From FedEx Corporation’s most recent 10Q filing comes the following:
“On December 20, 2007, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) informed us that its audit team had concluded an audit for the 2002 calendar year regarding the classification of owner-operators at FedEx Ground. The IRS has tentatively concluded, subject to further discussion with us, that FedEx Ground’s pick-up-and-delivery owner-operators should be reclassified as employees for federal employment tax purposes. The IRS has indicated that it anticipates assessing tax and penalties of $319 million plus interest for 2002. Similar issues are under audit by the IRS for calendar years 2004 through 2006. We believe that we have strong defenses to the IRS’s tentative assessment and will vigorously defend our position, as we continue to believe that FedEx Ground’s owner-operators are independent contractors. Given the preliminary status of this matter, we cannot yet determine the amount or a reasonable range of potential loss. However, we do not believe that any loss is probable.”
With the IRS on its back and multiple class actions to defend, FedEx’s experience demonstrates the need for companies to consider very carefully their independent contractor arrangements to ensure that workers are properly classified. Given the IRS’s recent emphasis on this area, we suspect this is just the tip of a very large iceberg.