Tax Board to spot-check strawberry growers to uncover illegal workers

Strawberry pickers. Source: ERR

During summer, the Tax and Customs Board (MTA) is to turn more attention towards sectors that use seasonal workers, and will conduct unannounced raids to make sure all workers are registered as such.

Agricultural weekly Maaleht (link in Estonian) sent two journalists to try their hand at strawberry picking, but when they arrived at Laari farm, they were immediately asked to show their ID-card because of possible MTA raids on the field.

Kadri Nebokat, head of the farm, said that: "We have had Tax Board raids for three consecutive years, where around ten vehicles come surround the field and check the information of everyone working."

She added that using the procedure of allowing regular people to pick berries on the fields as they wish is also made more complicated due to the inspectors often not believing they are not workers employed there.

Gea Otsa, communications manager at the MTA explained: "The Tax and Customs Board does checks into different sectors all year round to make sure that all workers are there legally, the employer taxes are paid, and they are not receiving wages illegally."

Among others, the sectors of construction, accommodation, catering, and agriculture are inspected because of the sectors' usage of seasonal workers.

MTA checks have shown that the number of illegal wage violations increase in the summer months. For example, last year the percentage of violations among checked workers was 5.9 percent but in June, the number was 12.7 percent.

Otsa added: "We check berry growers annually and will also do so this year. The goal of these checks is to provide honest competition, if one company has not paid their taxes and can sell their produce for less, it is unfair toward others."

She concluded by confirming that allowing regular people to come and pick berries on fields is still allowed without registration.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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