United States v. Fior D'Italia, Inc., 536 U.S. 238, 16 (2002)

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

Souter, J., dissenting

401 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. V). In the simplest case, the employee is taxed on what he receives, and the employer is taxed on what he pays. See 26 U. S. C. 3101, 3111. For a long time, an employee's income from tips was not recognized as remuneration paid by the employer, and the corresponding FICA tax was imposed only on the employee. See Social Security Amendments of 1965, 313(c), 79 Stat. 382. In 1987, however, the Internal Revenue Code was amended to treat tip income within the remuneration on which the employer, too, is taxed, 26 U. S. C. 3121(q), and that is the present law.

The scheme is simple. The tips are includible in the employee's wages. The employee must report the amount of taxable tip income to the employer. 6053(a). "[L]arge food or beverage establishment[s]" must pass on that information to the Internal Revenue Service, 6053(c)(1), and must also report the total amount of tips shown on credit card slips, ibid. The employer is subject to tax on the same amount of tip income listed on an employee's report to him and in turn reported by him to the IRS. For both the employer and the employee, however, taxable tip income is limited to income within what is known as the "wage band"; there is no tax on tips that amount to less than $20 in a given month, or on total remuneration in excess of the Social Security wage base ($53,400 and $55,500, respectively, in the years relevant to this case).

Because many employees report less tip income than they receive, their FICA taxes and their employers' matching amounts are less than they would be in a world of complete reporting. The IRS has chosen to counter dishonesty on the part of restaurant employees not by moving directly against them, but by going against their employers with assessments of unpaid FICA taxes based on an estimate of all tip income paid to all employees aggregated together. The Court finds these aggregated assessments authorized by the general provision for assessments of unpaid taxes, 6201, which benefits

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