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?