This article is from the Houston Chronicle.
There is more, read the rest here.Not keeping records in cash-only industry puts compensation at riskBy RENÉE C. LEEFor as long as many can remember, the Gulf fishing industry has operated on a mostly cash-only basis. Shrimp and crab are purchased on the dock with cash and deckhands who help on the boats are paid in cash."It's an industry that goes back seven and eight generations," said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. "It's based on relationships and handshakes, and it doesn't change much."Fishermen are supposed to keep records of what they sell and pay taxes on their income, but many sell under the table and skirt the law. The scofflaws now may lose a chance to get a share of the $20 billion BP oil compensation fund set up to help individuals and businesses hurt by the largest-ever oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Without verifiable proof of income, they cannot access the fund to recoup any financial losses.St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro said he would like to see a federal tax amnesty for those fishermen who have not paid their taxes and has shared his idea with a U.S. senator. Any compensation fishermen receive will be taxed, and for those who have not followed the law, that could trigger IRS scrutiny and, possibly, retroactive tax payments, he said."These are people who are not used to operating in a corporate world," Taffaro said. "There needs to be a separation between tax obligation and the ability to validate appropriate compensation to these fishermen."Not everyone supports the idea, especially some fishermen who have lived by the industry's honor system and abide by state and federal laws. About 40 percent to 50 percent of what a fisherman catches is sold for cash, said Peter Gerica, a third-generation fisherman from New Orleans."I don't think you should reward people for doing wrong," Gerica said. "I feel like, if you play, you gotta pay."Smith, whose organization represents 13,000 fishermen and processors, said he understands Taffaro's compassion. No one wants to see any hard-working fishermen miss out on assistance, he said, "but that's what happens when you don't pay your taxes."