2014/12/18

The use of phoney billing cooperatives by Spanish freelancers to avoid paying exorbitant autónomo social security contributions

This is not turning into a fucked translators blog, but it is said that freelance translation (or journalism, or such) in Spain is born of the same lunatic heroism that impels people to buy houses there or to walk its pavements.

The numbers and rules are available at the Ministerio de Desempleo e Inseguridad Social and in collections of legislation, and if I could make head or tail of them I'd probably have an official car and chauffeur too. All I really know is that one hands over some €260 a month in social security contributions before scratching chalk on slate.

This is a legal requirement, but in the recent past if one worked for publications like La Vanguardia there existed a don't ask-don't tell policy. Both sides knew that most of the freelancers would starve to death if registered as such, what with the precipitous drop in rates of pay as the digital and economic crises kicked in.

And so freelancers were paid with a grandiose lack of interest in the bureaucratic niceties, and they tried not to think of that kindly old pension dragon in Madrid, and of how bitterly it would weep when it discovered that there was no longer a crock of gold for it to sit on.

But the state needed money, money, money, and there was a crackdown, and since then it seems to me that the living dead have bifurcated: many freelancers have shambled into billing cooperatives, while the remainder are said to have acquired Romanian gypsy costumes and macaronic Italian and to have been seen begging quite happily up on the Paseo de Gracia, or wherever.

How do these billing cooperatives work? Again, I am the wrong person to ask, and you -I have always looked up to you, you know that- may want to investigate and report back.

But as I understand it, a hippy accountant signs up translators and journalists to pretend to be his/her associates in a cooperative. Associates can then legally bill their clients, but they only pay social security contributions for the days on which they work; they can eat and drink once more, while the accountant takes his/her cut, changes clothes, and trots off for a round of golf with the PP secretary and the guy from Comisiones.

It is obviously then tempting to declare that one translated the entire works of Bulgakov, wrote an opinion piece on the return of Americans to Cuba's brothels, and built the great wall of China on Thursday the 18th of December. Because maybe that old pension dragon wasn't so kindly after all.

But is it legal? And is it (or anything else, apart from Ryanairing off to a provincial English city) advisable?

[
Discreet fans of camping, footing, and other progressive Anglicisms may be comforted to know that that I did not put the -ing in Ryanairing.
]

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