For most businesses, the classification of your independent contractors boils down to 1) the level of control you have over them and 2) whether or not they are integral to the revenue generation function of your business with a whole lot of nuance in how the state looks at those two areas.
Payroll tax audits focus on four main areas:
1) That the correct amount of wages were reported.
2) The correct amount of tax was paid.
3) That there is no additional tax owed (through an examination of the general ledger and bank statements).
4) That there are no independent contractors who need to be classified as employees with additional tax due.
Your first step in the process is to meet with our concierge team, who is in charge of walking you through in the intake/conflicts process for our firm. Our team will collect some basic information and is trained to gather some facts that our senior legal team will use to sketch the four corners of your tax action plan. For any documents that you wish to submit to us, our team will provide you with a customized link for you to upload your documents utilizing bank level security.
The initial meeting with our team is completely complementary. It is our job to analyze your situation and to make a determination on whether or not you are a good candidate to take the next step in our process. The last thing we would want is for you to make the investment in the tax action plan process and for it not to provide maximum benefit for you.
After your initial diagnostic, our team will make an initial recommendation and connect you with our senior legal team or another resource to assist you.
Note: From the moment you speak with our team, even if you elect not to retain us, everything you tell us is completely confidential under California state bar rules.
Let's get down to brass tacks. We start the meeting knowing that there is something about your situation that has caused the state to target you for a sales tax audit. The ultimate goal of our meeting is ascertain what put you on the radar and how to get you off it.
We usually begin our meeting by going through the basics: who you are, what you have been doing, and, based on this, what your risk exposure is in a sales tax audit. As long as we have been doing this, it always amazes us how the little things about a prospective client can really influence the audit process. As we listen to your answers, we are stress testing your business to see where the weak spots would be in an audit.
If you have submitted any documents to us, we will review them in advance of the meeting and provide feedback based on what we see. However, providing financial documents (tax returns, sales summaries) is not necessary at this point in the process.
The advantage that exists in a payroll tax audit vs. other types of audits is that the process for auditing returns is basically a straight formula.
1) Did you have the correct amount of taxable wages?
2) Did you pay the correct amount of tax?
3) Are there other items in your financials that should be reclassified as taxable wages (and thus you owe the government more tax)?
4) Do you have workers/independent contractors that should have been reclassified as employees (and thus you owe the government more tax)?
5) Based on the conduct of the business, should be the business be subject to a penalty/penalties?
So, because we have the auditor's playbook, we can put you through a rough simulation of what you are going to experience in the audit. This is the best way to avoid liability because we can take a practice run at examining areas where there might be potential risk and resolving issues before we have to put them in front of the auditor.
By the end of the meeting, we will outline a full plan for your sales tax audit defense and share our full recommendations with you.
The action plan is our opportunity to deliver as much value to you as possible and for you to walk out of our office with a game plan for resolving your sales tax audit. After you sit down with Sam or our senior legal team, we work to finalize your plan in writing and deliver it to you. There is no further obligation to us at this point and your action plan comes with a full 100% money back guarantee. If we do not deliver value for you, you do not pay for your plan: plain and simple.
Our concierge team will put together and send you a summary of our notes from the meeting/call. You will have these for the benefit of your organization, you can share them with others, or we are happy to schedule a follow up meeting to discuss any points of the plan with others.
Keep in mind, our plan comes before we have an opportunity to do more than an initial examination of any supporting documentation. However, while not a substitute for full on legal representation, we have designed the plan as its own stand alone component.
We help you define the rules of engagement and sets the tone for the audit. Often, even with a base familiarity with the client's data, we can steer the direction of the audit early to our client's benefit. By having a plan, even without full representation, you will see a significant impact on the start of the audit, which will be critical in determining the outcome and maximizing your defense.
With your approval, we can execute and begin implementing your customized plan by the end of your first meeting. In reality, by the end of having us deliver their plan, most clients will elect to retain us for some measure of services going forward toward implementation. We are happy to be a role player and to serve as a guide going forward, or we can take the audit completely off your plate and handle everything from start to finish. It is entirely up to you.
We like to say in the firm that we are not in the habit of making decisions for people, but rather we strive to provide enough information for organizations and business owners/officers to make their own decisions. That is not to say that we leave you to do the heavily lifting (quite the contrary, our recommendations are usually very precise and candid), but the control over the matter should always rest with the client. We strive to keep you in the loop and break things down step-by-step.
Through our experience in more than on hundred payroll tax audits and 10+ years of experience in this area of law, we have learned that every audit follows a similar path, but with a slightly different approach based on who the client is. Our focus during the entire audit process though remains on what is best for you business. It is through our business-first approach though that we are able to achieve very beneficial results for our clients because we understand the 10,000 foot view of how the process works and how to navigate through it.