Why working “under the table” or “off the books” can hurt your disability claim

Attorney Wade Coye

Wade Coye, Disability Attorney

Sometimes, especially during economic struggles, people choose to work “under the table” or “off the books” and make some additional cash on the side of their regular job. There are even those who have used this kind of cash-only payment structure to earn the majority or all of their income. The trouble becomes when one of our clients has worked a significant period of time on their own or for someone else and hasn’t filed this income on their tax returns. This also means that the cash income hasn’t been subject to paying Social Security or Medicare taxes.

There is no question that taxes can be a burden and leave a worker with a diminished paycheck after earning their wages, but when a person is applying for Social Security disability benefits, if that person has not paid their taxes into the Social Security system, he or she could be eligible for less benefits – or even not qualify at all.

The Social Security system works basically like this: when you are hired you fill out your W-4 so that taxes can be appropriately withheld from each paycheck. These taxes include Social Security and Medicare deductions and make you a part of the federal and state systems. Each week you work, you continue to pay into this system so that later if you need to make a claim against the system there are records showing that you have contributed to it. If you can’t work due to an injury or illness, you may qualify for disability payments. However, if you work and get paid cash “under the table,” or if you don’t work at all, you will not be paying into the system, and therefore may not qualify for Social Security disability benefits at all.

The majority of people who contact our office needing help in their Social Security disability claim have a substantial work history, have paid into the Social Security system, and do not have an issue qualifying for their disability benefits. However, for those clients who have worked on a cash-only payment basis it can be considerably trickier to establish their right to claim disability benefits.

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