What if my employer withheld too little from my paycheck?

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Question:

My boss didn't take enough taxes out of my paycheck for the past two years. The IRS has hit me with bills for penalty and interest on top of the taxes I owe. Seeing as the situation isn't my fault, and I can't afford all these payments, can you tell me whether I can make my employer pay up, or get out of these bills some other way?

Answer:

Unfortunately, when it comes to the pesky legalities of taking care of your tax liability, you are in the same position as that poor cheese that was required to stand all alone. Every American is responsible for telling his or her employer how many exemptions he or she is entitled to on a Form W-4 -- and for seeing that the employer follows those instructions. Any attempts to pin the consequences of tax underwithholding on the employer will fall on a puncture-proof lapel.

The IRS just might listen to a penalty abatement argument based on the excuse that your employer did you wrong. But while the argument may be worth a try, you should enter the ring knowing that it has only a slim chance of succeeding.

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