Finance minister and deputy chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Martin Helme said in the Riigikogu on Monday that a laborer who helped him with construction work on his country home, named Urmas, apparently has never paid taxes and will never start doing it, Postimees reported.
"Urmas was the kind of man who to my mind has never worked in a fashion where his taxes would be paid and who takes absolutely no interest in what becomes of his pension," Helme said in his remarks before lawmakers during the first reading of the pension reform bill.
The minister said that, in his opinion, people like Urmas exist and will continue to exist and they would have to be taken care of under the current pension system as well as under the new arrangement to be introduced with the pension reform. At the same time, people like Urmas are used to getting by with very little and there's no reason to be too much concerned about them.
Asked by opposition Reform Party MP Heiki Kranich, Helme later added that he doesn't know whether or not the laborer has paid his taxes as this is something that the laborer himself has to take care of.
Another Reform Party MP, Jurgen Ligi, posted a comment on social media saying that "one thing that ministers in civilized countries would resign for is the payment of cash-in-hand wages."
"Martin Helme just announced to the Riigikogu that during the construction of a house of his he paid cash-in-hand wages to a worker by the name of Urmas," Ligi, former minister of finance, said. "The man purportedly has never been in employment officially. As minister of finance, Helme by doing this promoted a lifestyle where one would not pay tax for pension and medical insurance. That would mean just having to get by with very little in the future. This is of course the position that he holds also when it comes to the entire pension system - the person themselves knows."
The Tax Board is one of the agencies in the area of government of Martin Helme as minister of finance.
Estonian Tax Board: Tax payments is employer's responsibility
When hiring a laborer, the employer, too, bears the responsibility for payment of tax, which means that when it comes to an employment relationship between an employer and employee as private individuals, the responsibility of paying taxes also lies with the employer, the Estonian Tax Board said, according to Postimees.
"If an employer who is a private individual hires a worker who is also a private individual, [the employer] must register the worker in the employment register, declare the payments made to the worker and pay taxes on them," Evelyn Liivamagi, head of the tax department of the Tax and Customs Board, said. "In case of an employment relationship, the employer is obligated to withhold social and income taxes. Our website lists the obligations of an employer as private individual in greater detail."
The organization cannot comment on individual cases.
Editor: Helen Wright