Getting an audit notice is never anyone's idea of fun. But getting audited isn't always the disaster it might seem. In fact, for fiscal 2012, 107,820 lucky winners got refunds after their audits. Granted, that's still shy of seven percent of everyone audited that year. But it proves you can walk away from the IRS a winner.
Here's a clever strategy one taxpayer used to walk away from the IRS with a windfall. But you might want to be careful before you try it yourself!
William Berroyer owned an HVAC contracting company on Long Island. On July 3, 2008, he met with the IRS at their Hauppauge office to discuss a $60,000 payroll tax bill he owed on behalf of his business. The agent in charge of his case directed Berroyer to a conference table, where he nervously worked out a payment plan. As he stood up to leave, he twisted his foot in about 15 feet of telephone cord, spun around, hit a metal file cabinet, and landed flat on the floor.
At first he said he felt fine — he just wanted to get out of that conference room and back to his office. But then he called the auditor from the parking lot to say he had lost feeling in his lower leg. He made it back to his shop alright, but soon felt even worse and headed for the hospital. Berroyer wound up spending seven days in the emergency room and 10 days in rehab. Five years after the accident, he spends most of his time in a wheelchair and can't walk more than a few feet without canes. His injuries have interfered with all aspects of his life, including his work, his boating, his golf game, and even his no-longer-twice-weekly "special time" with Mrs. Berroyer.
(You already know where we're headed, don't you?) Naturally, Bennoyer sued. For $10 million.
There wasn't much argument over liability. The real contest focused on the extent of the injury. (Translation — was he just faking it?) Hospital records reported his diagnosis as "acute paraplegia, psychogenic in origin." Another doctor noted "Neuro exam and MRI findings not consistent with subjective complaints . . . . Affect is somewhat inappropriately bright." At trial, the government's medical expert conceded Berroyer had probably bruised his spinal cord, but that mild injury should long since have passed. Asked directly if Berroyer was faking or malingering, he replied "I don't use the terms faking or malingering. I use the term non-physiological." (And really, doesn't "non-physiological" sound so much better than "faking"?)
Judge Arthur Spatt ultimately ruled that the IRS's negligence had caused a "mild spinal cord injury." He awarded Berroyer $112,000 in medical expenses, plus $350,000 for past pain and suffering, plus another $250,000 for future pain and suffering. Oh, and he threw in another $150,000 for Mrs. Berroyer's "loss of services." And the best part . . .? Internal Revenue Code Section 104 says that compensation for injuries and sickness are nontaxable. That means the Berroyers get to keep all $862,000!
So, what do you think? An easy way to earn nearly a million bucks? Or would you rather skip the physical therapy and take advantage of easier strategies, like choosing the right entity for your business, the right plan for your retirement, and the right benefits for your family? We're sorry to confess we can't help you with a loose phone cord. But we can help you with the plan you need to pay the least tax allowed by law. So call us if you want to save tax — but don't want to wheel yourself into a courtroom to do it!
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