Up to 40% of Russians receive remuneration for work “in an envelope”, and legislators intend to do something about it. The punishment for the payment of “gray” wages may be toughened – the corresponding proposals are being prepared by the Federation Council… According to lawmakers, more than 10 trillion rubles in wages are “past the box office”. Employers do not pay taxes or insurance premiums from all this money. Izvestia has found out where the Russians receive “gray” salaries, whether it is necessary to prohibit paying money “in envelopes” during the crisis and what such payments are fraught with for an employee.
Past the checkout
Data on the scale of “gray” employment in Russia at the end of 2020 was announced by the head of the budget committee of the Federation Council Anatoly Artamonov: more than a third of the country’s residents receive money “in an envelope”. During the pandemic, the number of unofficially employed rose sharply.
Artamonov admitted that competition in the labor market is so great that workers often have to agree to conditions that are not the most favorable for themselves in order to get a job, including for a salary “in envelopes”.
“Such a negative phenomenon as“ gray ”wages, or“ enveloped ”wages, creates a disproportion in the levels of the tax burden between the“ white ”and“ gray ”economies, which leads to the loss of competitiveness of conscientious taxpayers, encouraging them to“ go into the shadows ”, – emphasized the senator.
Photo: Izvestia / Pavel Bednyakov
According to experts, about 25 million people are involved in “shadow” employment, which is 32.5% of the country’s economically active population. And due to “gray” salaries, according to some estimates, the Russian budget loses about 3 trillion rubles in revenues, which is almost 3% of GDP.
In April 2020, the tax burden on enterprises that pay wages not lower than the subsistence level in the region was reduced by half. This helped to solve the problem – companies got an incentive to get out of the “shadow”.
However, this, according to Artamonov, is not enough. He proposed to toughen criminal penalties for paying salaries without proper registration. Responsibility should be incurred regardless of the amount (now the threshold is from 100 thousand rubles and above).
This idea has already been criticized in the “Opor Rossii” (the all-Russian public organization of small and medium-sized enterprises), indicating that tax breaks should be introduced to bring business out of the shadow, and not toughen criminal punishment.
The State Duma was also skeptical about the proposal. As the head of the State Duma Committee on Labor, Social Policy and Veterans Affairs Yaroslav Nilov noted, the fight against “gray” wages in Russia should be resolved by analyzing the reasons why it is more profitable for an employer to pay “in an envelope”.
Photo: Izvestia / Konstantin Kokoshkin
In his opinion, the increased responsibility of the employer will not lead to serious changes in the labor market. He noted that in Russia, and so there is “quite serious responsibility” for such salaries for the employer, but “it does not stop him.” The deputy noted that sometimes it is unprofitable for an employer to run a business if real salaries of employees are provided to the tax authorities.
Do not choke in crisis
Experts also point out that now is not the right time for being too harsh. Business after the pandemic is struggling to keep afloat, salaries “in envelopes” for many are a way to survive and preserve jobs. And the tightening will only result in additional loss of jobs, which have not been added to the pandemic anyway.
“By optimizing their largest expense item in favor of gray wages, entrepreneurs are trying to keep their businesses afloat. This phenomenon is like a chronic disease that either fades away or worsens. Micro and small businesses are especially susceptible to it. But it is not only “irresponsible” entrepreneurs who are to blame for the problem. Now it is really hard for business to recover from a lockdown, ”notes Vasily Alekseev, CEO of Like Center, a technology education company for entrepreneurs.
Photo: Izvestia / Konstantin Kokoshkin
“In times of crisis, such tightening looks strange. It will only worsen the material condition of employees, as the business will look for other ways to optimize costs. Any business owner is interested in ensuring that his company survived a difficult period. A wave of next “layoffs” may begin, when employees will be asked to leave by agreement of the parties or of their own free will, ”says Elena Ershova, an expert at Aktion Pravo.
Analysts state that the volume of “gray” employment and unofficial income will only grow in the foreseeable future. First of all, we are talking about the services sector most affected by the coronavirus crisis, where the share of self-employed and “gray” salaries reaches 80%. And with the advent of the tax on professional activities in the pandemic, many employees left beauty salons, clinics, fitness clubs and began to work for themselves.
It’s another matter that “gray” salaries are far from good for workers. Unlike employers, workers lose more with this payment scheme.
“First, they are deprived of guarantees: the employer can start paying only the official part at any time. Secondly, social payments – sick leave, maternity payments are significantly reduced. Thirdly, there are problems with vacation pay and payments for unused leave upon dismissal, which often becomes an unpleasant surprise. Finally, it will be much more difficult to get a loan, especially a mortgage, it is impossible to take full advantage of tax deductions for treatment, purchase of an apartment, payment of interest on a mortgage, ”recalls Evgeny Chernyshov, General Director of MCC Glavniy Loan LLC.
Large companies for the most part formally formalize labor relations, which is a kind of guarantee against unfair behavior of the participants in the process. But in the “gray” zone largely remain the spheres of design, renovation, restaurant business, beauty and health industry,
“These areas exist outside the legal framework, when the customer and the contractor agree in words, transfer payment“ in an envelope ”. In these situations, the risk of being cheated increases. Well, the customer has no guarantees to receive the service on time and in the expected quality, ”notes Maria Ostrovskaya, General Director of Shopping Live.
Photo: RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mordasov
However, despite the objective risks, the number of those who are ready to agree to informal employment also increased during the pandemic. According to the results of a December survey conducted by the recruiting service SuperJob, almost half of Russians – 44% – are ready to receive enveloped salaries.
Experts see nothing surprising in this: hopes for a pension or social guarantees are not an argument for many.
“For example, if you need to get 100 thousand rubles“ clean ”, then the company must charge 149,500 rubles (13% of personal income tax + 30% of insurance premiums). Agree that there is a temptation to get 149,500, especially when you consider that the average pension of our parents is 15 thousand rubles, at best. The choice increasingly depends on the momentary financial situation and the situation on the labor market. And it is not very rosy, “sums up Elena Ershova from Aktion Pravo.