I was the human resources director at an Oklahoma company that, without my knowledge, failed to forward payroll taxes to the IRS. Now the government is coming after me for the full amount owed. What can I do?

Well, your first step is to hire a good lawyer. If the company you worked for withheld Oklahoma payroll taxes for years on end, rather than forwarding them to the IRS, then you probably are being threatened with the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty.

This means the IRS can go after pretty much anyone in the higher levels of the company who had knowledge (or should have had knowledge) of the payroll tax evasion scheme. What makes this penalty especially dangerous is that you can't hide behind the company itself if the treasury is dry. The IRS will gladly collect what is owed from your personal bank account, and may even seize your home and other assets.

Why is the IRS going after you, rather than the people who hatched this Oklahoma payroll pyramid scheme in the first place? Most likely, the CEO or senior VP whom you trusted has disappeared and is living high on the hog with the government’s money on a Caribbean island while you are left holding the bag.

It may seem unfair—and in many cases, it is—but the IRS will presume that anyone with “signing power” (i.e. the ability to make decisions concerning company matters) is liable for the bill. Since you were high up in the company, they've decided to point the finger at you.

But, don't give up hope. An experienced Oklahoma tax lawyer may be able to get you off the hook, either partially or completely, for the criminal acts of your associates. Call the Oklahoma tax attorneys at Travis W. Watkins, PC (800-721-7054) for a free consultation today. We will advise you on how best to proceed in this dangerous situation.