Ask a Priest

Off the books job

Jul 12, 2015

Dear Father, I am looking into getting a babysitting job working 24 hours a week at 15.00 an hour. While this job would be perfect for me, most babysitting jobs pay off the books. If they do not want to pay on the books, how do I handle this? Since the government says you have to pay taxes it would be a sin to accept such a job correct? I am a daily communicant who is striving to grow ever closer to God. I don’t want to mess up. People are telling me the govt is corrupt and I’d be better off giving the money to charity. That would be nice, but the law is the law and it would be breaking it and then be a sin, correct? Please let’s know. Thank you and God bless you.

Asked at 06:59 pm on July 12th 2015

Good on you Mary; most people seem to think that taxation law is fair game and what I can get away with is my good luck.

This is how I think about it. The money I pay in tax is going to provide all those services we take for granted, roads, public transport, schools, hospitals and the list goes on and on. If people around me dodge tax then I pay more; so I won’t pay people for work “off the books” even though there may be some short term or immediate benefit to me, in the long run we all lose. The other test of this is “what if no one pays tax, what happens?” People in Greece at the moment can give you the answer to that.

Maybe governments don’t always use the resources we provide them with in the way we think they should but frankly, I don’t want to stand for government and I would probably do a worse job.

So how to solve your dilemma? I am not a tax agent but if my mathematics is correct your babysitting job nets $360 per week; the tax threshold is $356 per week therefore you should be paying $1.00 per week tax. Dependant on other income you may have there will be tax implications. If your babysitting employers don’t wish to deduct tax you can make those contributions yourself, submit a tax return at the end of the financial year and calculate what needs to be paid then. The ATO are really helpful in giving you advice.

Take the job. Seek advice from a proper tax person and don’t worry too much as these things can easily be sorted at no cost.

As to sinfulness or otherwise that is your conscience but we do have a obligation to follow civil requirements but I am pretty confident you know the right thing to do.

I hope this is some help, Fr Peter Smith.

Replied at 02:51 am on July 22nd 2015

I think Fr. Smith has given some good advice. If the nature of this job is one that should be “on the books”, then it is the employer whose conscience needs further formation. You cannot be responsible for someone else’s failures of conscience. Since there’s a legitimate way to declare your income and pay what you know you rightfully owe, you can rest assured that you are following both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Congratulations! If I was living in your area and needed a babysitter, I would be knocking on your door!

Replied at 11:21 am on July 27th 2015