Dintelman v. USA
COURT'S FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW & ORDER Directing Proposed Judgment, finding that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed with prejudice & that judgment should be entered in favor of the United States for the balance of trust fund penalties assessed against her, along with accrued & unassessed interest & penalties until the judgment is paid. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the parties are directed to submit an agreed, proposed judgment, w/i 10 days from the entry date of t his Order. If the parties are unable to submit an agreed judgment, the United States shall submit a proposed judgment w/i 10 days from the entry date of this Order, & Plaintiff shall submit her objections w/i 5 days thereafter. Signed by Judge Susan Webber Wright on 2/3/2012. (jct)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JEANE L. DINTELMAN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
JEANE L. DINTELMAN and JIM L.
NO: 3:07CV00081 SWW
COURT’S FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
and ORDER DIRECTING PROPOSED JUDGMENT
Plaintiff Jeane L. Dintelman commenced this suit for return and abatement of trust fund
recovery penalties assessed by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for willful failure to collect,
account for, and pay over federal employment taxes. The United States counterclaimed, seeking
unpaid trust fund recovery penalties assessed against Plaintiff and Jim L. Dintelman
(“Dintelman”), Plaintiff’s former spouse.1 By order entered June 27, 2008, default judgment was
entered against Dintelman.
Plaintiff’s claims against the United States proceeded to a bench trial held January 23, 24,
and 25, 2012. The Court now reaffirms and augments findings of fact and conclusions of law,
stated from the bench at the conclusion of trial in accordance with Rule 52 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
I. Statutory Background
The Internal Revenue Code requires employers to withhold income and Federal
Insurance Contribution Act, FICA, taxes from the wages of employees, when those wages are
paid. See 26 U.S.C. §§ 3102(a), 3402(a). Withheld amounts, commonly referred to as trust fund
taxes, “shall be held to be a special fund in trust for the United States,” see 26 U.S.C. § 7501,
and the willful failure to pay over trust fund taxes to the United States subjects a responsible
person to personal liability. See 26 U.S.C. § 6672.
Title 26 U.S.C. § 6672(a) provides in pertinent part as follows:
Any person required to collect, truthfully account for, and pay over any tax imposed
by this title who willfully fails to collect such tax, or truthfully account for and pay
over such tax, or willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any such tax or
the payment thereof, shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be liable
to a penalty equal to the total amount of the tax evaded, or not collected, or not
accounted for and paid over.
Section 6672(a) imposes liability on any person, also known as a “responsible person,”
who is under a duty to collect, truthfully account for, or pay over taxes. See Slodov v. United
States, 436 U.S. 238, 249, 98 S. Ct. 1778, 1786 (1978)(holding that a “responsible person” is one
The Court will refer to Plaintiff Jean L. Dintelman as “Plaintiff,” and Counter Defendant
Jim L. Dintelman as “Dintelman.”
who has a duty to perform at least one of the three functions listed under § 6672). Furthermore,
§ 6672(a) imposes joint and several liability, and more than one person may be a “responsible
person” subject to liability. See Elmore v. United States, 843 F.2d 1128. 1134 (8th Cir. 1988).
II. Findings of Fact
Plaintiff and Dintelman were married in 1982, and in 1986, the couple moved to a rural
area in southern Arkansas. As described by Dintelman, the couple’s life was beautiful, and they
“lived off the grid” for approximately 18 years–raising animals, growing gardens, and heating
their small home by burning wood from trees that they cut down. Dintelman worked as a
machine operator, and he dominated the family’s financial decisions. Plaintiff testified that
Dintelman was a “massive control freak,” who gave her $100 per week to buy food for the
Plaintiff home-schooled the couple’s three children and sold clothes that she sewed.
Despite her husband’s domineering tendencies, Plaintiff managed to take a few college classes,
and in 1999, she completed an emergency medical technician-basic (“EMT-basic”) course at a
nearby vocational school. After becoming an EMT-basic, Plaintiff began working for an
ambulance service operated by Dallas County Hospital. In 2000, Plaintiff earned a paramedic
license, and she continued working for Dallas County Hospital.
In 2002, the Dintelmans started an ambulance service business, Elite Medical Services,
Inc. (“EMS”). According to Dintelman, he and Plaintiff had dreamed of working together, and
he started EMS as a Valentine’s Day present to his wife. Plaintiff and Dintelman each owned
50% of EMS, and they named themselves as the sole corporate officers. Articles of
incorporation for EMS, dated February 14, 2002, were completed in Plaintiff’s handwriting and
signed by her as president of EMS. Also in February 2002, Dintelman opened a checking
account in the name of EMS, for which both he and Plaintiff had single, signatory rights.
EMS began its existence with no capital and without formalities such corporate bylaws,
directors’ meetings, or the issuance of stock certificates. EMS did not immediately engage in
ambulance service operations, and Plaintiff continued working as a paramedic for Dallas County
In June 2002, the Dintelmans separated, and Plaintiff began a long-distance, romantic
relationship with Steve Krakowski (“Krakowski”), who lived in Texas. However, the
Dintelmans’ separation did not stop them from moving forward with EMS. In order to obtain a
license to provide ambulance services, EMS needed a protocol handbook. Dintelman obtained
copies of other ambulance companies’ handbooks, which Plaintiff used to create EMS’s protocol
In July 2002, Dintelman signed a “memo of understanding” with James Pafford, the
owner of Pafford Emergency Medical Services. The memo provides that in exchange for
$172,731.20, Pafford would sell EMS six ambulance units and sign a portion of Pafford’s
ambulance service contracts over to EMS. To pay Pafford, Dintelman obtained $140,000 by
transferring land to his brother. Dintelman testified that pursuant to Pafford’s instructions, he
drove to a parking lot in Magnolia, Arkansas, and handed over to Pafford’s daughter a brief case
containing $140,000 in cash. Plaintiff reports that she learned about the cash transaction
between Dintelman and Pafford sometime after it occurred.
EMS began ambulance service operations in October 2002, without sufficient funds to
pay employees or other obligations as they became due. The company also encountered
difficulty receiving timely insurance reimbursements. In search of cash, Dintelman consulted an
accounts receivable factoring company, Funding Resources, Inc. (“Funding Resources”). On
November 22, 2002, Dintelman met a representative of Funding Resources at a Memphis airport,
and he signed several agreements: an accounts receivable purchase agreement, a limited power
of attorney, and a security agreement. Plaintiff was not present at the airport meeting, and
Dintelman signed Plaintiff’s name on the aforementioned documents. Dintelman testified that he
does not recall whether he told Plaintiff about the factoring agreement at the time it was entered.
When EMS began operations in October 2002, Plaintiff ceased working for Dallas
County Hospital and began working full time as a paramedic for EMS. On her days off, Plaintiff
frequently visited Krakowski in Austin, Texas. Often, the Dintelmans’ children accompanied
Plaintiff on her visits to Texas, and Dintelman was aware of his wife’s relationship with
In addition to working as an EMS paramedic, Plaintiff retained the titles of chief
executive officer (“CEO”) and president of EMS, and she represented to EMS employees and
the public that she was the CEO and president of EMS. On December 17, 2002, Plaintiff
executed a two-year ambulance service agreement with the City of Lake Village, signing the
agreement both individually and in her capacity as president of EMS. Dintelman also signed the
agreement individually, but not in his capacity as an officer of EMS.
Although Dintelman signed the majority of checks written on EMS’s bank account,
Plaintiff exercised her check-writing authority during each tax period at issue in this case.
Additionally, unlike other paramedics who worked for EMS and who were paid by the shift they
worked, Plaintiff received a salary that was equal to Dintelman’s.
EMS failed to timely file its employment tax return, IRS Form 941, for the fourth quarter
of 2002 (due on January 31, 2003) and the first quarter of 2003 (due on April 30, 2003), and it
failed to deposit taxes withheld from EMS employees’ paychecks, as required by law.
In April 2003, Plaintiff contacted the Small Business Administration, which referred her
to Tina Powis-Dow (“Powis-Dow”), a business consultant for a non-profit organization that
provides management services to small businesses. Powis-Dow recalls that Plaintiff contacted
her on behalf of EMS for the purpose of implementing a computerized accounting system with
QuickBooks software. However, Plaintiff testified that she consulted Powis-Dow solely
because she desired personal knowledge, and she was not seeking information that would assist
her in managing EMS. As stated from the bench, the Court does not find credible Plaintiff’s
testimony regarding her reason for consulting Powis-Dow. The evidence shows that after
Plaintiff consulted Powis-Dow, Powis-Dow visited EMS’s corporate office in her capacity as a
business consultant to discuss the implementation of QuickBooks software for EMS, and she
billed EMS for her services.
In the normal course of her duties as a small business consultant, Powis-Day recorded
time spent with clients, including the Dintelmans. Powis-Dow’s time-keeping records show that
she met with the Dintelmans four times. On April 29, 2003, Powis-Dow met with Plaintiff and
Dintelman in a trailer behind EMS’s office in Hamburg, Arkansas. According to Powis-Dow,
Plaintiff and Dintelman both participated in the meeting and expressed that they wanted to keep
better track of EMS’s income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
On May 13, 2003, Powis-Dow met with the Dintelmans again. According to PowisDow, Dintelman disclosed that EMS was experiencing cash flow problems. Powis-Dow recalls
that Plaintiff became very upset during the meeting and began asking Dintelman questions about
the company’s financial problems.
On May 20, 2003, Powis-Dow held a third meeting with the Dintelmans. Powis-Dow
testified that during the meeting, she inquired about EMS’s payroll tax balance, and Dintelman
responded that EMS was behind on payroll taxes, which caused Plaintiff to become very upset.
However, Plaintiff testified that Dintelman refused to provide Powis-Dow any information
regarding EMS’s financial state, and she denied that Dintelman revealed the status of EMS’s
payroll tax liability during the May 20 meeting.
As stated from the bench, the Court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that
Plaintiff learned, at least by May 20, 2003, that EMS had failed to pay over payroll taxes. The
Court further finds that after Plaintiff learned about the delinquent payroll taxes, she continued to
write checks on EMS’s bank account, to herself for reimbursement for items purchased for EMS
and to other creditors, and she had knowledge that Dintelman made payments to creditors, other
than the IRS, after May 20, 2003. The parties stipulate that EMS paid out $957,119.21 to
creditors other than the IRS after May 20, 2003.
Powis-Dow’s fourth and final meeting with the Dintelmans occurred on June 4, 2003.
Powis-Dow recalls that she asked Dintelman for information necessary to set up accounting
software, and Dintelman refused to provide account balances. According to Powis-Dow and
Plaintiff, Plaintiff and Dintelman engaged in a heated argument, and Plaintiff left the meeting.
EMS failed to timely file its third quarterly employment tax return (due on July 31,
2003), and it failed to deposit taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks, as required by law.
In August 2003, Plaintiff demanded that Dintelman hire her boyfriend, Krakowski, as a
bookkeeper and chief financial officer (“CFO”) of EMS. Subsequently, Krakowski moved to
Arkansas and became a signatory on EMS’s checking account. Dintelman testified that he was
so impressed with Krakowski that he independently decided to hire him as CFO. As stated from
the bench, the Court does not find Dintelman’s testimony on this point to be credible and further
finds that Plaintiff insisted that Krakowski be hired.
On August 15, 2003, the Dintelmans borrowed an additional $25,000 from Funding
Resources, and they both signed a related promissory note and mortgage. The mortgage bearing
Plaintiff’s signature states that it is given to secure repayment of the aforementioned $25,000 in
addition to EMS’s obligations under the factoring agreement entered on November 22, 2002.
According to Plaintiff, she had no part in negotiating the $25,000 loan, and she signed the
promissory note and mortgage at Dintelman’s instruction.
On August 24, 2003, the IRS sent EMS notice that revenue officer Stephanie Ridgell
(“Ridgell”) had been assigned the task of collecting EMS’s tax debt. On October 8, 2003,
Ridgell visited EMS’s office in Hamburg, and she met with Plaintiff, Dintelman, and
Krakowski. According to Plaintiff, the first time she learned that EMS had failed to pay taxes
was immediately before the meeting, when Dintelman told her that Ridgell was coming.
Ridgell asked the Dintelmans questions about EMS, and she completed IRS Form 4180
(Report of Interview with Individual Relative to Trust Fund Recovery Penalty or Personal
Liability for Excise Tax) (“the Form”) in her own handwriting. The Form lists Plaintiff as CEO,
president, and 50% shareholder of EMS and states her that her duties for EMS include human
resources, public relations, and “other services.”
Section II of the Form, entitled “Ability to Direct,” inquires whether the interviewee
performed duties and functions listed separately, and it provides “yes” and “no” check-off boxes
beside each duty and function listed. Ridgell’s checkmarks and notations indicate that both
Plaintiff and Dintelman performed the following functions for EMS from February 2002 through
October 8, 2003: hire/fire employees, manage employees, direct (authorize) payment of bills,
deal with major suppliers, open close corporate bank accounts, sign corporate checks,
make/authorize bank deposits, and authorize payroll checks.
Finally, in response to the inquiry: “When and how did you first become aware of the
delinquent taxes?,” the Form reads: “Jeane-several months ago due to lack of knowledge about
The Court finds that the foregoing statement is consistent with the Court’s finding
that Plaintiff learned about the delinquent payroll taxes on May 20, 2003.
Plaintiff claims that she told Ridgell several times that information recorded on the Form
was incorrect, but she signed it because Ridgell told her she had no choice. Plaintiff’s and
Dintelman’s signatures appear on the Form under the following, bold-lettered statement: “I
declare that I have examined the information given in this statement and, to the best of my
knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete. See docket entry #83, Ex. #5. Above the
bold-lettered statement, the Form contains a section entitled “Additional Comments” with
several blank lines and instructions stating: “Please add any comments you may which to make
regarding this matter.” Dintelman added handwritten comments, but Plaintiff, who witnessed
Dintelman writing his comments, contends that she did not know she could have done the same.
The Court finds that Plaintiff received and declined an opportunity to add her written
comments to the Form. However, based on Ridgell’s testimony, the Court finds that in
completing Section II of the Form, Ridgell considered Plaintiff’s titles as CEO and president,
rather than Plaintiff’s actual conduct related to EMS. Accordingly, the Court will look to
evidence other than information contained in Section II of the Form to determine the extent of
Plaintiff’s authority over EMS business and whether she was a “responsible person” within the
meaning of § 6672.
Elite failed to timely file its fourth quarterly employment tax return (due on November
14, 2003), and it failed to deposit taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks as required by law.
Plaintiff filed for a divorce from Dintelman on December 16, 2003, and a final divorce
decree was entered July 7, 2004. A property agreement filed along with the divorce decree
provides that “the parties are owners, jointly and equally of an emergency services business,
Elite Medical Services.” Shortly after the divorce Jeane moved to the vicinity of Oxford,
Mississippi, with her law-student daughter, and began working as a medical billing agent.
Presently, Jeane is sole owner of a medical billing company, and she provides billing services for
On September 6, 2004, the IRS assessed trust fund recovery penalties against Plaintiff
and Dintelman for unpaid payroll taxes of EMS for tax periods ending December 2002, March
2003, June 2003, and September 2003. After paying a portion of the assessment due, Plaintiff
commenced this action seeking a refund and abatement of the unpaid balance, alleging that she
does not qualify as a “responsible person” who “willfully” failed to collect, account for, or remit
payroll taxes to the United States. According to Plaintiff, she was the CEO of EMS in name
only, and she had no control or authority over any aspect of EMS operations.
The IRS filed a counterclaim against Plaintiff and Dintelman, seeking to recover the
balance of the aforementioned assessment. The Court entered a default judgment against
Dintelman on June 27, 2009, and since then, he has made monthly payments pursuant to a
settlement agreement. Accounting for payments made by Jim Dintelman pursuant to his
settlement agreement with the United States, the IRS reports that the remaining unpaid
assessments in this matter relate to the second and third quarters of 2003, which as of November
28, 2011 totaled $58,371.80.
III. Conclusions of Law
An IRS assessment under § 6672 is presumed correct, and it is Plaintiff’s burden to show,
by a preponderance of the evidence, that she was not a responsible person or did not willfully fail
to pay over taxes. See Riley v. United States, 118 F.3d 1220, 1221 (8th Cir. 1997).
A “responsible person” under § 6672 is someone who has “‘the status, duty and authority
to avoid the corporation’s default in collection or payment of taxes.’” Ferguson v. United States,
484 F.3d 1068, 1072 (8th Cir. 2007)(quoting Baron v. United States, 988 F.2d 58, 59 (8th Cir.
1993)(quoting Kenagy v. United States, 942 F.2d 459, 464 (8th Cir. 1991)). “As the case law
makes abundantly clear, a person’s ‘duty’ under § 6672 must be viewed in light of his power to
compel or prohibit the allocation of corporate funds.” Godfrey v. United States, 748 F.2d 1568,
1576 (8th Cir. 1984). Signs of a “responsible person” in this context include holding a corporate
office, control over financial affairs, the authority to disburse corporate funds, stock ownership,
and the ability to hire and fire employees. “[W]here a person has authority to sign the checks of
the corporation, or to prevent their issuance by denying a necessary signature, or where that
person controls the disbursement of the payroll, or controls the voting stock of the corporation,
he will generally be held ‘responsible.’” Godfrey, at 1576 (internal citations omitted).
Whether a person is responsible under § 6672 is a matter of substance, not form. Id. To
trigger liability under § 6672, a person must have significant decision-making authority over the
corporation’s tax matters, and a person’s technical authority to sign checks and duty to prepare
tax returns are not enough to make the person responsible under § 6672. See Kenagy v. United
States, 942 F.2d 459, 464 (8th Cir. 1991).
Here, Plaintiff claims that Dintelman kept a tight rein over EMS’s monetary transactions
and kept her out of the decision-making process. However, Plaintiff cannot escape liability as a
“responsible person” simply by surrendering her rightful authority or delegating duties to
another. See Keller v. United States, 46 F.3d 851, 854 (8th Cir. 1995)(noting that an otherwise
responsible person does not avoid liability under § 6672 by delegating authority to another).
The evidence shows that Plaintiff owned fifty percent of EMS; held herself out as the CEO of
EMS to EMS personnel and others; exercised her authority to write checks on the corporation’s
bank account; represented EMS before the Lake Village City Council; entered a contract with
Lake Village on behalf of EMS; received a salary equal to the salary received by Jim Dintelman,
who also served as a corporate officer; sought advice from a business consultant regarding
accounting software for EMS; and asserted her authority to hire Steven Krakowski as the CFO of
Plaintiff did not consistently exercise her power and authority as president and CEO of
EMS, and she relinquished her rightful authority to Dintelman, who by all accounts was
domineering and controlling. However, it is clear that from the time EMS began operations in
October 2002, Plaintiff possessed the status, duty, and authority to avoid the corporation’s
default in the collection and payment of payroll taxes. As such, the Court finds that Plaintiff has
failed to meet her burden to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that she was not a
responsible person within the meaning of § 6672.
A “responsible person” acts “willfully” under § 6672 if he or she “‘acts or fails to act
consciously and voluntarily and with knowledge or intent that as a result of his [or her] action or
inaction trust funds belonging to the government will not be paid over but will be used for other
purposes, or by proceeding with a reckless disregard of a known or obvious risk that trust funds
may not be remitted to the government.’” Ferguson v. United States, 484 F.3d 1068, 1072 (8th
Cir. 2007)(quoting Keller v. United States, 46 F.3d 851, 854 (8th Cir. 1995)(quoting Honey v.
United States, 963 F.2d 1083. 1087 (8th Cir. 1992)). “Evidence that the responsible person had
knowledge of payments to other creditors, including employees, after he was aware of the failure
to pay over withholding taxes is proof of willfulness as a matter of law.” Olsen v. United States,
952 F.2d 236, 240 (8th Cir.1991).
The Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that on May 20, 2003, Plaintiff was
aware that EMS had failed to pay over payroll taxes. The Court further finds that after Plaintiff
learned about the delinquent payroll taxes, she continued to write checks on EMS’s bank
account, to herself and non-IRS creditors, and she had knowledge of additional payments to
other non-IRS creditors, including herself and EMS employees. The Court finds that Plaintiff
willfully failed to pay over EMS’s trust fund payroll taxes due to the United States.
IV. Order Directing the Parties to File a Proposed Judgment
Because Plaintiff has failed to meet her burden in this case, the Court finds that her
claims should be dismissed with prejudice and that judgment should be entered in favor of the
United States for the balance of trust fund penalties assessed against her, along with accrued and
unassessed interest and penalties until the judgment is paid.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the parties are directed to submit an agreed,
proposed judgment, within ten (10) days from the entry date of this order, that conforms to the
Court’s conclusions of law. If the parties are unable to submit an agreed judgment, the United
States shall submit a proposed judgment within ten (10) days from the entry date of this order,
and Plaintiff shall submit her objections within five days thereafter.
IT IS SO ORDERED THIS 3RD DAY OF FEBRUARY, 2012.
/s/Susan Webber Wright
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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