United States v. Quality Stores, Inc., No. 10-1563 (6th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
An involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition was filed against Quality Stores, which eventually closed operations and terminated all employees. Under the Pre-Petition Plan, severance pay was based on job grade. Payments were made on the normal payroll schedule, not tied to receipt of unemployment compensation, and not attributable to particular services. The Post-Petition Plan was designed to encourage employees to defer their job searches; the lump-sum payments were not tied to receipt of unemployment compensation, nor attributable to provision of particular services. Quality reported the payments as wages and withheld income tax, paid the employer’s share of FICA tax, and withheld each employee’s share of FICA. Of $1,000,125 at issue, $382,362 is attributed to the Pre-Petition Plan, $214,000 for the employer share and $168,362 for the employee share; $617,763 is attributed to the Post- Petition Plan, $357,127 for the employer share and $260,636 for the employee share. Quality argued that the payments were not wages but supplemental unemployment compensation benefits, not taxable under FICA, and sought a refund of the employer share and the shares of consenting employees. When the IRS did not act, Quality filed an adversary action in the bankruptcy court, which ordered a full refund. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed.