The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (“TFRP”) was created to encourage prompt payment of withheld income and employment taxes such as social security taxes, railroad retirement taxes, or collected excise taxes. Typically, the employee’s money is held “in trust” until the business owner or responsible party makes a tax deposit to the IRS for the amount owed, e.g. tax withheld on IRS Form 941 Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.
Problems arise when a business owner or person responsible for collecting or paying withholds these taxes from employees but does not pay the same over to IRS. Some businesses may ignore payment because they are struggling to make ends meet or choose to spend the withheld money elsewhere. Other businesses are simply unaware of the tax obligation or the person responsible takes action contrary to what the business is aware of. Either way, the IRS will seek payment from the business and also look to apply personal liability for the TFRP to certain people who are responsible for payment and willfully do not make payment.