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District Courts Have Broad Discretion When Ordering IRS Debt Payments

In an appeal filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, from the Western District of Louisiana, the Court affirmed a district court verdict ruling in favor for the IRS. The Plaintiff, S.P. Lewis was ordered to pay monthly installments to the government to pay for taxes withheld from employee’s wages while S.P Davis and three other people were equal owners of the Winward Institute, Winward Heath Care Center, and Mynex. These three entities provide medical services to Louisiana patients. In 1997, these owners became aware that the companies were not paying enough federal payroll taxes. The owners asked the vice president of finance, Samuel Stevens, to negotiate with the IRS but the debt was never corrected.

In 2002, The IRS caught up with the companies and issued assessments against the owners for unpaid payroll taxes. Davis paid what he felt was his portion of the debt and then filed for a refund with the IRS. His claim was denied. In District Court, the government won the argument that the owners and Stevens were responsible people who had the opportunity to cure the dabt long ago. Because the owners and Stevens all had knowledge of the debt, and the opportunity to address the situation prior to suit, the owners and Stevers were considered equally responsible.

The government typically garnishes debtor’s wages in this situation. However, if the person in debt recieves income not exempt from taxes, the district court may order the person in debt to make payments instead of garnishing wages. When the Court established monthly payments against all counter-defendants, only Davis refused to pay. Davis did not want to pay the amount per month ordered by the government. Davis argued that the government was making him pay far too much each month. He argued the government was determining the monthly amount on a period in time when Davis had a much higher income. Davis also argued that the court had not properly considered his personal circumstances including the costs associated with earning his self-employment income.

District courts have broad discretion in issuing orders for periodic payments of debt. In this case, the Court would need to determine the amount ordered was very unreasonable to consider a change the amount ordered. This court ruled against Davis. The Court determined Davis clearly had substantial disposable income he could put toward his IRS debt. The district court considered Davis’s income, family situation, personal debt, and the amount owed to the government. The district court order that Davis will pay $3,327 per month is affirmed.

This case is important when looking for understanding in how a settled debt may be repaid in time. Court proceedings involving financial repayment are important issues that require effective legal assistance to navigate.