United States v. Fior D'Italia, Inc., 536 U.S. 238, 4 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 238 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

forth additional hospital insurance tax). It specifies that "tips received by an employee in the course of his employment shall be considered remuneration" and "deemed to have been paid by the employer" for purposes of the FICA tax sections. 3121(q). It also requires an employee who receives wages in the form of tips to report the amount of those tips to the employer, who must send copies of those reports to the IRS. 26 CFR 31.6011(a)-1(a) (2001).

In 1991 and 1992 the reports provided to San Francisco's Fior D'Italia restaurant (and ultimately to the IRS) by the restaurant's employees showed that total tip income amounted to $247,181 and $220,845, in each year respectively. And Fior D'Italia calculated and paid its FICA tax based on these amounts. The same reports, however, also showed that customers had listed tips on their credit card slips amounting to far more than the amount reported by the employees ($364,786 in 1991 and $338,161 in 1992). Not surprisingly, this discrepancy led the IRS to conduct a compliance check. And that check led the IRS to issue an assessment against Fior D'Italia for additional FICA tax.

To calculate the added tax it found owing, the IRS used what it calls an "aggregate estimation" method. That method was a very simple one. The IRS examined the restaurant's credit card slips for the years in question, finding that customers had tipped, on average, 14.49% of their bills in 1991 and 14.29% in 1992. Assuming that cash-paying customers on average tipped at those rates also, the IRS calculated total tips by multiplying the tip rates by the restaurant's total receipts. It then subtracted tips already reported and applied the FICA tax rate to the remainder. The results for 1991 showed total tips amounting to $403,726 and unreported tips amounting to $156,545. The same figures for 1992 showed $368,374 and $147,529. The IRS issued an assessment against Fior D'Italia for additional FICA taxes owed, amounting to $11,976 for 1991 and $11,286 for 1992.

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