"I'm really sorry to hear this," he said.
Brager, the former IRS trial attorney, suggests that employers check up on their payroll services provider by getting payment records from the tax collectors. It's also a good idea to choose a firm in a financially strong position, he said.
Still, he doesn't understand how a nonpayment and underpayment problem could have dragged on for years. Even if a payroll company manages to divert the delinquency notices, the IRS generally sends someone to the employer's offices if large amounts of payroll taxes aren't paid, he said.
"It's disturbing that ... that kind of liability could be sitting out there without literally a knock on the door," he said.
Such liabilities can drive a company out of business, he said -- "absolutely."