Only little people pay taxes July 30, 2010 5:55 PM   Subscribe

This Ask Metafilter post was asked anonymously, so it's got the Mods' Seal of Approval. Are other how-to questions about tax evasion cool, then?
posted by Mayor Curley to Etiquette/Policy at 5:55 PM (183 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Nobody expects...the IRS!
posted by Falconetti at 6:01 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's obviously a touchy issue; we talked about it, and ultimately this feels like it falls narrowly on the side of okay-to-ask. It's essentially non-specific and is as much a practical-guidance question about employment as anything; civil and constructive "this is actually a problematic idea" responses would generally speaking be fine, though the only negative comment we've seen in the thread so far was a "WTF mods?"-flavored bit of metacommentary that we removed.

See also questions about drugs and various other not-universally-legal things. It's very case-by-case, but there's not a strict correlation between on-the-books legality and kosherness on askme, though I know that tends to lead to Metatalk discussions sometimes and I was pretty much certain this would be one of them.

Are other how-to questions about tax evasion cool, then?

This is probably one of those questions that you could try and think about what our answers might be, contemplate that, and then bring whatever more-answerable and less button-pushing followup questions come to mind to the actual metatalk thread, if you want a decent discussion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:02 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


If some reason was given for needing to work under the table, I might be more cool with it. As is, it just sounds like they don't like taxes, maaaaan.
posted by DU at 6:10 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would argue, perhaps incorrectly, that working under the table isn't either a) always about tax evasion or b)immoral.

I could give you examples, personally from my own life, to demonstrate either.

I think more specifically, this is a question from someone trying to survive. They're not asking about cooking books or about hiding a windfall or how banks in Grand Cayman work. It's just the same as if someone from a non-abortion state came in and asked how to either get an illegal but safe abortion, or how to get payment assistance w/ an out of state abortion.

Your laws != my morality.

Of course, this leads to the inevitable "but laws are LAWS and we can't QUESTION those laws", to which I nod, smile, and remember that phone call I really need to make.
posted by TomMelee at 6:10 PM on July 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


Are other how-to questions about tax evasion cool, then?

You know, someone who's looking for part time work under the table isn't exactly going to bring home piles of cash. If it was the same work above board, they would still probably be in the bottom tax brackets that would get a 100% federal income refund. I'm not fond of that question either, but it's really not very scandalous and the asker is obviously struggling to tread water. Calling it out is probably not going to help anything.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:12 PM on July 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


That doesn't necessarily mean it's for tax evasion purposes. Other possibilities are that they are in the US on a student visa, or that they receive tuition assistance for which they would fail to qualify if they reported the extra income (in which case, they'll still be evading taxes, but that won't be the purpose for which they're looking for under-the-table jobs)
posted by qvantamon at 6:12 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to parse things too finely or anything, but I'm not seeing anything in the question that directly or indirectly implies that the inquirer intends to evade taxes. Technically, I was working "off the books" when I mowed lawns in high school for $20 cash a pop.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:13 PM on July 30, 2010


Are other how-to questions about tax evasion cool, then?

IANATL - But is it actually tax evasion if you're living below the poverty line and wouldn't actually have to report or file anyway? At 700 bucks a month you're not exactly talking about someone who is ripping off the IRS or Federal Government - much less taking some lofty position of "only little people pay taxes". For fuck's sake, we're not talking about pounds of loose gold bullion here or an offshore tax haven with a million bucks in it.

In my personal experience at living on those kinds of wages, in the end they probably wouldn't actually owe anything.

If anything they're doing the IRS and Gov a favor by not qualifying for Earned Income Tax Credit, no?

If so... you're bitching about rules simply for the love of rules, then?

Why aren't you writing angry letters to your congressperson or senators or protesting about Charles Schwab, Citibank, JP Morgan, BP, Halliburton, Monsanto, Wal-Mart or any of the hundreds of other corporate giants that effectively pay zero taxes through complicated lines of quasi-legal finance? You want to get angry about tax evasion - take it there, not to some broke ass college student trying to get by.

Otherwise you've got the entirely wrong end of the stick. Hell, the whole stick is wrong.
posted by loquacious at 6:23 PM on July 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


I also think that there are a lot of rules about income levels vs certain types of loans/grants, and how much money you're allowed to make before getting kicked out of those programs. So no, not always about tax evasion.
posted by inigo2 at 6:26 PM on July 30, 2010


But is it actually tax evasion if you're living below the poverty line and wouldn't actually have to report or file anyway?

Well, if you don't have to file, you don't have to file. Obviously it's not tax evasion if you don't have to report or file and you don't. But who are these people?

Almost all employees, even broke-ass poor people not making much money, need to file their taxes.
posted by floam at 6:31 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your laws != my morality.

How's this for an equation?:

Your decision to avoid taxes = less money for infrastructure that helps all citizens and social programs to help the truly needy.

Or perhaps you're some sort of A. 19th century or B. high school anarchist who thinks that all laws are oppression. In that case I shouldn't argue with you because your A. mustache or B. Fugazi t-shirt must be pretty rad.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


I love how the title of this post is "Only little people pay taxes" which is a phrase you would normally attribute to fat-cat bankers and rich people who will go to extremely expensive lengths to hide enormous amounts of income from taxes - the idea is that the people who pay taxes are the ones who can least afford it. The person who wrote the question is clearly a "little person" in the sense of the phrase "Only little people pay taxes". They are obviously not going to get rich and the $100-$200 they would have withheld from their pay would probably be returned next April anyway.
posted by amethysts at 6:33 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why aren't you writing angry letters to your congressperson or senators or protesting about Charles Schwab, Citibank, JP Morgan, BP, Halliburton, Monsanto, Wal-Mart or any of the hundreds of other corporate giants that effectively pay zero taxes through complicated lines of quasi-legal finance?

I don't actually own any lobbyists so my elected officials could give a shit about what I have to say. But I assure you that corporate welfare pisses me off as much as it does you.

I love how the title of this post is "Only little people pay taxes" which is a phrase you would normally attribute to fat-cat bankers and rich people

I hate having to write the title and that was the first thing that popped into my head. I recognized the irony and obviously in retrospect it was a mistake to use it because it gives another avenue for people to take exception. My apologies.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:37 PM on July 30, 2010


Dude, go after Charles Schwab and the highly questionable creative financial raiders that are still . They're the ones raping our infrastructure, not someone living below the poverty line who would probably qualify for EITC and money back from the feds for being so broke.

Seriously, I hear you about the fact our social support structure and infrastructure is collapsing, but your anger is so severely misplaced I'm going to rename you Hater Curley. How many billions of dollars are lost through creative corporate finances? How much of the financial crisis of 2009 is due to people living below the poverty line?

And moreover - you're ASSUMING they aren't going to file just because they're looking for a little off the books sidework? There's nothing in the post that says "Help me not pay taxes" - you're leaping to conclusions. Did you get dropped repeatedly on your head recently? Are you watching Fox News too much? What the fuck is wrong with you?
posted by loquacious at 6:38 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, so you aren't actually interested if other tax evasion questions were allowed. Why didn't you say what your issue was with the question in the first place instead of what seems like trying to trip a mod up?

Also, garage sale questions are now banned.
posted by ODiV at 6:39 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoops. Mad Libs time!

...highly questionable creative financial raiders that are still ______

A) Ass raping anyone with a dollar with a cactus dildo
B) Guarding the henhouse, salivating and licking their canines.
C) ????
posted by loquacious at 6:40 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really disagree with the decision to allow this question. It seems like this particular asker is set up really badly to be a test case; everything in the way it's phrased screams "selfish tax evader." I wanted to say this could be all right, or even that it could have been rephrased slightly to fix problems, but there are enough difficulties in the question to completely do away with any sense I had that it was legitimate.

loquacious: “IANATL - But is it actually tax evasion if you're living below the poverty line and wouldn't actually have to report or file anyway? At 700 bucks a month you're not exactly talking about someone who is ripping off the IRS or Federal Government - much less taking some lofty position of ‘only little people pay taxes’.”

That was precisely my first reaction – and yet the asker points out very clearly that that's not the position they're in. They say outright that they're not willing to work for minimum wage, for one thing. They're able to afford going to school, and it's pretty clear, I think, that we're not talking about really necessary money for necessary living costs ("... less [than 700$ a month] would certainly help a lot. I'll take anything I can get.") There's no political motivation mentioned at all, so this doesn't seem to be a case of conscientious objection. This just sounds like a college student who wants to make money while going to school and who wants to avoid paying taxes solely because they'd like to make more.

The thing is, a lot of similar questions could have been reworded to make them a hell of a lot less controversial. For example, some questions might be asked as "I want to make sure this isn't taxed income," or "I want to avoid paying taxes because I'm morally opposed to supporting warfare." Both of those seem like pretty legitimate reasons to want to evade or avoid taxations. As it is, though, this question really does just sound like somebody who could afford to make money and pay taxes on it just like anybody else trying to dodge the bullet purely for selfish reasons.

And that shouldn't fly.
posted by koeselitz at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2010 [9 favorites]



The people who typically work under the table are the people getting the least largess from society in general. They certainly aren't saints and I don't like when people dodge taxes I pay, but save the rage for the corporations and rich people who rigged the game so they are drowning in wealth and under taxed.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems like this particular asker is set up really badly to be a test case; everything in the way it's phrased screams "selfish tax evader."

Really? That's the first thing that comes to mind? It screams "not able to work legally" to me. There's no federal income tax to evade on $700 a month, and while, yes, there are FICA and other withholdings you have to pay at that income level, it does not seem at all likely to me the asker is going to all this trouble to evade those withholdings (and they're awful regressive taxes anyway, not that it's relevant).
posted by enn at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Single, under 65: $9350 is the minimum annual salary

$700 per month x 12 months = $8400

What taxes would this person be paying anyway? And do we know if this person is even a legal citizen?
posted by Greg Nog at 6:48 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The instructions to contact my representative to complain about Charles Schwab are pretty off-base. First of all, why can't I work to prevent both large AND small tax-evasion? And secondly, "well THEY'RE doing it" is hardly a defense.

As for the "well, we don't know what their situation is" seems to me like maybe the mod(s) approved the question should have determined. "I don't like taxes" is a whole different kettle of fish than "I'm in dire straits/on the lam/whatever".
posted by DU at 6:51 PM on July 30, 2010


Almost all employees, even broke-ass poor people not making much money, need to file their taxes.

Four years of making under 8k a year meant I didn't have to file. I filed 2 years when I was getting actual W-2s, but one year I made almost nothing. I've wondered where this puts my tax status, but since now I only rarely break the 9k-barrier some times - I still don't know.
posted by The Whelk at 6:51 PM on July 30, 2010


Almost all employees, even broke-ass poor people not making much money, need to file their taxes.

You seriously don't think that there are huge swaths of people in the United States who make less than $9000 a year? (And I don't mean people playing the system to divert their income.)
posted by desuetude at 6:51 PM on July 30, 2010


My guess is that they're most likely a foreign student who isn't allowed to work off-campus based on their visa. If they can't find work on campus, and they still need money, off-books work may in fact be their only choice, even if they're fussy enough to not be willing to clean houses for minimum wage.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:51 PM on July 30, 2010


This may be a revelation to some of you, but most people (even those of modest means with liberal leanings) would rather keep the few bucks they'd save rather than have it sent to the government where it'll probably go toward decorating a general's jet rather than feding a needy orpan anyway.

/has worked off the books
/never declares tips
posted by jonmc at 6:55 PM on July 30, 2010


floam: “Almost all employees, even broke-ass poor people not making much money, need to file their taxes.”

No. You are not required to file if you make $9,350 or less per year. [Check the filing requirements chart here.]

So technically a job that earns $700 per month (or $8400 per year) is already pretty much under the table, since you wouldn't have to pay taxes on that. That's assuming, however, that the poster doesn't have any other income, which I very much doubt.
posted by koeselitz at 6:56 PM on July 30, 2010


Since we don't have any other details about the poster's situation, and it's been established that for this amount of chump change there is no tax evasion going on, what the hell are we even talking about? But go on with the pseudo moral outrage about scofflaws. That's really going to fix things.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:58 PM on July 30, 2010


enn: “Really? That's the first thing that comes to mind? It screams "not able to work legally" to me.”

I thought about that, too. But again, I had a hard time imagining a person who's going to college, and can afford to go to college entirely separately from the $700/month, would be "not able to work legally." Of course I'm not that familiar with the various instances in which a person isn't legally able to work. I guess maybe it's a person from another country... didn't think of that. All the same...
posted by koeselitz at 6:59 PM on July 30, 2010


"What taxes would this person be paying anyway?"

There are a number of regressive taxes on poor people and their employers, even on employees poor enough not to be required to pay federal income tax.

In an above-table job, the employee would pay the employee's share of Social Security and Medicare (FICA). Meanwhile, the employer would have to pay the employer's share of FICA, as well as state and federal unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance, and perhaps other state-specific payroll taxes -- money the employer could otherwise pay to the employee directly.

All this adds up to another ~20% on top of what an on-the-books employee takes home in his or her paycheck.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:02 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Burhanistan: “Since we don't have any other details about the poster's situation, and it's been established that for this amount of chump change there is no tax evasion going on, what the hell are we even talking about?”

Well, the unfortunate thing is that it's an anonymous question, so we're in the position of sitting here analyzing the person's words while they can't say anything about it. Maybe it would be best to leave aside that specific question itself.

Still, I don't think questions of this kind should be allowed on ask. There are cases where they might fly - situations where there's a legitimate reason to avoid having work appear on tax records, or situations where there's a moral reason for wanting to avoid paying taxes - but in cases that don't have those extenuating circumstances, I don't think tax-evading questions should be allowed. Of course, we have no way of knowing the situation of this particular asker, and we can't know if maybe there are all sorts of extenuating circumstances for them. I only wish the mods might ask that a question be rephrased until this stuff is clear, and they can make a ruling based on that.
posted by koeselitz at 7:03 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I posted a response asking how anyone could respond to this in anything other than a super vague way and that it wasn't fair that the asker is anonymous but that anyone responding is not, but it got deleted.
posted by proj at 7:18 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am not familiar with US laws, however, what about the tax implications to the employer? What kind of taxes will they be avoiding by paying under the table? Will they be able to avoid paying taxes also? I know here in Canada, the employer is responsible not only for witholding income tax, but also for withholding and also contibuting to the Canada Pension Plan and Unemployment Insurance. If the employer pays under the table, their contributions will be nil. So, the benefits for the employee (if they want to claim unemploment insurance, or when they are eligible for a pension under the CPP) will be reduced.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:20 PM on July 30, 2010


I am, in fact a 19th century anarchist, thank you for noticing. I believe you are jealous of my moustache.

I replied to someone else who emailed asking about this basically saying what cortex said. This is more of a personal-morality issue that just happens to have force of law behind it. Similar, I think to a lot of drug questions or "wtf is this file that I got from Oink and how do I play it" We did discuss it and we decided it was okay by us, though yeah a lot more questions along these lines and we'd probably reign it in. As a very occasional sort of thing, yeah it's okay by us.

it wasn't fair that the asker is anonymous

People can follow-up via the mods, the same as always.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:26 PM on July 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


That's not even considering what happens if the employee is hurt on the job, BozoBurgerBonanza.
posted by ODiV at 7:28 PM on July 30, 2010


Did you get dropped repeatedly on your head recently? Are you watching Fox News too much? What the fuck is wrong with you?

aren't you getting public assistance right now? you know that the money for that comes from taxes, right? I know. Haliburton should be paying for that, maaaan. But they're not.

P.S. People who watch FOX News resent paying taxes. They think that roads and schools are funded by magic. And you know that. But you're lazy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:30 PM on July 30, 2010


FWIW, I flagged it too, for two reasons. It seems to me that the set of legal reasons to seek off-books employment is vastly outnumbered by the set of illegal reasons to seek such employment. Given 1) the likelihood that the question was asked for purposes not entirely legal, and 2) the inability for anyone but the mods to clarify the asker's intent, it just doesn't seem right to have a thread filled with "here's how you can break the law" answers.

More significantly, perhaps, it's not the question that concerns me; it's that the thread is going to be a compendium of ways to cheat the system, regardless of the asker's intent, and that's not something I think should stay on the green.
posted by aberrant at 7:33 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hi. I survive on less than $700 a month, working on the books for $15/hour.

It's a pretty miserable existence, but I've been looking for full time work since March, 09.
posted by bilabial at 7:35 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't/doesn't sound like tax evasion to me, as $700 p/m is $8,400 per year. Not that big of a chunk to get all upset about, either way. I guess I could have put a caveat in my answer about only using advice if the person plans on paying their taxes, but I'm not that person's conscience or karma, just someone with an answer.

If you want to get upset about tax evasion, you might want to check in with the wealthiest 1% and the newest people of our nation, Corporations.
posted by batmonkey at 7:35 PM on July 30, 2010


Sometimes, Metatalk is like a dirty old boot full of roach shit and eczema.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:37 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my guess is the asker is a foreign student on a visa that doesn't let them work a job that requires an I-9. Not saying there's no lawbreaking going on, but I bet it's not tax evasion.
posted by KathrynT at 7:41 PM on July 30, 2010


The hypocrisy here stinks.

This guy wants to evade taxes. Or at least get around declared income - maybe to get assistance with tution, food stamps, etc. In any case, it seems we have a guy looking out for number one at the expense of society.

It's wrong when Goldman-Sachs rapes the country. It's wrong when the little guy does it, too.

Christ, this is why I find politics disgusting.
posted by codswallop at 7:43 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know, as a mod looking at submitted anon questions, we can take either a pessimistic or optimistic position. The pessimistic position in this case is they are trying to cheat their way out of taxes, and we're helping them commit a real crime by giving tips on hiding their income. The optimistic option is maybe they're a foreign born student studying in the US and they're looking for a little help with living expenses without violating any sort of student visa and they're willing to do low-level work. That's a pretty mild offense and something I certainly wouldn't report to authorities. Plus, I bet more than half of us here have paid people to help with yard work, car washing, house cleaning, and babysitting and never paid or reported taxes on them.

It's not a great question and it does come close to a borderline, but unless we get a flood of them, once in a blue moon it's ok.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2010


This is a really pointless and malicious callout. Your precious society will live on one more day without the benefit of this guy's $200. Nobody really wants to live on $700 a month and if this guy thought scoffing the law was such an excellent and lucrative career he wouldn't be on askme looking for help OR going to school.

I don't know where this "they said they're a student so they must have lots of money" is coming from. In fact it's quite the opposite. School is expensive. Especially if the only loans you could get go straight to the school and you don't get anything to live on. Not everyone's parents are willing and able to hand over blank checks. And student visas preclude you from getting a job.
posted by amethysts at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's essentially non-specific and is as much a practical-guidance question about employment as anything;

No, it's not. It's specifically a question asking to look for under the table employment. Had the asker removed the "under the table" bit, then the question would be a practical-guidance question about employment.

Under the table work isn't just about the employee having to file taxes - it's about the employer having to pay taxes as well. This question is specifically asking how to look for tax evasive work. If it wasn't, then it reads like one of those standard employment questions that has been asked 8 million times and the thread could then have been flagged as "use the search field". I don't think it's a question that should have been sent through as it is currently framed. It wouldn't have been hard to reword the question to specifically look for "odd jobs that add up to $700 a month" or something like that. The goal of the question is the same but it isn't so obvious to the casual passerby.
posted by Stynxno at 7:44 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is more of a personal-morality issue that just happens to have force of law behind it.

That may not be entirely invalid, but it's a very deliberate way of framing the issue.

I agree the question shouldn't have been put through. Bad call.
posted by cribcage at 7:53 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


aren't you getting public assistance right now?

Boy howdy I am, and I can't wait to get off of them 'cause it sucks. I'm not actually allowed to work yet, but with any luck and skill - real soon I will.

I avoided public assistance for, oh, 10 years? Because I'm an idiot. It's fucking humiliating to ask for help.

But I got over it. Why? Because I've had decent, full time career-like jobs before. I remember what a decent paycheck is like, how much I paid in taxes. I did some math and the amount I've paid in taxes, unemployment and SS would easily cover the money I would get if I was on public assistance for ten or more years.

But you're lazy.

Judge much?
posted by loquacious at 7:54 PM on July 30, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'm in the boat with those that feel this is not an appropriate question for AskMe. The point really isn't if this individual would or wouldn't be liable for any taxes anyway.... who cares... The point is that working for cash and not reporting it either as the employer or as the employee is illegal in this country. And, as such, I really think the question we should be asking is where on the slope is the line about getting advice on how to break the law....wouldn't it just be much easier if it was at that "if it's illegal, we're not helping with it here" point?

I think the "it's ok once in a while" argument is a bit weak...
posted by HuronBob at 7:59 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Even though the poster is anonymous, I'm surprised this question was allowed to stand, and not because of any tax evasion issues. It reads to me like a solicitation. The poster wants somebody to offer him under the table work. S/he even lists her/his skills! And then follows up with "Does anything spring to mind?" It's as if the 'best answer' to this question would be, "Hey I'm in Seattle and could probably help you out; email's in the profile!"

What about somebody else thinking of 'asking' for work/clients/housing/tickets/donations? Would they see this FPP staying on the green as an example of the type of question that's allowed around here?
posted by iamkimiam at 8:01 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mayor CurleyPoster: aren't you getting public assistance right now?

Holy fucking shit. All time most obnoxious comment ever. Your point would have stood entirely on its own merits without this little gem dropped in; it was entirely gratuitous douchebaggery, that.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2010 [39 favorites]


My guess is that they're most likely a foreign student who isn't allowed to work off-campus based on their visa.

This would be my guess as well. Or someone whose financial aid would be in question if they were declaring more on their taxes would be another "Ok, this isn't awesome, but this person isn't trying to screw the IRS" charitable guess.

Not everyone who goes to college has money, so the assumption some people have made this thread that clearly, the asker doesn't need money kind of wrankles me a bit. I went to college based on financial aid and a few loans. I had a workstudy job and spent the four years in states varying between "broke" and "motherfucking broke." Not complaining - just pointing out that college students are known to use milk crates as furniture for a reason. We also don't know if the asker is in a state school, a private school, what their tuition is like, what their financial aid is... so really, the assumption that "S/he's in college, s/he has money already" is pretty specious.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:04 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


To the people who are opposed to this question: can you explain the consequences of allowing this particular question, and its answers, to remain? Please stick only to the available text.
posted by one_bean at 8:06 PM on July 30, 2010


You know, as a mod looking at submitted anon questions, we can take either a pessimistic or optimistic position. The pessimistic position in this case is they are trying to cheat their way out of taxes, and we're helping them commit a real crime by giving tips on hiding their income.

Or, in cases like this, the mod should contact the asker for clarification. The asker went into detail as to why they want part time work and what their qualifications and the only qualifier is it "must" be under the table. It could be a poor foreign student needing extra cash. It could be an illegal immigrant sin papeles. It could be a tax cheat. The person could owe alimony or child support. The person may just want to be paid in cash at the end of the shift. We don't know.
posted by birdherder at 8:07 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude,

As a technical issue, this MAY not be illegal. Since you're so interested in tax, go to the IRS website and find out the minimum income that one accrues before taxes have to be paid. $700 is not it, and I don't have powers necessary to find out if the OP plans to continue doing it for several months.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:07 PM on July 30, 2010


Clarifications about tax evasion vs. student visa and discussions about law vs. morality aside, I think this is a very clear cut "how do I break the law" question, and possibly fails the "Can someone be prosecuted for answering the question"/"can MeFi be sued" test. In the end it's a mostly harmless question, and it isn't a slippery slope towards a "how do I kill my neighbor" question, but it is technically a clear break of the guidelines. I think it's up to the mods to decide how much "constitutional law" versus "judgement call" they want to get with the guidelines.
posted by qvantamon at 8:08 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


One must contribute to Social Security and Medicare, though, if I am not mistaken. Plus, I like how everyone is like "dude this must be a foreign student who is just trying to MAKE HIS/HER WAY IN AMERICA!"

Or, it could just be someone who doesn't want to pay taxes. Don't ascribe "noble" intentions just because it's convenient for your ideology.
posted by proj at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, agreed that mods' politics aside, this is a clear "how do I break the law" question and it's also unclear how anyone could give an ACTUAL answer to this question without breaking the law as well. Otherwise it's chatfilter.
posted by proj at 8:11 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Last I checked Mayor Curley was pretty darn near Communist so I bet he's not really concerned about taxes that much, he's just concerned for the well-being of the collective that is Metafilter, and doesn't want Matt carted off to IRS prison. I've seen it happen to other people, and it's not pretty.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:11 PM on July 30, 2010


Or, it could just be someone who doesn't want to pay taxes. Don't ascribe "noble" intentions just because it's convenient for your ideology.

I don't think it's ascribing "noble" intentions so much as pointing out "Hey, this might not be someone trying to be a total scam artist. There ARE other possibilities." And really, since the impression of some of the commenters in this thread is that not paying taxes is like stepping on a box of puppies every single day for forever, it doesn't hurt to throw in a few reminders of "This really might NOT be someone trying to be a jerk, even if it's a sub-optimal question."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:14 PM on July 30, 2010


it's also unclear how anyone could give an ACTUAL answer to this question without breaking the law as well. Otherwise it's chatfilter.

I gave an answer saying that if s/he followed the advice that I gave, it would be questionably legal at best and specified that I myself pay taxes. I fail to see which laws I broke.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:15 PM on July 30, 2010


Holy fucking shit. All time most obnoxious comment ever.

You read what he was responding to? I thought both of them were going pretty far into obnoxious personal insult territory.
posted by ODiV at 8:15 PM on July 30, 2010


I would like like to retract and apologize to Mayor Curley for accusing him of being dropped on his head recently or watching Fox News.

It's no defense but I'm going through nicotine withdraw and hopped up on prescription strength vitamin D pills, and my current symptoms and side effects probably resemble menopause with a batshit chaser.
posted by loquacious at 8:20 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


You read what he was responding to? I thought both of them were going pretty far into obnoxious personal insult territory.

Yep. Sorry.

I don't care, though, I can take it. I tell myself I'm lazy all too often.
posted by loquacious at 8:22 PM on July 30, 2010


Really, without any sort of Why on why the work needs to be under the table, the question is a bit far. Sadly, I don't think knowing why would make it better either. But at least then we wouldn't be arguing about why the asker needs under the table work.

I know it's anonymous. And I know the mods aren't in the business of writing/editing questions for people. But really, how do I get around the law questions are, at best, weird to see here. Unless the why really is foreign student who can't work I can't think of anything where it doesn't boil down to someone trying to cheat the system.
posted by theichibun at 8:23 PM on July 30, 2010


Or, in cases like this, the mod should contact the asker for clarification.

We don't know who they are without mucking around in the database. And generally speaking we don't look.

And what are they going to say? Honestly if this had been a question about trying to make an extra $100-150 a week babysitting no one would have batted an eye. I appreciate that people are concerned for Matt and his safety from IRS prison and the like, but both he and I read it in a sort of charitable way and I decided to approve it and we moved on. My worst case scenario is probably that it's some deadbeat dad trying to get out of child support but still being able to make payments on his Camaro, but we don't know.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:23 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of people seem to be forgetting that if this person is indeed a student with income level requirements based tuition,room-and-board,etc, they are committing fraud against students with real need who play by the rules. He is very clear that he doesn't need the money to survive with the "no minimum wage" requirement.

Add in that many scholarships are taxable income IIRC, and suddenly a full ride scholarship to UW ($20-30k) plus $8000 does actually mean taxes paid when all is said and done.
posted by nomisxid at 8:24 PM on July 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Providing information isn't a crime. We have no idea what this person's goals, intentions, or situation may be. Again, as pointed out multiple times, this person isn't trying to make even enough to qualify for paying taxes. And whatever quarters they avoid paying into SSI/Medicare will be excluded from their benefits.

More importantly, and also repetitiously, the person asking this question is responsible for carrying out these suggestions in a responsible, lawful fashion. They're the ones who will suffer if they're trying to get around some legal point or another.

(jessamyn's worst-case scenario is what almost prompted me not to answer at all.)
posted by batmonkey at 8:36 PM on July 30, 2010


judge much?

You know that "you're lazy" was in response to you insinuating that I'm a brain-damaged right winger, not for being on public assistance. I was aghast when I first read that thinking that you misunderstood-- my apologies if you still think that.

I'm having regrets about mentioning your public assistance, but it was discussed in these very pages and I'm having trouble reconciling your position with your situation. Sorry for my part in this. You're not someone I enjoy disagreeing with.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:38 PM on July 30, 2010



Really, without any sort of Why on why the work needs to be under the table, the question is a bit far.


It seems like the common reasoning around here is that if there is a plausible legitimate reason for asking the question they let it go. For instance, asking about something that is illegal in the US but is actually legal elsewhere, even without figuring out where the asker is from.

The thing is, the mods here are really good. When it comes to the rules, they stay away from silly rigid zero tolerance but don't fall down slippery slopes. It's a benevolent dictatorship and it works.

Under the table work in several industries is as ingrained as use of illegal immigrants, often for the same reasons. Illegal maybe, but an integral part of the economy. It's silly to pretend it is a taboo subject.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:39 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]




Is that supposed to link to something funny?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:44 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry for my part in this. You're not someone I enjoy disagreeing with.

THAT'S IT. IT'S FISTICUFFS AT... oh. *hug*

I'm making chicken soup, want some?
posted by loquacious at 8:44 PM on July 30, 2010


"It's wrong when Goldman-Sachs rapes the country. It's wrong when the little guy does it, too.
"

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
posted by klangklangston at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2010 [30 favorites]


Had he not climbed his way out of the boiling pitch? Fought and dodged up three circles and deceived the clerks in a city guarding the greatest deceiver of all? Shrewdly traded the spirit-backed securities, until at last he could reshuffle the slivers of promises back into a whole, this one promising and once-divided soul? These are signs of greatness and more accomplishments to come. The things people would sell. Futures indeed, he thought, if you're talking about eternity.

The original papers, always combusting but never consumed, had said America, but he had not known the station (unfortunate, but likely) or the youth (a bonus) before he had stepped into his rightful property. Possession, after all, is nine tenths of the law. This time, he would be careful. This time, he would leave no trace. Start small, but never give an inch of margin to the state or the country if he could get away with it. These things add up. And he knew how, after years of review of his ... mistakes ... to get away with it. Start small, but start now, even if he had a new life: the best pension a man could steal.

Stretching his unfamiliar fingers before him, the newly encorporated ghost of Kenneth Lay placed his hands upon the keyboard and began to compose his question.
posted by adipocere at 8:45 PM on July 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm having regrets about mentioning your public assistance, but it was discussed in these very pages and I'm having trouble reconciling your position with your situation.

I don't understand what there is to reconcile. The struggles inherent in receiving and surviving on public assistance in this day and age aren't due to people getting paid under the table for a measly $8000 a year; they're due to the fact that our government stopped levying adequate taxes on the super-wealthy.
posted by scody at 8:48 PM on July 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


Everybody who thinks the IRS gives a shit if loq makes a few bones under the tables throw your glocks in the air. Mayor Curley, you're a dick bro. Sack up and make good choices, blood in, blood out.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:51 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


The deeper problem with this question is that we don't really know what "under the table" means, because the author doesn't tell us what laws or rules or problems they want to evade. How to commit immigration fraud is very different than how to commit tax fraud-- or whatever.

Of course, if the author had asked the question with enough specificity for us to actually understand the problem to be solved, then we would also know (for better or worse) whether the question violates the illegal activity rule.
posted by willbaude at 9:04 PM on July 30, 2010


"Fugazi t-shirt must be pretty rad."

I think we should leave FUGAZI out of this. Try Archers of Loaf or something.
posted by HopperFan at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


No. You are not required to file if you make $9,350 or less per year. [Check the filing requirements chart here.

Wow, OK that number is higher than I thought. I was guessing it was in the 2-3 grand range. As a self-employed person the number is far smaller. Thanks for letting me know what's what.
posted by floam at 9:19 PM on July 30, 2010


"The struggles inherent in receiving and surviving on public assistance in this day and age aren't due to people getting paid under the table for a measly $8000 a year; they're due to the fact that our government stopped levying adequate taxes on the super-wealthy."

That we line the rich up this year against the wall is nothing short of a boon to their heirs—if we kill them before 2011, they don't have to pay death taxes.
posted by klangklangston at 9:19 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


And of course, everyone is ignoring the possibility that the asker is just trying to evade tables.
posted by qvantamon at 9:19 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is that supposed to link to something funny?

Holy crap, it's Emma Goldman literally in bed with John D. Rockefeller and Ayn Rand there appears to be a kinky looking time machine in the background and she's sporting one hell of a competition-worthy ironic mustache!

Kidding. Klang, your link is blank.
posted by loquacious at 9:20 PM on July 30, 2010


Wah, what do you mean I have to go pull the meat off of chicken bones? But I'm huuuungry noooow!
posted by loquacious at 9:22 PM on July 30, 2010


"Is that supposed to link to something funny?"

METAFILTER NEEDS INLINE IMAGE HOSTING!
posted by klangklangston at 9:22 PM on July 30, 2010


Maybe better link.
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Needs moar mischievous smile and one of those bombs that's just a black ball with a fuse coming out of it.
posted by qvantamon at 9:24 PM on July 30, 2010


Yeah, I used to care about this. After this thread? I don't really give a shit.
posted by koeselitz at 9:26 PM on July 30, 2010


I love how the title of this post is "Only little people pay taxes" which is a phrase you would normally attribute to fat-cat bankers and rich people

I hate having to write the title and that was the first thing that popped into my head. I recognized the irony and obviously in retrospect it was a mistake to use it because it gives another avenue for people to take exception. My apologies.
posted by Mayor Curley


I think it's an excellent title.

Those are the very words (well, you left out 'the', Kid Curley), reported by a housekeeper under questioning by then federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, which guaranteed the conviction of The Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, on charges of tax evasion, among others.

And it was a watershed moment, because the self-evident truth of that line, now universally acknowledged, has caused the duty to pay taxes to lose all real moral force among the poor and middle class, and made taxes a game which only suckers play by the rules unless they have no other choice, and that in turn has made it almost inevitable, along with the exaggerated but very real threat of terrorism, that the US will end up in rigid, total information awareness-driven authoritarianism.

If we're lucky.
posted by jamjam at 9:31 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


wait poor people are causing authoritarianism?

>>>>>>??????????????????????????????
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:46 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


wait poor people are causing authoritarianism?

Yes, don't you remember? It happened right after the poor set the Reichstag on fire (though rumors that they used torches wrapped in bootleg Fugazi t-shirts have yet to be confirmed).
posted by scody at 10:14 PM on July 30, 2010


wait poor people are causing authoritarianism?

>>>>>>??????????????????????????????


That sentence had one or two too many clauses in it for you, didn't it?

Oh well... sorry.
posted by jamjam at 10:22 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


And it was a watershed moment, because the self-evident truth of that line, now universally acknowledged, has caused the duty to pay taxes to lose all real moral force among the poor and middle class, and made taxes a game which only suckers play by the rules unless they have no other choice, and that in turn has made it almost inevitable, along with the exaggerated but very real threat of terrorism, that the US will end up in rigid, total information awareness-driven authoritarianism.

this broke the comment parser in my head
posted by killdevil at 10:50 PM on July 30, 2010


Fair enough. It has one or two too many clauses to make much sense, apparently.

Sorry, truly sorry, #9.
posted by jamjam at 10:54 PM on July 30, 2010


As usual my attempt at "soup" turned into "stew" because my eyeballs are too big for my saucepan and I put too much stuff in it, but it's fucking delicious.
posted by loquacious at 11:09 PM on July 30, 2010


proj writes "I posted a response asking how anyone could respond to this in anything other than a super vague way and that it wasn't fair that the asker is anonymous but that anyone responding is not, but it got deleted."

So . . . Totally righteous deletion then right?

Personally, and I realize the anti-chat filter anti-Matt-in-gaol reasons this isn't the case, I wish we had more "How do I commit this crime? (you know, hypothetically)" questions. I find them fascinating and wish there was an intelligent place on the internet to discuss them. Stuff like scarabic's body disposal comment are gold.
posted by Mitheral at 11:14 PM on July 30, 2010


klangklangston, that looks nothing like jessamyn's mustache! She has more of a well groomed Che Guevara thing going on and much less drunk blackjack playin' trucker.
posted by loquacious at 11:14 PM on July 30, 2010


I'm sorry, sir, were she a 19th century anarchist, she'd favor the broad Prussian style. You must have done your social-political mustache research at a state school.

Che Guevara? You may as well have studied beards for all you've learned.
posted by klangklangston at 11:27 PM on July 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


jessamyn: "I am, in fact a 19th century anarchist, thank you for noticing. I believe you are jealous of my moustache."

The "jesstache", if you will.
posted by boo_radley at 11:36 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


THIS IS NOT A RECIPE FOR CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

Chicken.
Water.
A pot.
Some other stuff.


First you'll need some chicken, preferably with fatty skin and bones on it. A half a chicken, a whole chicken, chicken legs or drumsticks, whatever. In tonight's particular instance it was a frozen pack of drumsticks, about 7 or 8 of them.

You need a big pot or sauce pan with a lot of water and some salt in it. Put that on a heat source. Put the chicken in there, frozen, thawed, fresh, whatever. Bring it to a boil then simmer for 30-60 minutes. This part is done when you can pull the chicken off the bones with a fork. When you can do that, pull the chicken out of the pot and do that. Discard bones, but put the skin and meaty bits back in the broth in the pot.

Cut up an onion and a bunch of garlic. Put it in the pot. Add some salt and pepper, but not too much. You can always add more later. Salt-n-Pepa is optional. Oregano and Rosemary are good, so is a touch of basil.

Other stuff add one or more of the following to taste: Brown rice, potatoes, lentils, peas, carrots, green beans, noodles, pasta, quinoa, bits of Karl Malden's head - you get the idea.

Now here's the tricky part of the directions:

Start out with grand hopes and plans for perfectly tender potatoes, succulent chicken, al-dente noodles and rice and add the ingredients in an appropriate, logical sequence. Potatoes and rice go in first because they'll take longer, lentils and such next, noodles or pasta last. Remember to put too much damn stuff in. Use handfuls, not a measuring cup.

Now leave the room leaving the soup uncovered and obsessively refresh a blank-loading MetaTalk page for a half an hour because the MetaFilter is down. Completely forget to stir the pot or keep it at a low simmer. Stare at a glowing rectangle and space the fuck out. Half hour, minimum.

Then suddenly remember, leaping up and dashing to the kitchen before it burns or boils over. Note that the contents of the pot are now more solid then liquid, shrug, and eat it anyway 'cause you now have a hearty and delicious chicken stew and who the fuck wanted soup anyway?
posted by loquacious at 11:39 PM on July 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


"The "jesstache", if you will."

That is in fact what I saved the picture as.
posted by klangklangston at 11:41 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Che Guevara? You may as well have studied beards for all you've learned.

I study your beard. While you're asleep.
posted by loquacious at 11:41 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your overwhelming Bartschande prevents you from gazing upon it while I'm awake.
posted by klangklangston at 12:02 AM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ingredients:

Chicken.
Water.
A pot.
Some other stuff.


By "some other stuff," I believe you mean THE RICH, whom we will now commence to eating.

Also, I have a little Trotsky beard, but that doesn't prevent Jess and me from getting along quite well.
posted by scody at 12:07 AM on July 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Back in the '60s my dad used the GI bill to go to school, worked part-time and full time summers on the books to survive, and my mom babysat, mostly for other students, because they had me so she couldn't work outside of the house. She probably made somewhere in the neighborhood (adjusting for inflation) of what the asker is shooting for... and I don't think it ever, ever occurred to them that they were tax-dodgers. My dad is about as straight-arrow (in a sweet, "old-fashioned" way) as one could ever hope to be, and worked for the federal government for his whole career after graduating.

Later on, in the late '80s my now-husband was a foreign student studying in the U.S. He worked legally on-campus — but when that work wasn't available, he still had to work to eat and pay his share for a roof over his head because his parents could only pay tuition... so, yep, he worked under the table when he had to.

I babysat from the age of 12 until I was old enough to get a regular on-the-books part-time job at a burger joint. I also sold jewelry I made from beads to other kids, and sometimes did custom embroidery on their jeans and jackets for money... and didn't pay taxes on any of that shit.

Coming from such an across-the-board lawbreaking family, and being a lawbreaker myself, I'd be an awful hypocrite if I took issue with this question. I'm also just generally very, very glad that the mods take a nuanced view of things.

Now I have to go buy some chicken and try to figure out where I put John Madden's head. I know the recipe calls for Karl Malden, but I'm fresh out. It's either Madden, or no head bits at all.
posted by taz at 12:17 AM on July 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Your overwhelming Bartschande prevents you from gazing upon it while I'm awake.

I'm not at all ashamed of my Bart!
posted by loquacious at 1:32 AM on July 31, 2010


If anything, they're evading taxes less than if they weren't in Washington State. We have no state income tax, but a high sales tax - including an extra 'sin tax' on everything from booze to candy.

So, unless they're not buying *anything*, they're paying taxes. At least to the state. Sorry, Feds.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:50 AM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really want some of that stew. My cupboards are bare and I, too, am lazy - too lazy to go to the store at 4-something in the morning.

It's the year 20fucking10. I honestly and naively believed we'd have cyberstew by this point.
posted by item at 2:12 AM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Me, I'm totally down with people deciding for themselves which laws to obey and which to disobey based on their own political leanings, personal prejudices, sense of self-entitlement and whatever sympathies and antipathies they might currently be experiencing at this time in their lives. For example, it's okay when I do drugs because hey, I can handle it and still hold down a job and not beat the wife, but that junkie in the stairwell over there? Lock him up; he's a danger to society. Also, it's okay when I do twenty over the limit because I'm a good driver and some of those speeding laws are stupid, right? And another thing, don't fine me for dropping that gum wrapper - look at what BP did to the gulf! And on taxes? Hell - look at all those fat cats fiddling the system! That totally means that we should ignore it when ordinary people do it. Don't look over here, look over there!

In short, Mayor Curley is basically right: the post was asking for advice on doing something illegal and that is totally questionable. If you want to try to justify it, fine, but don't shoot the messenger, eh?
posted by Decani at 3:21 AM on July 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


We do have, Item. Look at the background of this page long enough, and you will see what I see.



Hint: It's cyberstew.
posted by cgc373 at 3:24 AM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another reason to work under the table is to avoid paying child support or alimony. These are much more regressive taxes then the ones the federal government might demand for itself.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:08 AM on July 31, 2010


I don't think anyone mentioned the possibility that "school" in this case is grad school, not undergrad. Many grad schools expressly forbid outside work or a second job when they want you to be doing research full-time, and they do this while paying you a stipend of little to nothing. I guess this is similar to the visa case that's been mentioned, but it seems even less unethical.
posted by Durin's Bane at 5:30 AM on July 31, 2010


> This is a really pointless and malicious callout.

Yup, and it saddens me to see all the self-righteous people jumping on the malicious bandwagon, inventing scenarios that make the asker the WORST PERSON EVAR and then kicking them around. I hope all of you never wind up in difficult circumstances in which worrying about the tax laws is so far down on your list of priorities it might as well be on the dark side of the moon, but being in such circumstances might do you some good.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on July 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


>This is a really pointless and malicious callout.

Yup, and it saddens me to see all the self-righteous people jumping on the malicious bandwagon


Except the question was asked anonymously. How is it fueled by malice? I don't know who asked it and I don't care. Malice against people who are trying to avoid paying work-related taxes while I'm paying them like an asshole? Maybe.

I don't have a problem with certain types of under the table work. I know why most illegals are doing it-- desperation and it's their best option. That's fine-- leave those people alone. The anonymous OP is not in dire straights though-- they're too good for minimum wage.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:09 AM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that the illegality concern with the described under-the-table employment situation is entirely with the employee's taxes and not the employer's taxes or the OSHA regulations and all the other requirements for employing people they'd be getting out of.
posted by XMLicious at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2010


Since we can't really know the motivations of the asker, the only thing we should be concerned with is how the question can be answered. Some possibilities:

1) By suggesting illegal and/or risky activities

2) By suggesting mowing lawns, babysitting, garage sales, and dog walking, most of which will come in beneath the taxable income bracket, especially considering that the tax year 2010 only has 5 months remaining in it.

If you are concerned about IRS prison, I know which route I'd choose to go in answering the question.
posted by Ouisch at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2010


It would also be a legitimate answer to point out the ways in which this would not be a good idea, and then offer alternatives that may still meet the asker's requirements.
posted by Ouisch at 7:17 AM on July 31, 2010


It's interesting that the illegality concern with the described under-the-table employment situation is entirely with the employee's taxes and not the employer's taxes or the OSHA regulations and all the other requirements for employing people they'd be getting out of.

Can you point to where in the thread a business owner asked how to hire under the table? I missed that part.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:08 AM on July 31, 2010


My worst case scenario is probably that it's some deadbeat dad trying to get out of child support but still being able to make payments on his Camaro

I resent that. I have no kids. And the payments are kind of a bitch. But I forget about them somewhere around 100mph.
posted by yerfatma at 8:41 AM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The anonymous OP is not in dire straights though-- they're too good for minimum wage.

Uh, where does it say that?
posted by rtha at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2010


The second last sentence.
posted by ODiV at 9:36 AM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is that supposed to link to something funny?

If we had image hosting you'd know! <>
posted by cjorgensen at 9:38 AM on July 31, 2010


Fugazi t-shirt must be pretty rad.

Why yes, yes it is. Also: I think you missed the point of Fugazi.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:51 AM on July 31, 2010


I don't get how saying that someone is "too good for minimum wage" truly reflects that person's legitimate need. If I need x to survive and minimum wage only provides a small percentage of x, does that mean that I don't have legitimate need?

I'm sure that some here are well compensated. If they have financial obligations greater than about 87k per year and suddenly lose their source of income, they would have to work more hours at minimum wage per week than are actually in a week to meet those obligations.

Even for someone with much more modest needs knows what their needs are and whether minimum wage would meet them. If I know that I'm not going to be able to feed and shelter my family, I'm going to spend my time finding a good job to meet those needs rather than wasting my time cleaning someone else's house for peanuts.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:54 AM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't get how saying that someone is "too good for minimum wage" truly reflects that person's legitimate need. If I need x to survive and minimum wage only provides a small percentage of x, does that mean that I don't have legitimate need?

Read the question. The OP wants to make at least 700 dollars a month. Working at Washington State's minimum wage it would take about 20 hours a week to do that.

Even for someone with much more modest needs knows what their needs are and whether minimum wage would meet them.

They told us that they would.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:01 AM on July 31, 2010


It's interesting that the illegality concern with the described under-the-table employment situation is entirely with the employee's taxes and not the employer's taxes or the OSHA regulations and all the other requirements for employing people they'd be getting out of.
posted by XMLicious at 10:14 AM


It's interesting how seductively-scented red herrings can be if they're presented nicely.
posted by Decani at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2010


Yup, and it saddens me to see all the self-righteous people jumping on the malicious bandwagon...
posted by languagehat at 9:48 AM


Thank goodness I'm not saddened by someone assuming my problem with lawbreaking and tax-fiddling stems from self-righteousness and malice.
posted by Decani at 10:08 AM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The second last sentence.

Ah. I was looking for the "not in dire need" phrase.
posted by rtha at 10:35 AM on July 31, 2010


How is "it takes two to tango" a red herring? The selective outrage about one mildly illegal aspect among several of a mildly illegal question seems like more of a red herring to me. (Though perhaps a less seductive one than you're smelling, if you are regularly seduced by herring. :P ;) I won't bother linking to the old thread about disposing of dead bodies; but with stuff like that around it's silly to object to a question essentially asking "How can I get my car up to 66mph on the highway?" especially when there are lots of people street racing at 120mph Ricky Bobby style.

Go ahead and say that the guy's an asshole, I think you can make perfectly reasonable argument for that, but asking for this sort of thing to be verboten seems overwrought. It seems to me that there are even some majorly illegal questions we (meaning the mods of course but we the community can pretend we have authoritah) might let stand, like say if the Manning guy from the Wikileaks thing came around asking "What's the best way to leak bazillions of classified U.S. military documents to journalists?"
posted by XMLicious at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2010


Well, if you have a situational ethics, you probably do think this question is okay. Somehow you have decided that certain people have to play by the rules and others don't, and you've got rationalizations for why this is okay, which usually begin with, "I've done this, so..."

But as someone who, yes, actually has paid for every song I've ever downloaded, always pays my taxes and thinks that you don't just break rules when they're inconvenient or ignore laws you don't like? I think it's a bad question and should have been axed.

My first take on reading it was that this person is getting a scholarship and trying to make money under the table to keep getting it, at the expense of someone else who, you know, follows the rules and the laws. That's not sticking it to the Man, that's being a dick.

But even if that's not the case, soliciting for advice on earning money under the table is not ethical. If you really don't like taxes, fight against the current income tax laws, don't just not pay them.. That does nothing to change the system you abhor.
posted by misha at 11:43 AM on July 31, 2010


XMlicious: How is "it takes two to tango" a red herring?

There you go again. No wait... that's a straw man. The point was that you said, "Let's not look at this thing, let's look at that thing". Right? You see that you did that? That's a red herring, dude.
posted by Decani at 12:26 PM on July 31, 2010


Decani - "let's look at just one of the illegalities in the question" to "let's look at all the illegalities in the question at the same time" is not asking you to look away from anything. You are seeing seductive herrings where there aren't any.

misha - I think it might be possible for someone to not have situational ethics and still not think that questions of this sort need to be forbidden. I've never had an under-the-table job, I've never employed someone under-the-table, and I've never evaded paying taxes. In fact I have usually found that I've substantially overpaid my taxes to be on the safe side when I file at the end of the tax year (and as a small business owner, in many years that's not being automatically deducted from a paycheck but rather it's me sending a check to the IRS every quarter) so I'm even contributing that extra little percent of interest the federal government makes while holding my cash. I can't quite match your record on downloading (I must admit, impressive to hit 100%) but I'd say that a good 97% or 98% of the media I consume I have licensed or is something like a fair use excerpt on Youtube.

If it's about being an arrogant stickler and making everyone else cleave to your values and the way you would do things, well then let's get technical: this question doesn't need to even be about tax evasion. Maybe he just doesn't want to pay the taxes ahead of time and is going to pay anything he owes when he files at the end of the year. Lots of years when I was a part-time student I was paying out such a big chunk of tuition from my summer and part time earnings that I'd owe no taxes whatsoever and would get a huge $1500 or $2000 refund come April, so I could have done something along those lines.

(IIRC this happened because Congress had put in an exceptional tax credit on directly paid tuition for a few years so because most of my income went from my employer just about directly into the pockets of the college, the credit ate up all of my taxable income. But damn it was hard at the end of the summer to look at a five-figure bank account balance ground out from tedious overtime and sign it all away in a check to the school.)

So - if you don't like tax evasion, fight against questions that really specifically ask about tax evasion, not simply ones where you just think you're morally superior to the OP or the other people discussing the question in MetaTalk. That does nothing to change the behavior you abhor. Also, punch your waitress in the face next time you're in a restaurant, she might be getting away with tax evasion alongside her sub-minimum-wage pay that assumes a certain amount of tips.
posted by XMLicious at 12:34 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


er, "seductive herring", damn irregular plurals
posted by XMLicious at 12:35 PM on July 31, 2010


Well, if you have a situational ethics, you probably do think this question is okay. Somehow you have decided that certain people have to play by the rules and others don't, and you've got rationalizations for why this is okay, which usually begin with, "I've done this, so..."

But as someone who, yes, actually has paid for every song I've ever downloaded, always pays my taxes and thinks that you don't just break rules when they're inconvenient or ignore laws you don't like?


It's trivial to find examples of times it is appropriate and ethical to break the law. You know that quite well so I don't have to list them, everyone believes in situational ethics.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really don't care if the poster pays taxes, is skirting visa laws, or whatever the reason they chose for only want to work "under the table". The reason I contacted the mods about this yesterday was I didn't think questions seeking advice on how to do something against the law. We can't ask questions about how to get away with speeding. We can't ask questions about where to score weed. We can't ask questions about downloading torrents for music or movies.

I'm unemployed and collecting unemployment checks. If I work under the table, I can still collect the same amount every other week. If I report it (even if it is under the table), the state will reduce me check accordingly. It hadn't occurred to me to ask Metafilter for advice how to get some money to supplement my the unemployment payments under the table.

But if I framed my question this way the mods never would have approved it because I was clearly doing something illegal. Even if I needed the extra money take me cat to the vet? So I guess I learned through this is that it is OK for "little" illegal things like this to frame it as being a poor student or the old "I"m writing a novel" to get the green light.
posted by birdherder at 2:11 PM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]




Decani - "let's look at just one of the illegalities in the question" to "let's look at all the illegalities in the question at the same time" is not asking you to look away from anything. You are seeing seductive herrings where there aren't any.
posted by XMLicious at 3:34 PM on July 31


cf the original comment I was criticising:

It's interesting that the illegality concern with the described under-the-table employment situation is entirely with the employee's taxes and not the employer's taxes or the OSHA regulations and all the other requirements for employing people they'd be getting out of.
posted by XMLicious at 10:14 AM


I think I'll just repost those quotes, and let my comments about red herrings stand, and let readers be their own judge.
posted by Decani at 2:33 PM on July 31, 2010


Um, most people who go to college and are looking for side-work are going to school entirely on financial aid. I doubt they are paying out of pocket for their tuition. But it's great that so many want to assume this is some sneaky rich college student who wants to make $700/mo without paying taxes on it. My guess is they are either not allowed to work in the US, or they are afraid it will affect their aid or take away their work/study or something (which, unless they are a foreign student, $700/mo usually won't make a big difference in your aid package).
posted by ishotjr at 2:52 PM on July 31, 2010


We can't ask questions about how to get away with speeding. We can't ask questions about where to score weed. We can't ask questions about downloading torrents for music or movies.

Illegality is often problematic, but there's not a strict correlation there and, yes, it depends a lot on context and to some extent framing. People have asked questions about drugs before—"hey, who's holding?" won't fly, but "help me understand/be safe and smart with drug situation x" has certainly come up and gone well before, for example. "Anybody got a seed for Hot Tub Time Machine" is problematic in a way that "help me understand torrenting resources/software/processes" is not.

There's always going to be somewhat fuzzy borders between what's definitely okay and what's definitely not okay; because we don't have particularly strict or neatly codified rules about this stuff, that's pretty much a given. And so ultimately there's always going to be borderline questions. None of the three of us thought this particular question was great but we collectively leaned narrowly to the "let it go through" side; it might be that we mods all, as individuals, have a slightly more permissive/pragmatic view of the under-the-table thing as it applies to people in general than the average mefite.

Metatalk as a place to hash out these borderline situations is a useful thing, and I think it's generally fine and good for folks to bring such stuff here and talk about it. Like I said near the top of the thread, I wasn't at all surprised to see someone bring this up. That said, not all approaches to discussing it are really all that productive; Mayor Curley's framing of this post certainly wasn't great, as he's kind of acknowledged, and I don't think something like:

So I guess I learned through this is that it is OK for "little" illegal things like this to frame it as being a poor student or the old "I"m writing a novel" to get the green light.

is really all the helpful of a rhetorical approach either. If you really and truly believe it is that pat, I disagree with you strongly and feel like you're angling for some frustration with askme if you make that your guiding principle and justification for future questions. If that's not what you actually believe, it's just taking a kind of a crappy shot at us and I don't know what the point of that is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:02 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


So to repeat, it is not illegal simply to be paid under the table if you report the income and pay the taxes on it. (And you sticklers should note that there are many other things besides under-the-table wages you're obliged to report. Maybe we can go after people who ask questions about engaging in barter without also explicitly mentioning paying taxes.)

birdherder: As furiousxgeorge points out, you can discuss those subjects in a well worded question if you want to; there's never been a bright line about that. Though it probably annoys the mods to ride herd on it... and there's cortex saying as much. I can, however, understand that you're aggravated if you've been following rules that do not exist or hewing unnecessarily close to guidelines because you thought other people were doing the same.

Decani: I still don't understand why you think I'm suggesting that anyone ignore the poster's taxes just because I've said that there's other possible illegal stuff involved in the question for people to get excited about. What you've quoted seems to me to prove that I didn't ask or even imply that anyone should ignore or not think about it. So yeah, probably best to let the reader decide.
posted by XMLicious at 3:21 PM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Decani: I still don't understand why you think I'm suggesting that anyone ignore the poster's taxes just because I've said that there's other possible illegal stuff involved in the question for people to get excited about. What you've quoted seems to me to prove that I didn't ask or even imply that anyone should ignore or not think about it. So yeah, probably best to let the reader decide.

I don't think you're suggesting that anyone ignore the poster's taxes. What I'm saying is that asking people to consider the "other possible legal stuff involved in the question" is, by definition, a red herring. That other stuff isn't the issue here, see? It's certainly an issue, and one worth discussing, but it isn't relevant to the question of someone wanting to work under the table. Which is what this particular post is about. You threw out a secondary issue. That is, once again, a red herring by definition. Yes?
posted by Decani at 3:33 PM on July 31, 2010


it is not illegal simply to be paid under the table if you report the income and pay the taxes on it.

Huh? In what sense would it be under the table then? Under the table doesn't mean "cash that you still pay taxes on," it means "unreported employment."
posted by Gator at 3:37 PM on July 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


In a colloquial sense it just means being paid in cash instead of via a paycheck, it's pretty common usage. I did this for a portion of my income last year and describe the payment at the time as under the table. It's just another example of how the question can plausibly be legit, of which MANY have been offered so far in this thread.

U.S. TaxFilter: I get paid under the table, and as such I don't have a W-2 for my work. How do I declare this on my taxes?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:00 PM on July 31, 2010


Gator - I'd always understood it as it's used here as "unreported hiring" or "labor costs...under the table", that the defining thing is that the employer or whoever is obliged to formally document the transaction of getting paid isn't documenting it; which I interpret as "there's no paper trail for the money" whether or not it comes within the government's grasp at some later time. (For example, if money earned as an unreported employee was inherited by an heir who consequently paid taxes on it, you wouldn't say at that point that the deceased hadn't actually been working under the table, would you?)

Decani - That is, once again, a red herring by definition. Yes?

No. A red herring is not simply mentioning any other topic. A red herring is when someone tries to lead the discussion off in another direction, as though trying to lead a bloodhound down a different trail with a scented piece of bait like a herring.

What I did was point out that if the real concern is the presence of illegality within AskMe questions there are several other aspects of the question under discussion which ought to be equally bothersome; by which I was observing that those objecting have some jealousy or personal emotional rivalry with the poster over the particular issue of paying personal taxes rather than an honest intent to analyze the suitability of the question for AskMe based on the legalities involved. If you're saying it's "against the rules of fair argument" or something to point out this inconsistency well then that's simply a rhetorical trick on your part, pulling rules out of thin air.

It ought to be clear by now that I wouldn't consider potential OSHA violations a valid reason to prohibit the posting of this question either. I did not try to get everyone to start discussing potential OSHA violations embodied in the question nor any of the other illegal aspects I mentioned (which would have been a red herring, to try to turn the discussion to that). We continued on to discuss other aspects of paying personal taxes and criteria for what is a suitable AskMe question which are the same topics the whole thread began with. (Or technically, the thread began with an assertion that topics involving illegality cannot be posed as AskMe questions, which people have been pointing out is incorrect.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:37 PM on July 31, 2010


In a colloquial sense it just means being paid in cash instead of via a paycheck, it's pretty common usage.

Not where I've ever lived. Under the table sometimes includes being paid in cash, but it almost always involves the employer not filling out nasty paperwork or the withholding and paying taxes. People get paid in cash so there's no paper trail.

The asker in your link was different in that the person was asking how to come in compliance with the law. It seemed the asker would have preferred to always be paid over the table, it was the employer that wanted it under the table.

In your link, majick's definition of under the table is similar to my own: You are paid under the table. "Under the table" means "covertly," as in out of the ostensible field of view of taxation authorities. The entire purpose of being paid under the table and accepting said payments is to dodge taxes and so you and the employer can avoid paying. Otherwise you'd get a proper paycheck with proper withholding.

In a cursory search, most of the definitions I've found on the said "paid under the table" was a secret or clandestine way. I used to work where I'd get paid in cash. But I'd also get a statement showing the withholding and at the end of the year I'd get a W-2. The poster in your linked under the table question was paid by check.

Visas, scholarships, and grad school requirements, and child support are other reasons one might be paid under the table.

My problem was because "under the table" isn't a standard definition we don't know why the person wants only to work under the table. And as such, I felt it sets a bad precedent for the site answering questions about doing illegal stuff. But apparently, that Portland hippy mathowie* likes to err toward the optimistic interpretation. That's fine. It's his site and his guidelines. I can live with it.


*I kid because I love.
posted by birdherder at 5:50 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a colloquial sense it just means being paid in cash instead of via a paycheck, it's pretty common usage.

Oooh lightbulb moment. I read "under the table" as more or less "getting paid in cash (maybe where my employer may or may not be reporting the transaction to the government)"

So, I have both gotten and given under the table jobs through MeFi Jobs, for example. And I mostly think of it as a cash transaction thing which, yes, skirts social security but doesn't necessarily mean no one's paying taxes or whatever. So I was confused. I still think it's an okay question but now I may get why some people find it a much less okay question than others.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:58 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]



Not where I've ever lived.


But where other people live, it can mean that.


The asker in your link was different in that the person was asking how to come in compliance with the law.


The person described themselves as working under the table even though they did not consider themselves tax evaders. The answers to the question disagree, but I simply pointed it out to cite that yes, people do use it just to mean being paid in cash.

^ and see Jessamyn above.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:04 PM on July 31, 2010


One thing that seems incongruous to me is that if say you did some work for and got paid by an employer who didn't report or pay taxes on it in June of 2010 and you didn't decide to pay income taxes on it until April 2011, and then you filed your return, reporting the income and paying the taxes on it in that month, would you just refrain from telling people whether or not it was under the table for a year as though it was undetermined the whole time? Or would you tell people it was under the table in 2010 and up until April 2011, then retroactively (retconningly?) start telling people it wasn't under the table because you'd paid taxes on it? It's like, Schrodinger's Employment Status.

That's why in XMLicious's dictionary (and I have an enormous, prodigious dictionary) it's got to do with the payment transaction itself and whether that's reported and taxed and all that at the time it occurs.

I never dreamed that there could be such airy and philosophical tax accounting questions.
posted by XMLicious at 8:15 PM on July 31, 2010


Anecdata, but I've always seen "under the table" as an overloaded phrase with both meanings—explicitly systemically evasive dealings (generally in large part focused on the disposition of the employer toward the cost of employment, and often with an argument toward somewhat reduced wages for the employee as compensation for delivering an untaxed paycheck), as well as an informally in terms of cash-in-hand payment without a lot of context beyond that.

I've had a few under the table odd jobs but basically none as an adult. Did a few freelance things when I was in my late teens, some random Japanese calligraphy for a neighbor, a web design thing that taught me I never wanted to do freelance web design again, random bits of babysitting. All my practical adult employment has been W-2 or 1099 stuff and I don't see myself doing under the table work under any particularly predictable circumstances.

That said, there are a whole lot of people in the US who have done or currently do work under the table in a variety of contexts, and it feels like one of those things where thinking that's not the case, or thinking that it's strictly the result of like nefariousness or tricksy or malicious intent rather than emergent systemic effects of the macroeconomy people live in is unpractical.

And to the extent that that collides with the kinds of things people are likely to ask about on mefi, my feeling is that this question as an example is while not great also not unambiguously problematic, much in the same way that some of the other stuff I was talking about earlier falls into that territory of brushing up against either or both of legality and social taboo while still being sort of within the fuzzy tolerances of letting askme be a place to help with life as it is rather than life as it might be in some ideal world where everything that happens in people lives conforms perfectly with how the systemic powers in society and government say things should be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:15 PM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good lord that was a long final sentence.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:18 PM on July 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


wow. I hadn't seen the thread, but from the discussion here, I assumed it was somebody asking how to make just enough money to not have to report it to the IRS or some kind of step by step way to never ever have to pay taxes..

...when its someone asking for what kinds of jobs typically pay their employees under the table. Which could have a wide range of meanings. Off the books, unofficial, cash only, not an official hire, there are so many meanings to 'under the table'.

There's nothing in that post that says "help me avoid paying taxes". But hey, it helped you build your soapbox.
posted by micawber at 8:27 PM on July 31, 2010


"...letting askme be a place to help with life as it is rather than life as it might be in some ideal world where everything that happens in people lives conforms perfectly with how the systemic powers in society and government say things should be."

Amen, a thousand times.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:37 AM on August 1, 2010


furiousxgeorge: “In a colloquial sense it just means being paid in cash instead of via a paycheck, it's pretty common usage. I did this for a portion of my income last year and describe the payment at the time as under the table. It's just another example of how the question can plausibly be legit, of which MANY have been offered so far in this thread.”

birdherder: “Not where I've ever lived. Under the table sometimes includes being paid in cash, but it almost always involves the employer not filling out nasty paperwork or the withholding and paying taxes. People get paid in cash so there's no paper trail.”

furiousxgeorge: “But where other people live, it can mean that.”

Yes, but you're glossing over an interesting point that birdherder is sort of alluding to: the fact that there's actually a separate issue here as well, the issue of whether the employer is breaking the law. And the fact is, a whole hell of a lot of employers break the law on this point, often completely unwittingly; I have had many, many employers who thought it was okay to just say the magic phrase "you are a contractor" and be immediately absolved of paying nasty, nasty taxes.

To point out the interesting added layer this brings: as we've all noted above, if you make less than $9,350 per year, you do not have to file or pay taxes. But – if, in earning that pay, you work regular hours and report to a boss (which is the IRS's rough definition of "employment") then even though you don't have to pay taxes yourself your employer is required to pay taxes on you as an employee.

And honestly, I think birdherder is absolutely correct. Many people use "under the table" as a euphemism for cash, yes; but they use it as a euphemism for cash precisely because they've had employers who've said things like "oh, I'm paying you under the table, that just means I'm paying you cash, okay?" Employers would like employees to think that this is a nice, simple, uncomplicated arrangement that's perfectly legal; so they encourage the perception that the term just indicates a cash arrangement. I really believe that's where that usage comes from.

The reality is that it's always more complicated than "just cash." At best, the employer is just confused about how things are supposed to work. At worst, the employer is breaking the law intentionally. Of course it should be noted that just because the employer is breaking the law, that doesn't mean the employee is in any way breaking the law - they aren't, even if they know about the employer's lawbreaking. But – an unrelated point, just my experience freelancing – it is almost always a very, very bad sign if an employer seems to either consciously or unconsciously be breaking the law with regard to pay or taxes. It indicates that either they don't know what they're doing or they're willing to cheat to make more money; neither of those things bodes well for the employee's relationship with them. In short, it's quite often a very bad idea to work for "cash under the table" in any case where you're working more than five hours total. Even if you're just doing a small job that takes a week or so, it's better to get a check, and it's better to be certain that everything's out in the open.
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a messy discussion because there are several issues being talked about at once. There's the matter of whether the original question should have been deleted. There's the related issue of whether it was really about how to evade tax, or whether it need have been interpreted that way. Then there's the question of whether we think it might be alright in some circumstances to evade tax or whether we can at any rate turn a blind eye now and then or not pursue matters it's not helpful to pursue.

But then there's the question, somewhat distinct I think, of what the proper general policy for Mefi is. If we address only that question and put the others aside it ought to be possible to give a clear negative answer to Mayor Curley's original question, framing aside. If it isn't, we're veering, if only a little, towards territory with some potential implications for status and participation. To take just one example, if it seems we're OK with occasional chat about us doing illegal stuff it might push up a notch the probability of Mefi being blacklisted by employers or institutions (not that anyone here uses anything but their personal private facilities to access the site, of course). Your choice, mods, but if it were me I'd want it to be completely clear that I wasn't heading in that direction.
posted by Phanx at 3:17 AM on August 1, 2010


(not that anyone here uses anything but their personal private facilities to access the site, of course)

*blinks*

Well, now that you mention it, anything that pushes businesses to blacklist Metafilter would obviously be a good thing, since we wouldn't want anyone to be defrauding their employers by spending time at work enjoying the site instead of being productive. In fact, unless your employer signs a contract specifically stating that they are paying you to read Metafilter, you shouldn't be here at all during work hours. Some might say that they do a lot work on their own time without compensation, or that they find a lot of helpful information that allows them to do their work better, or they are "networking" for the benefit of the company, or keeping au courant with the latest trends that affect their company's business approach and profitability, or even that spending some time on not-work refreshes their drive and creativity and allows them to work better, stronger, faster — but as long as there is any possibility that these "users" are just slimebags who are cheating their companies by withholding productivity we need to back right off this slippery slope and state that No, it is not Okay for people to read Metafilter at work. Ever. NOT OKAY. There really isn't any gray (or grey, for UK slimebags) in this matter. It is incumbent on each of you to request that your workplace block Metafilter, or to expressly state in your employment contract how much time they are willing to pay you for reading Metafilter.

Don't you think?
posted by taz at 4:53 AM on August 1, 2010


No, I don't think any of that. If that specific example makes you angry I'm happy to withdraw it.

Are we friends again?
posted by Phanx at 5:48 AM on August 1, 2010


Yes!
posted by taz at 6:50 AM on August 1, 2010


Your choice, mods, but if it were me I'd want it to be completely clear that I wasn't heading in that direction.

This is just the sort of thing where we've assessed the risk at least perfunctorily and we're okay with it.

in any case where you're working more than five hours total.

With all due respect, this is just another arbitrary way of making a distinction. So, four hours of babysitting is okay but six hours of snow shoveling is not? I know I'm just pointing to innocuous examples because I prefer them, but I think the exact point is that people don't really have a bright line with this sort of thing and while I fully understand that people are saying that their comfort level may be in a different place than ours [and we'll take that into account the next time something like this comes up] I think making new arbitrary lines doesn't really further our understanding of this sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your choice, mods, but if it were me I'd want it to be completely clear that I wasn't heading in that direction.

We aren't heading in that direction. This question getting to live is an example of something borderline and contentious that happens to fall on the "okay, let it fly" side of that borderzone; it's not our display model for some new Fuck It, Let's Evade Taxes On Metafilter initiative.

Those borders aren't entirely static, but most of the movement that happens over time is within the impossibly fuzzy areas between the Definitely Okay and the Definitely Not Okay zones. The general sort of thing that's workable on the site hasn't shifted all that much over time and we don't expect it to suddenly start doing so.

if it seems we're OK with occasional chat about us doing illegal stuff it might push up a notch the probability of Mefi being blacklisted by employers or institutions

Just as Metafilter is not guaranteed to be SFW, it's not guaranteed to not be blacklisted by someone's employer. We're not bucking for nannyfiltering status, I think it would be a bummer if any of the biggies started giving us the evil eye like that, but we're also not going to sanitize what we think is otherwise reasonable use of the site just to try and avoid that sort of thing. Eleven years in and it has gone pretty okay even with sexy sex questions and vulgarity all up in this place on the green and blue. That we got through the old IMG days unscathed is probably the biggest milestone one could hope for on that front, really.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2010


It bears mentioning that the OP chimed in non-anonymously in thread as to the fact that there is a legit reason for avoiding reporting this income. You might want to check it out if you're still having trouble grasping that someone might have an actual need to do this.

For those who don't want to click over for the whole comment:
And last, I wanted to tell the commenters that this has nothing to do with wanting to "screw the system," and nothing, even, to do with keeping financial aid for school. I have a printout hanging on my fridge right now, from my old pharmacy. The amount of the bill for that one month was almost three grand. That's what my monthly medications cost. $3000 a month or $36,000 a year.

If I drop out of school, I will never have a stable, secure job, and, stable, secure health insurance. Right now I get charity care from a local hospital. If I work, even part time, I lose that. I want to live. So I am going to. Live, finish school, and pay a buttload of taxes.
We were all wrong in what we guessed might be going on, but the bottom line is that the question was not asked maliciously or by someone who could "afford" to pay taxes.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:53 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know I won't change anyone's mind, because the type of folks who spoke out are the types who think you somehow deserve bad genetics, or illness, or bad luck.

That's also part of the OP's response. Broad brush. Wow. But I guess an unreasoned smear of everyone who disagrees with you could stem from the same attitude as "oh, I'll take that organization's help, but I'm not following the conditions they set to get that help. I'm entitled, you see."
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:03 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Entitled to not die of curable illness, yeah, what a bastard.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:12 AM on August 1, 2010


The clarification was helpful but the inflammatory schtick about the kind of people that think I deserve to be sick was not and underscores the fact that people are throwing up straw men left and right here.
posted by proj at 11:21 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. A red herring is not simply mentioning any other topic. A red herring is when someone tries to lead the discussion off in another direction, as though trying to lead a bloodhound down a different trail with a scented piece of bait like a herring.

- XMlicious


And that is what it honestly seemed to me you were attempting. It seemed to me you were saying "Why are people looking at this - the central nub of contention - instead of this? Hence, I called red herring. I find the rest of your post's attempts to persuade that this is not what you were doing, well, unpersuasive, I'm afraid. The issue at hand is, is it okay to have Askme posts which seek advice on doing something illegal? You tried to broaden that point into areas that were, at best, tangentially related to it. Those areas make no difference to the fact that the questioner was asking for advice about illegal behaviour, and that the key issue was whether or not that is ever okay on Metafilter.
posted by Decani at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2010


Entitled to not die of curable illness, yeah, what a bastard

I'm bookmarking that comment so that if I want to point to an example of a classic Metafilter Straw Man technique, I can easily link to it. Seriously. It's a thing of beauty.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:39 PM on August 1, 2010


It seemed to me you were saying 'Why are people looking at this - the central nub of contention - instead of this?'

Yes, that's exactly what I was saying. Asking that question is absolutely not a red herring. There is no reason I have to accept without question that what you or anyone else states as motivations are the true motivations.

It damn well is material to "the central nub of contention" whether the stated basis of that contention is consistent and generally applied - why were people looking at one part of the AskMe but not the other? It would have been equally valid, for example, if I'd found another AskMe from a few days ago asking about doing something illegal that Mayor Curley had participated in enthusiastically without objecting to - it would at the very least have shown a double standard on his part and would have been fine to bring up (i.e. it isn't some sort of rhetorical legerdemain) even though it's not the central nub of contention. (Not saying that anything like that exists, just hypothetically.)

Objecting to the above question by saying "I don't have to answer that, it's not the central nub of contention! It's a part of the question that's too peripheral to the issue!" or trying to pretend that the answer to it would be "inadmissible evidence" or something of that sort is simply making up arbitrary rules to try to inhibit discussion of an aspect of this issue you don't want examined.

An example of a red herring is something like a candidate in a political debate responding to a question about a political issue with "What was my opponent doing when he was seen leaving his hotel at 3am with a woman who is not his wife?" (Assuming of course that the political issue isn't a city curfew or something, maybe then you could get away with it.)

By the way, you're not very good at letting the readers be their own judge. ;^)
posted by XMLicious at 3:14 PM on August 1, 2010


As beautiful as arguing that people who fail to pay taxes by working under the table are responsible for the systematic dismantling of social services in the U.S.?
posted by scody at 3:15 PM on August 1, 2010


Why was a post about stealing cable deleted but not this one about stealing from all of us?
posted by jz at 4:10 PM on August 1, 2010


but not this one about stealing from all of us?

I have literally no idea if you're kidding or not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:39 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps too hyperbolic, but I'm really not sure why one gets deleted and the other doesn't.

Stealing cable is illegal. Not reporting your income correctly is illegal. I consider those who don't pay their taxes to be thieves because they are keeping money that we (our elected Government) are owed. Both of these are done with regularity- that doesn't make it ok to do either.

Lots of people would like to do both of these and I have no idea why it's ok to help out with answers about tax fraud but not cable fraud. I understand that the asker has huge medical bills and needs more money. That doesn't render our tax code null and void. As a citizen of the US, one doesn't get to decide for themselves whether their circumstances are dire enough to avoid paying taxes.

Both questions should have been deleted.
posted by jz at 7:18 PM on August 1, 2010


Our elected Government isn't even elected in such a way that I am proportionately represented.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:28 PM on August 1, 2010


But as people of the world, jz, we can decide whether the risk of being caught breaking a law and the punishment for doing so is worth the gain of doing whatever it is that is illegal.

Not only do individuals make these sort of judgment calls all the time, so does the government and the police. THAT also does not nullify the law.

Much like the number of acceptable insect parts in food, The Law Of The Land can withstand a certain amount of adulteration and remain Officially Pure.

thelastcamel, no offense intended at the insect part comparison. Would "level of rat hairs" been more palatable?
posted by desuetude at 7:30 PM on August 1, 2010


desuetude- I couldn't disagree more on the use of a punishment as "payment" for breaking the law. That's not how I think (not that it matters much) the criminal code should work.

Fines for speeding tickets and other crimes are not use fees like you pay at the park. Is it ok to murder someone if you are willing to take the punishment?
posted by jz at 7:47 PM on August 1, 2010


So, Internet Fraud Detective, is that reason enough not to follow the law? Presumably the state you live in adopted the US Constitution knowing full well the system of representation it defined?
posted by jz at 7:50 PM on August 1, 2010



Entitled to not die of curable illness, yeah, what a bastard

I'm bookmarking that comment so that if I want to point to an example of a classic Metafilter Straw Man technique, I can easily link to it. Seriously. It's a thing of beauty.


You weren't talking about the organization giving him medical treatment?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:04 PM on August 1, 2010


@jz

because read the thread.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:07 PM on August 1, 2010


Fines for speeding tickets and other crimes...

Traffic offenses are not crimes. They are not handled in criminal courts. Google and you can read all about infractions and violations and everything.

Is it ok to murder someone if you are willing to take the punishment?

Okay, basic logic here. The fact that you can find one law, or a handful of laws, or hundreds of laws that punish immoral acts does not mean that all laws are just and must be obeyed. Surely you realize that anyone here could give at least one example of a law it would actually be immoral to follow and conclude using your logic that every law is immoral and must not be followed.

And besides that the reason to not do immoral things is not because you could be or will be punished for them. You have a pretty wimpy sense of morality if you believe so.

jz your arguments are considerably more full of holes than the ones presented above and those have been thoroughly discredited. As furiousxgeorge says, read the thread.
posted by XMLicious at 8:18 PM on August 1, 2010


desuetude- I couldn't disagree more on the use of a punishment as "payment" for breaking the law. That's not how I think (not that it matters much) the criminal code should work.

Fines for speeding tickets and other crimes are not use fees like you pay at the park. Is it ok to murder someone if you are willing to take the punishment?


Do you consider all infractions of the law equal in weight? Are all laws equally moral?

I very specifically did not limit my reply to "crimes." You can break a law and not have committed a crime.

It is not okay to commit a violent crime against another person in exchange for the accepted punishment. It is, in my opinion, a legitimate personal decision to drive 10 miles over the speed limit if you are willing to accept that if you are caught, you deserve the fine.

If the police officer catches me speeding and lets me go with only a verbal warning, is he complicit in my law-breaking? What if he sped in order to give me a ticket? A law is a law, after all.

In the US, there are all sorts of known tax loopholes which are regularly exploited, particularly by the wealthy and by corporations, even though using them violates the spirit of the law quite a bit. On the other hand, the formerly-anonymous OP and others in similar situations temporarily break the letter of the law for a relatively small amount of money, but maintain compliance with the spirit of the law. I'm okay with knowing that situational ethics work both ways.
posted by desuetude at 9:08 PM on August 1, 2010


Look, there's a clear dichotomy here of legality versus morality. I'm really irritated by all this, probably because my every day job involves working with people who are in a similar position as the OP. I want to take a minute to address exactly the LAWS that take people with disabilities and fuck them with a barbwire wrapped baseball bat, and then we can discuss your LEGALITY of them "stealing from us all."

Right now, for people with a verifiable disability or ongoing health issue, you have to STOP WORKING to get any kind of federal or state help. This is assuming that you are not one of those people who is lucky enough to have Aflac style long-term disability coverage for your job. Most people DO NOT.

So you stop working and try to get SSDI, because you're probably not old enough for SSI. So you apply for SSDI, and you have to both certify that you are NOT working, and that you DO NOT leave your home. At this point, because you are not working, if you had health insurance, it's gone. You can't afford COBRA w/ no income at all.

So now you're like, well shit---this $671 a month is pretty awesome, but what I really need is a power chair and a respiratory therapist. Well, lucky for you, the MANDATORY Medicare waiting period is 24 months. TWO YEARS. Two years during which a solid 13% of the people waiting for services DIE EVERY YEAR. So for TWO YEARS, you have NO COVERAGE because you're unemployed, NO ACCESS to any equipment, and you get sicker and sicker because you have no coverage. Now a bad thing is a horrible thing.

Now, let's assume that you actually make it through the waiting list, and you're on Medicare---which gives you a kicking 80% copay for services they consider to be mandatory for life. But---the CMS says that the "in-home" rule for benefits actually means "IN HOME", and you can't go...anywhere. If you can go to the store? Not eligible. We are currently working with a man who was outside in his yard walking his SERVICE DOG, and his caseworker happened to come by and see him outside. The result? Medicare TOOK AWAY HIS WHEELCHAIR AND ALL HIS BENEFITS.

SO anyway, once you go that route---you're locked in. Go through JobSquad to get training for work, but can't find a job? Any service finds out you're actually looking, and you're not so disabled that you can't do anything but sit around and get pressure sores, they drop you. Or you start to get financial aid, you know, so you can have a fcking education---they find out, and they drop you, because remember----you're disabled and disabled people can't do anything but be at home.

So in order to do anything, anything at all with your life but be a homebound sack of flesh who can't get nutritional assistance (not covered by Medicare) until you get diabetes (covered by medicare) and lymphedema (covered, kind of), you have to lie or risk losing EVERYTHING YOU HAVE.

So, you're a person with an expensive medical issue, and your income is $8,400 a year because, OMG, you're not gonna pay taxes. Remember, if you pay taxes----they take away your benefits. Remember, if you pay into anything, they take away your benefits. So what if your Medicare 20% copay is $500/month because, say, you have to get the expensive shots for MS. Well, your monthly income is $671, so good luck with that.

So anyway---your LAWS that are so GODDAMNED IMPORTANT ZOMG are killing people, enslaving people, and chaining them to their beds. AWESOME. So the $900 of taxable income (after the personal deduction) that this person would claim on the year is reason to vote him off the island? If you want to complain about ZOMG tax evasion and ZOMG it costs us all, look at the people who can afford to pay people to loophole their taxes for them. Look at the GODDAMN medicare competitive bidding rider to the new healthcare legislation that actually serves to ELIMINATE competition and make healthcare MORE expensive. Look at the assholes who write off their Escalades as business expenses, and the corporate conferences in Tahiti and Miami.

Seriously. This thread pisses me off.
posted by TomMelee at 6:55 AM on August 2, 2010 [18 favorites]


Bravo, TomMelee! Thank you.
posted by taz at 7:23 AM on August 2, 2010


So now you're like, well shit---this $671 a month is pretty awesome, but what I really need is a power chair and a respiratory therapist.

Tough to work as a bar back (as the OP is considering) from your motorized wheelchair. Especially with that compromised respiratory system. Are you sure that you're familiar with the OP's situation?
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:19 PM on August 2, 2010


You're seriously not being serious at this point, right? I think the troll feeding machine is out of food, so I'm going to stop feeding it quarters.
posted by TomMelee at 12:30 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I never say "I can't favorite that hard enough..." but as someone with two disabled parents on SSDI and watching the hell that they've had to go through after working in the system for decades and then needing to cash in when disability struck - I can't favorite Tom Melee's comment hard enough.

The system does absolutely everything it can not to give disability benefits and yes, if you work at all, your benefits go bye bye in many cases. Tax fraud is really the least of your problems if you have a permanent disability and honestly need to get help from the system.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're seriously not being serious at this point, right? I think the troll feeding machine is out of food, so I'm going to stop feeding it quarters.

I'm just pointing out that the (awful) scenario you describe doesn't have much to do with the OP's situation or that of grapefruitmoon's parents. I bet they're not looking for jobs lugging cases of beer and switching kegs.

Your compassion is infinite. I get it. Everyone's a worst case scenario even if they've said flat out that they're not desperate enough to settle for minimum wage and are able to do physical labor. And I'm an ogre asshole for pointing it out.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:43 PM on August 2, 2010


There are several aspects of that story that apply to people who have severe medical issues that still allow them to carry a case of beer and bus tables. The OP is trying to face down illness, school, and work at the same time and you are trying to call him some kind of entitled brat, the fuck is wrong with you? All he wants to do is fucking work, you think someone with that kind of work ethic LIKES having to take charity?

He didn't say he wouldn't settle for minimum wage, he said he wouldn't do it for house cleaning. That doesn't mean he wouldn't do it for something else, and why the fuck should you when McDonald's will pay you more than that for much less work. Barbacking will pay as much for two-three nights a week under the table.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:15 PM on August 2, 2010


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