Hiring Illegal Workers To Save Money

The palm trees in my front yard are in need of trimming. I can trim the shortest of the three trees, but the other two trees are about 35 feet tall – about 10 feet taller than my courage will allow me to climb with a saw in my hand. My trees will continue to need to be trimmed for a long time because I just got quotes from three tree trimmers.

The first two quotes that I received came from businesses that I found in the yellow pages. They both offered to do the work for about $250 to $300 per tree. The third quote came from a nice fellow who rang my doorbell last week and offered to do the job for $50 in cash.

Fifty dollars is a great deal but I just can’t take it. Why? Because the fellow who came in with such a low price is a self employed handyman who drives in his truck from neighborhood to neighborhood, offering his employment on an under the table basis. If I hire him, I am pretty sure that I will be violating the law and I know that I will be helping him to circumvent our tax laws. I just can’t do that, regardless of the savings.

My wife was in her gym the other day. She was changing for her workout and overheard a group of ladies discussing the great deal that they get from their new hair stylist. The stylist offers great discounted rates on her styling because she is apparently working from her home and does not have a work visa that allows her to work in the United States.

We have all probably seen or at least heard of people we know who pay people under the table to get a better deal. Some of those workers may be taking money under the table to avoid paying taxes. Others may be doing it because they are working illegally. Whatever the reason, I believe it is against the law for them to be working on an under the table basis and it is probably against the law to hire them on an under the table basis.

Hiring people under the table allows them to avoid paying taxes which, at least in theory, support the public good. Hiring people who are not authorized to work in this country takes work away from the unemployed who are authorized to work here. For those reasons alone, I cannot bring myself to engage the services of anyone who is looking to cut a cash only deal or who I reasonably believe is working illegally.

There are other reasons to refrain from retaining the services of people who are working illegally or who might be trying to avoid paying taxes. They also are probably not licensed, insured or bonded. If I hire such a person to trim my palm trees, for example, and that person falls off his ladder, he will be suing me as the property owner to recover the cost of his injuries, and perhaps more. Even if an illegal hire does not injure himself, he still may put your property in danger by doing poor quality work. If an illegal worker hired to wash my windows ends up breaking them, he or she is not going to be able to refer the claim to an insurer and I will likely end up paying the cost of repairs.

Whether the illegal worker is an au pair, a laborer or a professional, there are good reasons why they should not be hired, and yet there remains a thriving underground economy in which illegal workers earn a great deal of money which goes unreported. The savings may be great, but I believe the risks outweigh those savings by a great deal. I also believe that it is immoral to save money by circumventing the legal systems in which we live. I know, too, that I am probably among a minority of people who feel the way that I do.

What do you think? Are you willing to save a few dollars – often, a lot of dollars — by hiring someone under the table or by employing the services of someone who is not authorized to work in your country? What are the standards that you use when you decide whether to hire someone who may not be legally allowed to work for you or who wants you to pay on a cash only basis (without an invoice or any other paper trail)? Or do you agree with me and hire only people who can show that they are licensed, insured and bonded, with all necessary authorizations to work?

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10 Responses to Hiring Illegal Workers To Save Money

  1. Annie Jones says:

    If I hire the kid next door to mow my lawn once in a while, or pay my daughter a few bucks to cut my hair, or offer a little money to an out-of-work friend in exchange for some work done on my car, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

    The line gets a little blurry, though, when someone is claiming or behaving as if they operate a business, but still insist on under-the-table payment. On the one hand, it smells a little fishy.

    On the other hand, the IRS has a limit (albeit a low one) on how much a person can make via self-employment before it must be reported and taxed. Who am I to question whether someone I’m hiring is at or beyond that level?

  2. Traciatim says:

    If someone specifically asks to work for cash with no record, at the very best you are aiding in tax fraud, at worst you are allowing illegal work to continue thus contributing to a problem of people stealing from your countries population.

    The reason they are cheaper is because they don’t need to carry insurance, don’t need to worry about paying employees properly, don’t need to worry about people taking legal action against them for overworking or underpaying.

    Always say no to paying illegals, ask for a paper trail on every transaction.

  3. Robert says:

    I agree with the first post, for the most part. If its a neighbor kid, or some guy in the neighborhood, the tax issue won’t enter my mind. Especially if I really need some help. I consider it more of a gratuity than anything.

    Or, if some normal looking guy catches me out in the yard and asks for work, I might just pay him to do something if looks like he needs the help.

    If there are a lot of layoffs or other problems in my area, I’m serving a much greater good by paying someone cash than forcing this person to jump through the hoops required for them to get public assistance. A person who is willing and able to work should have the right to go out today and bring home money to pay bills or feed their family.

  4. Hm, I find that people who make this kind of argument resent that they don’t have a little sideline or whatever that they can get away without paying taxes on. And right now, it would be VERY satisfying to not pay tax, considering where it’s all going these days (you’re welcome, Citibank).

    So rather than dwelling on the illegal immigrant issue, here’s something to consider…

    Do you faithfully report and pay sales tax on all out-of-state internet/mail order purchases on your annual income tax return like you’re supposed to? My CPA actually rolled his eyes when that one came out. Most people I know find this new tax obligation laughable, and either declare nothing or, like, a token $5. So if you don’t, then aren’t you cheating the system just as egregiously as if you had paid your lawncare guy under the table?

  5. Ann says:

    I agree — it’s cheaper to pay professionals in the long run! I’ve needed branches trimmed off trees and, knowing a bit about how it should be done, the professionals did it right (with the least damage to the tree) while even my supposed landscapers (who obviously hadn’t read the instruction manual) blew it.

    Because of the insurance aspect, I hired professional movers to relocate some antique furniture from my mom’s house to mine (when she died), rather than asking friends. If the friends had dropped/broken the delicately carved, marble topped table, I couldn’t have asked them to pay for a replacement, but I sure as heck could demand payment, if the insured moving company did!

    Minimally I look for expertise, insurance and bonding — it costs me less in the long run.

  6. Native American says:


    First of all, I live in Phoenix, which is only a couple hours drive from Mexico. There are plenty of Mexicans looking for work here to help support their families back home and to try and give them a better life.
    Have you all forgotten -ESPECIALLY DURING THIS TIME OF THE YEAR!- that this country was built upon foreigners coming to this country in attempt to find a better life?!?!
    Unless YOU ARE A NATIVE AMERICAN like me, all of your ancestors came from some other country.
    I find it ironic that it is only 2 days from Thanksgiving and most of you still have these ignorant feelings towards other people.
    What are you celebrating this holiday for?!?! Just to eat, watch football or a parade?!?!

    Taxes? There has been taxes since Cesar’s time. There will always be taxes. Don’t worry- there are always plenty of things to be taxed! They’ll always find something! They will get their money somehow.

    Taking jobs away from American citizens? Listen, if it weren’t for the Mexicans, who would clean the hotel toilets? Make the beds? Cook food? Landscape the yards? Dig ditches? Wash dishes? Bus tables? Wash cars? ETC., ETC., ETC., ETC.,
    Americans won’t work for minimum wage much less as a janitor or cleaning person, a gardener, a chef, a dishwasher, etc.

    When the cable company came out to dig trenches for the cable lines, who was it that I saw digging in 120

  7. Jerry Neri says:

    So what did you do about the trees?

  8. David G. Mitchell says:

    Jerry — The trees will remain in need of trimming until the next hurricane blows through my area and knocks down all of the brown fronds! C’est la vie!

  9. snowflake says:

    Who are “Mexicans?” Does that include the Spaniards who came from Europe and committed genocide against indigenous people from Southern California through South America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and more?
    “Mexican” citizen man works for cash. Underreports his income. Unliscened contractor. Qualifies for Medi Cal insurance due to having kids and low income.Woman in the house is illegal alien. Qualifies for Emergency Medical which is renewed every month. Gets generous amount of food stamps in form of plastic EBT card she can swipe at expensive food stores, shrimp and steak, qualifies through the children.

  10. Boooh says:

    Oh! Come on nobody likes to pay taxes. No a honest person will say ” I am happy that I have to work hard for my money and I am glad that a portion of every paycheck goes to the goverment” Come on! when it comes to save money we all do what it takes to save money. Whether is to pay an illegal worker to cut our trees or get a haircut from someone working from home.

    And whoever who is very concern about doing the right thing when it comes to pay taxes, let me tell you something. Where I lives immigration came and took all the illegal workers, approximately 500 workers. Now, the field employers are very concern because they have no employees to pick their strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, lettuce etc…. If you are interesting in helping or work for one of those employer the job is your they pay $7.50 hourly or less. It would be a great job for you.

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