Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

And now for something none of us needed right now.

Over the weekend, the recent crash and burn of the Axium payroll company has been the subject of many panic-stricken phone calls and late nights spent rocking back and forth talking to oneself while clutching a bottle of cheap whiskey.

For tax and unemployment insurance purposes, when we work, we are technically employees of the payroll company instead of the production company. This is not a bad thing – it cuts down on the tax-season paperwork (16 W 2 forms instead of 138) and reduces instances of in-house rubber checkitis (back in the bad old days of tiny shows run by fly-by-night production companies, one would pick up one’s check at the office and then drive like a bat out of hell to the production company’s bank to cash it while there were hopefully still funds in the account. When everyone started using payroll companies, the checks, when they eventually arrived, were usually good).

Although I read the LA Times articles about Axium folding, I didn’t think much about it until this weekend, when we found out that they haven’t been paying the tax contributions on paychecks for “months and months”. Needless to say, these contributions were withheld from checks, but the money somehow just…disappeared.

As of right now, there’s some debate about if they’ve paid into the pension and health fund.

Did I mention that over half my work (and thus, over half my pay) last year was with companies that used Axium? Including the movie that I was on for months?

Which means, that although the taxes were deducted from my checks, as of right now there’s no way to know if I fall into the happy group who had the deducted monies actually paid to the gub’mint. Since I doubt the IRS cares that I had the money deducted, they’ll probably make me pay twice.

‘Cause that’s how the IRS rolls.

No one has exact numbers yet, so I’m desperately hoping to just get a little bit fucked instead of utterly and completely screwed sideways with sand in the Vaseline.

Great. Just my luck I’ll have to write the IRS a check right when I haven’t been working in months.

Filed under: cranky, mishaps, rants, Work, , , , , ,

11 Responses

  1. BTS says:

    Oh, GAWD. I didn’t even think of that when I heard the news. That’s just .. craptastic.

  2. JCW says:

    OH. MY. GOD.

    Frankly, at this stage of the game I would have a heart attack – financial stress and I don’t mix well.

    I thought of you and others I’m acquainted with when I read about Axium – but didn’t realize how very real the possibility was that any of you would be affected this way.

    As rotten as the strike has been – this one’s gonna hit a cross segment of pretty much everybody it seems – even those who can more or less afford to take the hit are gonna be screwed.

    Know that you are always welcome up here in NoCal where I will force feed you vodka and pot roast until you pass from cirrhosis or heart disease or everything gets better.

    Which ever comes first.

  3. Jedediah says:

    They represent a sizable percent of my last year too. You realize I’m now looking to you for coverage on this matter. I was looking to no return w-2 as being the worst to hit me personally and feeling thankful not to be one of the people they cheated out of Cobra and wages.
    Suck.

  4. Wen says:

    Yeah. I am waiting for a check for about 10 grand for a movie that underpaid the entire crew. Fortunately that was from 3 years ago, so the taxes thing isn’t an issue (/me crosses fingers).

    However, since the money for said check is frozen I am pretty sure it’ll be waiting for me when I get to hell and find it frozen over.

    The suckage of this, the timing. Seriously. I thought that last month would have been a great month to get that check (being unemployed like everyone else in town), but no. No, this month it turns out, would have been even better to get that money.

  5. Meg says:

    I had heard about this last week, and thought, jeez does this leave EP as the only (major) one left? Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse. Kick us when we are down, man.

  6. Charli says:

    When it rains, it fraking pours. Sorry, Peg.

  7. I share your fears, Peg. On friday, I go in for some long-delayed surgery (taking advantage of our strike-induced downtime), figuring to ride this thing out for the next three or four months on disability. Like so many of us, a large portion of my earnings in my best quarter last year — the one the EDD uses to caluculate disability and unemployment checks — came via Axium. If the required contributions evaporated before being paid to the EDD or the IRS, I’m fucked, you’re fucked, and many, many others will be fucked — now, and for the next couple of years.

    This is ugly. A bad year just got a whole lot worse.

  8. nezza says:

    You’ve not been forwarding on those ‘you must forward this on to at least a million people to avoid bad luck for a century’ emails have you?

    I can’t believe you have yet another issue to contend with. I have fingers, toes and eyes crossed that you (and the others who posted before me) fall into the okay group.

  9. danielle says:

    peggy,

    go here:

    http://axiumclosed.blogspot.com/

    you’re not alone. many will band together to get
    something back. did your final checks from them
    clear? if yes, then you are lucky.

    sorry for the long message. don’t have your email.
    the following below is from an AICP conf call last week.

    ALSO, i’d be happy if you wanted to join me at some screenings. just let me know. (NOTE: not sure if my email shows up in your stats. if not, leave a msg here.).

    -The AICP is still accumulating facts, trying to get reports,
    etc…….but the AICP can only do so much. Most of the reports can only be uncovered by the specific production companies that did business with Axium. AICP will be working with the prod. companies as the process progresses and advising them as best they can.

    > -It is important for anyone who received a bad check to keep a paper trail…..specifica lly, hanging onto the bad check itself and/or any other documentation you get from the bank about the check not clearing.

    -Checks written by Axium through Jan 2nd had withholding tax payments made to the Feds, and those tax payments cleared their accounts, regardless of whether or not the employee’s check cleared. The
    withholding taxes sent to the Feds on checks dated from Jan 3rd and onward were bounced back to Axium from the Feds. (this is probably more of a production company issue than an employee concern).

    -It seems likely that some of the AICP companies will assume responsibility for the net payments due to workers that Axium has defaulted on….even if they already lost the money that they pre-paid Axium, or that they technically still owe Axium’s estate.

    -If production co’s make good to employees on Axium’s bad check, they are likely to pay the workers the net amount due to the employees (essentially the same amount of the Axium check written to the employee) Since most workers have the Right to Claim against the
    Axium bankruptcy estate, it is likely that the production company would ask the worker to sign a one page ‘assignment’ of that right so that the production company can attempt to recoup the funds during the bankruptcy proceedings, instead of the employee…. since the employee would be paid off by that point anyway.

    -However, employees have priority claims on the bankruptcy estate….not production companies. Production companies would lose that priority if the right is transferred to them, so many companies may feel that it makes more sense for the employee to attempt to make
    the claim against the bankruptcy estate and see where that goes before paying them off directly.

    -Production insurance packages would most likely not cover any losses incurred by production companies.

    -The window of opportunity to file a proof of claim against the estate is not even open yet, and will not close for approx. 6-9 months. AICP will be monitoring that date so that it does not pass unnoticed.

    -Rumor has it that Axium will still be distributing w2′s at the end of the Jan, but nobody is confident about that at the moment. This info is unconfirmed. If they do issue w2′s, those w2′s would possibly reflect amounts on checks that they issued, even if they bounced. This is where it gets tricky, since you don’t want to get hit on the w2 for the same payment twice….once from Axium and once from the production company. Some companies may pay you the net and assume that Axium paid your taxes, if prior to Jan 3rd. If an overstated w2 amounts happen, employees will have to deal with the issue and file an exception with the IRS to explain the issue if you receive a w2 twice for the same job. It is more than likely you
    would not get a w2 from the production company if they happen to pay you.

    -Essentially, it sounds like it is hard for the production companies to know what to do until they know whether or not Axium issues W2′s or not, and what they report on those. Based on this, the production companies will know what to do. Do they not do anything? Do they pay the net amount and assume that Axium made the tax payments, or do they make the payment to the worker and pay the taxes as well…….. ..stay tuned.

  10. getsheila says:

    Well that sucks great big donkey balls.

    If the company paid payroll taxes thru Jan 2, as Danielle says, it sounds like all of your 2007 payroll withholdings have been submitted so no worries there.

    If you do not receive a W-2, you can file Form 4852, Substitute Form W-2, estimating your wages and withholdings as best you can from your paystubs.

    Argh. Quelle nightmare.

  11. [...] blogger Peggy Archer, who’s a lighting tech and way better at explaining this stuff to non-entertainment-industry [...]

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