Incompetence or Malfeasance of a Taxpayer’s Accountant Does not Result in the IRS’s Forgiveness of Tax Penalties

In December 2015 the Unites States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Maurice S. Vaughn v. U.S. (No. 14-3858) ruled that a taxpayer whose accountant had embezzled his funds resulting in large penalties for late tax payment was not eligible for waiver of those penalties. Taxpayer who was a major league baseball player entrusted his accountant with filing and paying his taxes. The accountant instead embezzled the funds and caused the taxpayer to owe significant tax liabilities plus penalties for late payment. The taxpayer argued that he didn’t know about tax law and tax preparation and that was why he had paid the accountant to take care of his taxes. The taxpayer was willing to pay the principal tax but asked the IRS to remove the penalties for late payment. The IRS refused to waive the penalties and the taxpayer sued the IRS. The 6th Circuit ruled in favor of the IRS. The appeals court explained that circumstances that led to the imposition of penalty were under the taxpayer’s control and subject to his supervision. It was the taxpayer’s negligence to pick a competent and trustworthy accountant that led to his liability for tax penalties. Since the taxpayer neglected his duty, he was held to be responsible for the late penalties.