June 9, 2010

For Gulf Fishermen, Cash Could Create Problems

Posted: 03:50 PM ET


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.


Filed under: Deadliest Catch • Gulf Oil Spill

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Joe G. (Illinois)   June 9th, 2010 4:39 pm ET

Why can’t BP use the American Standard Rule of Thumb for restitution:

Such as for the enslavement of African Americans? Were they ever asked to produce Tax records in order for the Government to decipher the average of what they would have been worth all those years in slavery?

Or what about the Illegal Mexicans working off the books and less than otherwise legal prevailing wages?

This is America people.
What do BP people think? That this is Great Brittan?

karl   June 9th, 2010 4:39 pm ET

It's been to long. BP has not been honest with the people in the gulf or anywhere else. I think it's time for the US people to put some pressure on BP. Let's stop shopping at all BP gas stations nation wide and see how BP responds to the US people . For every 10 days the oil flows we boycott a month. As it stands the oil has flowed 50 plus days, that's 5 months of not buying from BP nation wide.

Wally   June 9th, 2010 5:21 pm ET

One more reason why the FairTax should be implemented. If we had that instead of the Income Tax, all those fishermen wouldn't be skirting the tax and, more importantly, they'd be able to use bank statements or something similar to prove their income to BP. Instead, we have a real conundrum caused by tax evasion. Make it impossible to evade the tax, and they (along with illegal immigrants, drug dealers, etc.) will have to pay – and won't have to rely on government paperwork to prove what they make.

John H   June 9th, 2010 5:45 pm ET

I have'nt thought of this problem before but now that I think of it, this will be a problem for a lot of people who have avoided paying taxes on their full earnings. How about the waiter/waitress who doesn't report all their tips? Anyone who accepts cash knowing that their employer is not going to report their income to the IRS is in trouble. As the captains say, this is a way of life in the fishing industry and I suspect that is also true in the construction industry. I really feel sorry for all these people who are usually on the bottom rung of income earners but unless BP backs off their paperwork requirements, it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost.

Smith in Oregon   June 9th, 2010 7:14 pm ET

Yes CASH is certainly 'the' problem. Between choosing bankruptcy if a commercial fishery doesn't sell contaminated seafood, or Selling Contaminated Seafood that poisons the children and individuals that eat it. Republican led commercial fishery's with the 'me first' mantra are obviously going to sell contaminated seafood until they are federally forced to not do so and even then some would likely seek to slip their contaminated seafood thru overseas markets and pet food suppliers to continue the 'me first' American corporate business as usual practices.

Drinking water across America routinely contains dozens of Rx drugs that previous users dumped into their toilets, rivers and storm drains which resulted in those same Rx drugs being pulled into their metro-city fresh water intake to produce drinking water. Although no ethical medical doctor would prescribe those same drugs to your children or across the board to 'everyone', why are American's not told that your city drinking water is not that safe to drink?

claudia   June 10th, 2010 12:59 am ET

Well things just have to get people on bended knees before there will be a Disclosure of galactic friends. Come on Pres. Obama, you cant put the genie back into the bottle. Even AOL, Fox News are finally reporting on main news about it right now. Check it out and believe. Stanton Friedman is not holding back about UFOs.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   June 10th, 2010 9:50 am ET

More problems.

claudia   June 11th, 2010 12:30 am ET

3 cheers for Kevin Costner and his company, Ocean Therapy Solutions for coming to the rescue! This guy has brains and a good heart. I pray that his solutions will swiftly clean up this enviro mess.

Cyerious   June 29th, 2010 10:39 am ET

Why are people failing to realize they these people were breaking the law. They are Criminals. This society has got to quit rewarding people for doing the wrong thing. They should be rounded up and put in jail with the rest of the criminals. The IRS should come in and assess what is owed.. and then seize property (boats) if need be.

Smow   June 29th, 2010 1:56 pm ET

"The BP guy wanted my tax statements, but how can I pay taxes if everything I earned was in cash?"

A quarterly tax report can be filed, THAT'S how you can pay taxes. I'm with Cyerious... you reap what you sow.

And John H.... waitresses DO pay taxes on their tips based on the total of their guest checks. What do you do if a customers stiffs you or leaves a lousy tip of 10%? You're still claiming 15% to the IRS.

MikeGA   July 30th, 2010 8:37 pm ET

The most disgusting thing about this whole oil spill mess is not BP at all, it turns out that a bunch of these sob story people in Louisiana are scamming the system and working for cash, not paying taxes, not paying social security etc. This is criminal! We should arrest them all and throw the book at them. The rest of us who work legitimately and pay our taxes are being slapped in the face by these deadbeat theives. They should be banned from social security and Medicaid for life. They should get NOTHING from BP or anyone else because they are thieves. They ought to be thankful they don't land in jail. I have no sympathy and don't want to hear anymore of their sob stories now that we know who the real sleazy people are – and its not BP! And that goes for their sleazy lawyers too! I am sick of the scammers, cheaters, and theives AKA Louisianna Fishermen! By the way, have we every heard of the the word HONESTY!!! If you work for cash – PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE!

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