About 20 local members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters held a rally Friday afternoon in Portland's Monument Square to bring attention to what they call ‘rampant tax fraud’ in the construction industry.
The council alleges that each year, labor brokers and contractors cheat their tax obligations by misclassifying people they hire as subs or independent contractors and paying them off the books.
The Council's Regional Manager John Leavitt says, rather than hiring someone as an employee, the construction company brings them on as subs or independent contractors.
“If you work for someone, take direction from someone, you're an employee,” he says. “If they tell you what time to show up and what to do, you're an employee of that company.”
Leavitt says that the situation is getting worse. He says bad apples in the construction industry are forcing contractors who want to be responsible to cheat or get underbid on a job. Leavitt says the council wants to see enforcement and legislation that would put more teeth into state law.
Speaking at the rally, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said that when the companies don't pay taxes, it is other taxpayers who have to pick up the slack.
“They already get their tax breaks,” he said. “They get their tifs, the credit enhancement agreements, they get all these deals all the time and then, on top of that, they misclassify works and don't pay the benefits they should or the taxes they should.”
The Council's Regional Manager, John Leavitt, says the organization wants to see enforcement and legislation that would put more teeth into state law.
A construction industry organization did not return calls for comment.