FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF “HOW TO MAKE THE SMALL BUSINESS OWNER SUFFER EVEN MORE”
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.