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Giles v. Volvo Trucks North America

February 20, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Plaintiff's employer, Defendant Volvo Trucks North America ("VTNA"), and two VTNA employees, Defendants Charles DeBellis and Terry Chrisman. (Doc. No. 19.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.


In April 2004, Plaintiff Charles David Giles submitted an amended "Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate," also known as a W-4 Tax Form, in which Plaintiff claimed he was exempt from federal tax withholding, to his employer, Defendant VTNA, through Defendant Chrisman. At approximately the same time, Plaintiff sent Defendant DeBellis, by certified mail, "all of the relative laws regarding his changed status [to being exempt] and his legal demand to stop withholding federal Social Security (since he does not subscribe to government social programs)." (Doc. No. 7, at 4); (see also Doc. No. 25, at 5-6) (copies of Plaintiff's 2004 W-4). In an effort to fulfill Plaintiff's request (Doc. No. 25, at 3), personnel at VTNA manually entered on the form and into the payroll system that Plaintiff was taking 99 allowances, effectively preventing any withholding from Plaintiff's pay. Defendants Chrisman and DeBellis then forwarded to the IRS Plaintiff's amended W-4, apparently containing the notation that Plaintiff was taking 99 allowances.

For the remainder of 2004 until May 2006, the IRS accepted Plaintiff's claim that he was exempt from all federal tax withholding. On May 25, 2006, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant Maureen A. Judge, an IRS agent, questioning his claim that he was exempt from federal withholding and/or entitled to take 99 allowances. In the letter, Defendant Judge explained that Plaintiff would have a limited amount of time to establish that he was exempt from federal tax withholding before his tax status would be changed to that of a single person with no allowances. (See Doc. No. 7, at 4); (see also Doc. No. 25, at 17-18)*fn2 . A copy of this IRS "lock-in" letter was sent to Defendants VTNA, Chrisman, and DeBellis. Plaintiff contends that VTNA, Chrisman, and DeBellis then illegally changed his "true status" to that of a single person with no allowances.

Following the change in Plaintiff's tax withholding status, Defendant Chrisman explained that he would no longer accept any tax documentation from Plaintiff. Nevertheless, Plaintiff provided Defendants Chrisman and DeBellis with "all the law and statutes concerning his status, the law pertaining to the collection of an unlawful debt, and their obligations to him and the IRS." (Doc. No. 1, at 5.) Meanwhile, Plaintiff endeavored to contact Defendant Judge to resolve the situation and regain his status as being exempt from federal withholding. Despite these efforts, Plaintiff claims that taxes continued being improperly withheld from his wages.

Plaintiff commenced this action on February 2, 2007, to assert claims against Defendants VTNA, Charles DeBellis, Terry Chrisman, Sr., and Maureen Judge for their "running a racket by taking money from Charles D. Giles, Agent to satisfy a nonexistent 'debt.'" (Doc. No. 7, at 8.) Although Plaintiff's claims suffer a lack of clarity, it appears that Plaintiff alleges Defendants unlawfully adjusted his federal tax withholding status and deprived him of property without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, when they failed to provide him adequate notice and a hearing prior to the tax status change. Plaintiff further contends that Defendants' actions violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq. As relief for these violations, Plaintiff seeks treble and punitive damages and costs. (Doc. No. 1, at 2.)

In their motion to dismiss, Defendants VTNA, DeBellis, and Chrisman (collectively the "Employer Defendants") challenge the sufficiency of Plaintiff's pleadings, as well as their legal bases. The Employer Defendants contend that Plaintiff may not maintain a suit against them for withholding federal taxes from his wages pursuant to an IRS "lock-in" letter or for forwarding his W-4 to the IRS as required by law. Additionally, the Employer Defendants contend that Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claim against them is deficient, as they are private entities and individuals, not federal or state actors. Finally, the Employer Defendants assert that Plaintiff has failed to adequately advance a RICO claim. The Court will address these contentions, and Plaintiff's responses thereto, in turn.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993), and is properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). Although the Court is generally limited in its review to the face of the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d. Cir. 1997); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Although the moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2007), the plaintiff has an obligation to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (internal citations omitted); see also Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (A plaintiff must "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that those elements exist.") (citation omitted). In addition, although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, the Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).


A. Plaintiff cannot state a claim based upon the Employer Defendants' compliance with an IRS directive to withhold taxes from Plaintiff's wages

The Employer Defendants contend that any claim against them based upon their withholding taxes from Plaintiff's wages in compliance with the IRS "lock-in" letter must fail as a matter of law in light of provisions in the Internal Revenue Code and related Treasury Regulations. The Court agrees. Under the Internal Revenue Code, an employer is shielded from liability to an employee for withholding that employee's taxes. See 26 U.S.C. § 3403. Section 3403 of the Internal Revenue Code states: "The employer shall be liable for the payment of the tax required to be deducted and withheld under this chapter, and shall not be liable to any person for the amount of such payment." Id. (emphasis added). Courts have repeatedly relied upon this language to hold that an employee may not bring a claim against his employer for withholding taxes from the employee's pay. See Shiaffino v. Genuardi's Family Markets, No. 00-1892, 2000 WL 1141857, at *1 (E.D. Pa. June 30, 2000) (finding the language of 26 U.S.C. § 3403 to be "clear and unambiguous," holding that a "plaintiff has no cause of action against its employer . . . for withholding taxes from his wages and paying them to the IRS," and remarking that "it would be against public policy and senseless to penalize [an employer] for simply obeying the law"); Wise v. Comm'r of the I.R.S., 624 F. Supp. 1124, 1128 (D. Mont. 1986) ("[A]n employee has no cause of action ...

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