, a fraction of what you could potentially owe, and get a result. Remember that attorneys are not able to guarantee results, however, anybody with significant experience will be able to tell you the likelihood of success. 

Questions about IRS? 

IRS performs audits randomly and also when flagged through tax filings. They require important documentation, organization, and meetings with the IRS auditor. 

Read our article that answers the most common IRS audit questions here

 

What should you consider before hiring an attorney

Vince B. EDD audit Case Story

We are grateful to our client, Vince B., for sharing his story of how we were able to help him weather an EDD audit. This audit could have closed his business and had far-reaching repercussions for his personal finances as well as business finances.

In 2020, Vince was hit with an EDD audit that threatened to not only shut down his business but impact his personal finances as well. Hear his story of how our expert team navigated his misclassification audit and brought down hundreds of thousands in fees down to about $6,000. His misclassification audit closed in 2021. 

Meet Vince in his testimonial below.

“My name is Vince Bindy and I’m a co-founder, co-owner of a behavioral health mental health facility in Orange County, California, and we’ve been operating efficiently for some years. And then we got hit with an EDD audit and to make a long story short, the EDD was trying to claim that all our therapists were actually employees. 

At the time it was quite shocking and we contacted some various attorneys and one attorney really just terrified myself and my business partner, Nick.

We came up with potential damages of theoretically several hundred thousand dollars. What could have been $300,000, $250,000, $400,000. We really didn’t know. And also, what we found out, much to our chagrin, is I guess a couple or three years ago, I don’t know for sure. 

The State of California passed a new law where if the corporation, for some reason, couldn’t pay all the back fees and penalties due to the EDD from an audit like this, they could come after us personally.

We called around, called around, interviewed three or four different attorneys. John Milikowsky’s law firm was one of the attorneys we interviewed. 

Fortunately, we picked John. 

All the attorneys sound good on the phone, right? When we first interviewed him, something about John felt right. He came across as very soothing and calm because we talked with a couple of other attorneys. And like I said, that one attorney really put the fear of God in us, times three. I mean, laying out all these potential scenarios. I guess that’s sometimes a sales technique to terrify somebody when you’re an attorney or other professions, and then getting them to sign up with you. 

John didn’t use that approach, more of a straightforward one.

We told him what this other attorney said. And he said, “Yeah, that could happen. But it’s very rare. I’ve never had that happen to me. It’s very remote.” So, I liked that soothing approach. He’s very experienced. He laid out all the cases he worked with in the past and dealt with firms similar to us in the medical field about our size. 

The third thing was just the way he was going to lay out the process. He just laid out the process. Here’s what we’re going to do first. Here’s what we’re going to do next. You’ll pay them a certain amount of money at this point and then kinda lay it out when the money will be due and kinda mapped out. 

A lot of the times you ask an attorney, roughly get me in the ballpark, what it’s going to cost and you never get an answer.

And John had no guarantees. You can never get a guarantee from an attorney obviously, but kinda he laid out a min-max of what it might cost, his legal fees. And I appreciated that as well. 

To make a long story short, that potential fear of having a debt of two, three, $400,000 got whittled down, negotiated by John’s legal firm down to, I believe, $6,000 in change. I could be off by a thousand bucks. It could have been five, could have been seven, I don’t remember. But when that happened, we were jumping for joy to tell you the truth. And so that’s why I’m doing this video. I’m extremely happy with the services.

And at the end of the day, results are all that matters in the way I view things and old John’s a great guy, but more importantly, he produced the results. And I got to tell you, that wasn’t even a goal. My goal with my partner, Nick, I said, “Nick, if John could get it below a hundred thousand dollars, I’d be happy at this point in time.” 

He got it down to 6,000 and change. So what more can I say?”

-Vince B. 

Vince’s audit was an EDD worker reclassification audit, something we are seeing more and more of in our practice in 2021. EDD is actively seeking 1099 contractor misclassification cases since the passage of AB-5 the Gig work bill in January 2020.  

The new ABCs of worker classification set stricter criteria for workers to be classified as contractors vs wage-earning W-2 employees.  In the case of this client, there was one worker who was misclassified and EDD sought to compel the company to reclassify ALL of their 1099s as W-2s.  

In cases like this, the advocacy of an experienced audit attorney can make the difference between a financially damaging penalty and a manageable penalty amount due.  While no one case can determine the outcome of any other, we do know that EDD’s audits are swift, decisive, and aggressive. 

Not sure what an EDD Benefit Audit is? Find out here