Why undeclared work is not a good idea

Working 'in the black' may seem attractive, both to companies and employees. Yet it is best to stay away from it. The risks of undeclared work do not outweigh the benefits. We have listed them here for you.

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What is undeclared work?

A person works 'in the black' if the work is not declared to the tax authorities. This seems advantageous: the employer or customer pays less tax, the employee or non-invoicing self-employed person earns more net and is paid immediately.

Yet it is not a good idea: undeclared work is and remains tax fraud, and therefore punishable. Moreover, an undeclared worker is not insured in case of an accident at work or on the way there. If that happens, the employer or the employee will have to bear all the costs themselves.

Will Belgians still be working 'in the black' in 2022?

Belgium is one of the frontrunners in Europe when it comes to undeclared work. Our country produces a good 15 percent of the gross domestic product 'in the black', worth almost 71 billion euros. Research does show a decline: in 2019, 52 percent less undeclared work was identified than in 2017.

On the one hand, this is because the government is committed to 'whittling down' sensitive sectors. Just think of the 'white checkout' for the hospitality industry, the service cheques for household help and the recent raids by the labour inspectorate on courier companies. On the other hand, the reduction also has to do with a decreasing number of inspections, due to a lack of inspectors.

But what are the risks of undeclared work?

For the undeclared employee or self-employed person
  • You risk a hefty fine if you are caught doing undeclared work. Are you receiving an allowance? Then you may lose it and even have to pay it back.
  • You have no rights towards your employer. They can abuse you in all sorts of ways: pay you too little or make you work too much, fire you from one day to the next...
  • Moreover, you miss out on holiday pay, meal vouchers, pension rights, sickness benefits or pregnancy benefits.
  • If you have an accident at work or on the way there, you have no insurance or mutual insurance company to reimburse you for (part of) your expenses.
  • The experience you gain cannot be used to show off on your CV. Because you were never officially employed by this employer.
For the employer
  • If you employ people 'in the black', you can expect hefty fines, seizures and even prison sentences.
  • You run the risk of ending up in long - and expensive! - You run the risk of ending up in long - and expensive! - legal conflicts when a non-official employee has an accident at work. As an employer, you are legally obliged to take out a work accident insurance (for companies) or a domestic staff insurance (for private employers). If you don't, you and the undeclared worker have to pay the costs together. But who pays what will be the subject of a tough discussion.
For society
  • Those who maintain undeclared work do not show solidarity with the people and companies who do pay their taxes correctly. The taxes on labour that the government collects serve, among other things, to pay the costs of social security.
  • Undeclared work is a distortion of competition in relation to companies that do pay their taxes correctly. For they have to charge their customers higher prices than competitors who do not.
  • As a customer or consumer, you are also better off not bringing in undeclared workers. Because without a contract you don't have a leg to stand on if the goods or services supplied turn out to be faulty.