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Last month, I had to refer one of my well established, long-time clients to an immigration attorney.

He got hit with a $141,000 penalty from Homeland Security.

What was his sin?  He did not have I-9 forms for all his employees on the premises for agents to inspect.

After this incident, I started getting calls from other accountants who described similar instances.

It became apparent that there must be a task force in the Detroit area from Homeland Security that is going door to door-busting small businesses for not having their I-9 forms.

Believe it or not, I-9 forms have been required to be filled out when you hire someone since 1986.  Enforcement has been spotty over the years.  In fact, I can only remember one or two I-9 audits in the last 30 years.

An I-9 form requires you to inspect at least two proofs that the employee is legal and able to work.  These proofs are most of the time a drivers license and social security card but can be a passport or a green card.  You must sign the form and the employee must sign the form.  An unsigned form is subject to a penalty.  You also must have forms for all current employees on-premises for inspection whenever an agent requests them.

Enforcement has been so lax over the years that I am sure many employers have gotten away from the procedure.

What I would say now, after the misfortune of one restaurant owner, make sure you have completed and signed I-9 forms on your premises.

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