Working 'on the black' may cost dear

Britons receive suspended jail terms after being taken to court by Urssaf

22 November 2016
By Ken Seaton

Two Britons have been sentenced to suspended jail terms after being found guilty of working ‘on the black’ and attempting to conceal stolen money – payments received for renovating a barn.

Accused of travail dissimulé in not declaring €50,000 work done for another British couple, they were taken to court in Rodez, Aveyron, by the social benefits payments agency Urssaf.

It is just one example of how Urssaf is cracking down on workers who are defrauding the benefits system by avoiding paying social charges – and by claiming unfair benefits from it – stealing work from other trades whose costs are higher because they pay the charges and, possibly, avoiding tax on their income.

The accused couple, identified only in court reports as tradesman PP and his partner NS, were caught after PP failed to provide invoices for work done in renovating a barn. Invoices are vital as proof in later years – especially for capital gains tax – that money has been spent on renovations that can be offset against tax.

Urssaf called gendarmes in 2011 after a complaint that invoices had not been supplied for the renovations which involved work costing €20,000 each for two jobs plus €10,000 for another.

Police found PP’s business had failed and he had been working on the black for other Britons and Belgians. He had diverted payments into his wife’s bank account – while his own account was used only for his housing and welfare benefits.

The prosecutor asked judges to fine him €45,000 with a six month suspended jail term but he escaped with a €5,000 fine and four-month suspended term. Partner, NS, was given a two-month suspended term.

The case highlights the importance of getting proper estimates, called devis, for work, checking whether the business is registered and only making payments against received invoices for protection – plus getting proper stamped receipts.

By law a devis must be free and must contain the name and address of the business/person doing the work and their Siret number from the Répertoire des Métiers along with other details such as the date, the timescale, VAT number if registered, the name and address of the client, a detailed account of work to be done and the pricings, payment schedule and details of the insurance guarantee, including the address of the insurer.

For renovation work to be eligible for grants, etc the work must be done by a worker with RGE quality certification.

The first step to checking on an artisan is to ensure they are registered on the statistics agency Insee’s Sirene register. The official site at www.tinyurl.com/hpcx9ee only works with a supplied Sirene number but www.infogreffe.fr can check artisans’ names or trades.

The Infogreffe site also gives information on businesses that have failed – as in this story – or face liquidation, as do www.vigientreprise.com and www.verif.com

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