Underground Economy: Work Under The Table
A door person works at a second job in the local pub on the weekend for cash under the table, a plumber fixes a leak in a home off of the books, a cab driver works some hours off of the books, a bartender declares only as many tips as she has to.
All of these are examples of an underground economy of legitimate, traditional jobs. The underground economy as a whole however also quantifies the illegitimate, black market activities as well, such as the drug trade and other illegal contraband.
It is estimated that the size of the so-called underground economy in the USA is anywhere from 13-15% in developed nations such as USA, Europe etc., and as high as 21-30% in developing nations, according to the IMF.
*Disclaimer: working and intentionally not declaring income is, in most cases, a federal offense. This website in no way endorses tax evasion. In any event, I thought it might be useful to post a list of such positions in hope that it might give some ideas on how to get some extra revenue flowing in these extraordinarily difficult times as a stop gap towards legitimate self-employment. It is highly probable that some of these ideas can lead to you establishing your own, legitimate business. If you do manage to come up with a job that pays cash, "under the table", it allows you access to 100% of your earnings up front, as long as you pay the taxes in the next tax season, when they are due--essentially allowing you some more money up front.
There are various motivating factors for someone to work "off of the books" or "under the table", such as tax evasion/tax avoidance, collecting government benefits while working, rising income taxes etc.
But it is likely that the sole motivation is by working poor trying to keep up with the rising cost of living in an economy where prices of everything keep climbing while wages remain stagnant. In the end, media reports of government bureaucracy and legislation acting in collusion with the growing power of unbridled corporate greed fuel most of the economic angst of taxpayers.
Many workers, quite justifiably so, become indignant when they see legislators creating massive loopholes for big corporations while tightening the legislative noose around the necks of both the middle class and working poor.
There are also many strong arguments made by those participating in the so-called "underground economy". Some could argue that the types of jobs in an underground economy almost always stay in the local communities, thus strengthening them, while cutting out the middleman - the government.
Another argument is that there is, in consequential terms, little difference between an underground economy and the lack of transparency you find in the government and corporate accounting practices.
Those people would argue, does big business and government have the moral authority anymore to be telling people to be forthright, while they themselves play shell games with taxpayer's money? Some good questions for debate, no matter which side of the argument you take.
On the other side of the coin, some governments are making a strong moral argument for paying your taxes.
Up in Canada, the CRA (an analogue to our own IRS) is making a pitch for Canadians to "do the right thing". And to be fair to them, it is hard for someone working in an under the table job to have the moral authority to complain about the failing healthcare system, or lacking social programs.
In reality, when people think they are cheating the government by not reporting taxable income, they are essentially cheating other taxpayers who have to shoulder an increased tax burden on their behalf.
Equally compelling arguments on both sides. The fact is, however, in the USA at least it is illegal for an employer to pay "under the table" - a payment in cash with no taxes taken out. If the employee does not report the income and pay taxes on it, then it becomes illegal for the employee as well.
But it is not always illegal to pay someone under the table, for example, babysitting jobs etc.
But in these days of wall-to-wall media coverage of unrestrained corporate bailouts with taxpayer's dwindling resources, it isn't hard to imagine why people are so hesitant to send any more of their hard-earned money to governments.
You could actually look at this whole issue as some sort of surreptitious tax revolt. Add to the fact that the US IRS is, in fact, not even owned by the US government, but rather by the Federal Reserve and IMF - both private central banks, the policies of which members of US Congress have no voting rights over!
The types of jobs that one could hold which are most likely to pay cash under the table are varied and all over the map and appeal to a broad skillset.
And contrary to what most people think, they are not all unskilled or manual lab our types of employment. The following is a short list of things which people I have talked to in recent months are now doing in light of the recent economic crisis.
Jobs That Pay Cash Under The Table
- Earn cash tutoring college students. One of the easiest ways for a college or university grad to earn straight cash is to work as a tutor. Some skills that are in very high demand for this could involve tutoring math courses, physics, English literature, history, or languages such as French or Spanish. You could also offer to teach English to new immigrants off the books.
- Work as a proofreader. I knew someone when I was in university who had graduated years before who supported themselves, under the table, by proofreading essays and term papers for students and charged by the page.
- Make a second income delivering lifestyle services to people's homes. I have met dozens of women who made ends meet by offering professional salon quality hairstyling - in peoples homes, well below market cost of the typical salon price. The same applies to similar work: manicures, pedicures, massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga classes, reflexology, reiki, alternative medicine/naturopathy, the list goes on.
- Work for extra money in the food and beverage industry. Without a doubt, one of the biggest underground employers is the food industry. Coffee shops, bars, pubs, taverns, restaurants etc have employed many people I have known over the years - many of which have also lived below the radar of immigration services for many years. It is also one of the easiest ways to finance living abroad if you have skills as a cook, bartender or doorperson and want to escape and start a new life abroad.
- Offer traditional building trades in your community. This "no-brainer", like the food and beverage is one of the two most obvious examples of an underground employer. Offering anything from complete major renovations to small carpentry jobs, welding jobs, plumbing repairs. If one is a skilled carpenter with their own facilities, one could even build custom lawn furniture, wooden retro screen doors, stairs - right down to something obscure like custom birdhouses, some of which can fetch over a hundred dollars. The construction industry is a huge consumer of undocumented workers.
- Earn profit from your craft skills. Selling anything from homemade soap and paper products, to quilting, sewing, ceramics, pottery, jewelry, screen printed clothing, homemade rugs. I know of a man who earned a living making homemade sandals out of old tires which resembled those popular rubber "crock" style shoes. This same guy used that money to fund a legitimate food and catering business, which he still operates today!
- Teach music lessons. Offer guitar lessons in people's homes. Or piano lessons in yours. The possibilities here are endless.
- Rent your home or apartment to tourists. Just check Craigslist and I'll bet that there are people in your city advertising to rent out their apartments for close to what hotels charge! All you need to be competitive is a place that has a good location for tourists and is of the quality that someone would actually like to rent, and you could be on your way to having a competitive bed and breakfast business.
- Clean people's homes or apartments. Start off by using some free desktop publishing software to make some flyers and then distribute them in your area.
- Teach classes in any sort of skill you have. Do you have experience in yoga? martial arts? pottery or ceramics? This could be the prefect income opportunity for you.
- Give walking tours of your city. If you live in an urban setting and have knowledge of history, this could make you a good income with tourists. Even better if you can make this service unique, like for example offering a walking tour of famous haunted houses and buildings in your city.
- Become a bicycle messenger. If you have bike and being a bit of a road warrior appeals to you, you could make several hundred a week, just for a few days work.
- Offer to edit student papers. Live in a university town and have a degree in the Arts? Great, then you can advertise to proof student papers. Maybe there could even be a better income if they want you to write them. Some online services charge as much as $20 a page!
- Become a personal assistant. Running errand for execs such as shopping, deliveries, etc can pay handsomely.
- Become a pet sitter. Often dog walkers and pet sitters can make $20-30 a day just for a couple of hours doing very little If you love being around animals, as I do, this could be fun as well as lucrative.
- Offer services for elderly consumers. Yard work, snow and roof shoveling are very popular and obvious choices here. So are any other rubbish removal, spring cleaning services.
- Make a second income growing vegetables in people's backyards. Got a green thumb? Offer to grow vegetables for people for a low cost, setting them up with a starter home garden which you get paid cash to maintain. Sure, a reasonable rate might only be 20-30 dollars a month, but add this up if you did this for 100 people!
- Offer computer repairs. Computer savvy? This could be another perfect way to provide a service for people off of the books.
These ideas represent just some of the ways that someone could earn a living in another country and work to pay their way through life.
Oddly enough, some of these ideas might represent the only meaningful access to capital whereby an individual can raise the money to start up their own business, legitimately, ultimately creating employment for others.
Which illustrates, that this whole issue of undocumented work is not necessarily the moral "black and white" issue it is made out to be in a purely ideological sense, however it must be stated again that working and intentionally not declaring income is, in most cases, a federal offense.
*Disclaimer: working and intentionally not declaring income is, in most cases, a federal offense. This website in no way endorses tax evasion. In any event, I thought it might be useful to post a list of such positions in hope that it might give some ideas on how to get some extra revenue flowing in these extraordinarily difficult times as a stop gap towards legitimate self-employment. It is highly probable that some of these ideas can lead to you establishing your own, legitimate business. If you do manage to come up with a job that pays cash, "under the table", it allows you access to 100% of your earnings up front, as long as you pay the taxes in the next tax season, when they are due--essentially allowing you some more money up front. This information is for information and entertainment purposes only. If the employee does not report the income and pay taxes on it, then it becomes illegal for the employee as well.