June 9, 2010
Posted: 03:50 PM ET
THE 4 CAPTAINS FROM "THE DEADLIEST CATCH," AND NARRATOR MIKE ROWE, WILL BE ON LKL TONIGHT FROM NEW ORLEANS DISCUSSING THE SPILL AND IT'S EFFECT ON THE AREA'S FISHERMEN.
By Louis Sahagun
BP's request for tax records poses a problem for some residents of fishing communities in southeastern Louisiana — the nonconformists who haven't kept records or reported their cash income.
The first step for a commercial fisherman or coastal business seeking compensation for losses suffered in the oil spill seems simple enough: Submit copies of a commercial fishing license, proof of residence and tax statements.
But the request for tax records poses a serious challenge to some residents of close-knit fishing communities on the swampy edges of southeastern Louisiana, which for generations have harbored self-reliant nonconformists who don't pay much heed to everyday rules and regulations.
In other words, they often get paid in cash — and don't always report it.
"I worked for an uncle last year who paid me in cash," said a crab fisherman who asked to remain anonymous. "The BP guy wanted my tax statements, but how can I pay taxes if everything I earned was in cash?"
Many people involved in the seasonal harvesting of shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish — boat washers, fishermen, crab cookers, deckhands, dockworkers — said they felt caught by a pincer of environmental devastation and an assistance program that could expose them to the tax man.
Not surprisingly, only a few folks here were willing to talk openly about the dilemma.
"We have our own little world, and the whole world is invading it right now," said Erwin Menesses, 43, who specializes in sewing and repairing fishing nets. "You are not going to find our legacy in the paperwork they are asking us to produce. It's not there."
Another man, who asked that his name not be used because he does not report income from selling hundreds of pounds of blue crab cooked each week in his garage, said he worried BP would turn over records to the Internal Revenue Service.
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