A payroll company that provides services to more than 400 Florida businesses owes the federal government almost $27 million.

The Internal Revenue Service says Payroll Management Inc. failed to pay employment and payroll taxes for a number of it’s clients.

IRS tax liens showed Payroll Management Incorporated’s problems started in 2012.

The documents state, for the fall quarter of that year, PMI failed to pay $2.3 Million on behalf of it’s clients.

PMI is based in Fort Walton Beach and has several offices throughout the panhandle, including this one in Panama City.

The company falls into the Professional Employer Organization category, or PEO.

PEO’s handle payroll needs for companies that want to outsource those services.

The companies pay the PEO, which in turn pays employee payroll withholding, like income tax and social security- or FICA to the feds.

But the IRS claims PMI failed to pay some of that money to the government, money that their clients paid to satisfy their tax responsibilities.

We called PMI, and got a call back from their Colorado-based attorney.

We asked why PMI failed to pay taxes for their clients.

We also asked if PMI notified those clients about the tax liens and the problems with the IRS.

And we asked if the IRS would hold their clients responsible if PMI failed to pay the taxes, taxes those companies already expected PMI to pay.

The attorney did not answer our questions on the record, but did issue this statement on behalf of PMI.

“PMI is in compliance with all current tax obligations. We want to reassure our clients that we are fully cooperating with the IRS to address past tax issues. We have entered into a transaction with a large national PEO, pending IRS approval, that will resolve the tax liens. PMI is fully operational and it continues to provide the same level of customer service that it has successfully provided for 31 years.” 

We contacted several local attorneys and asked them, hypothetically, would the IRS go after local businesses for failing to pay taxes, even though they’d paid a payroll company to handle it?

In their opinions, the lawyers said they thought the IRS would hold the companies responsible.

We also contacted a number of the companies on PMI’s client list.

Most said they were unaware of the IRS issues.

At least one said they were aware and feared they could lose their business.