New California Bill Seeks to Crack Down on Underground Economy
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today unveiled legislation to combat California’s growing underground economy. Senate Bill 1272 would permanently establish the Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement (TRaCE) Task Force within the California Department of Justice, and expand the program with permanent Task Force teams in every major metropolitan region across the State: Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area, and Fresno. The bill is sponsored by Attorney General Becerra and was introduced by Senator Cathleen Galgiani, along with Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula.
The legislation aims to ensure multi-agency collaboration between several governmental entities, including the California Department of Justice, Department of Tax and Fee Administration, Franchise Tax Board, and Employment Development Department, to combat wage theft, tax evasion and other crimes in the underground economy.
“Here in California, home to the world’s sixth-largest economy, every worker who powers this engine deserves rights at work, every upstanding business owner deserves a fair market, and every taxpayer deserves to see their hard-earned money used to fund vital services,” said Attorney General Becerra. “If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead. This legislation would provide the resources needed to enforce the law and protect the pocketbook of every hard working Californian.”
“The underground economy results in significant uncollected revenues that are desperately needed to fund basic government services. The TRaCE Task Force, operating as a pilot program, has recovered millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for the state. I’d like to thank the agents for their rigorous work investigating and prosecuting the most egregious felony-level underground economic crimes in the state,” said Senator Galgiani. “Given the persistent and significant negative effects of the underground economy, I introduced SB 1272, sponsored by Attorney General Becerra, to strengthen the statewide efforts to combat the underground economy by permanently establishing this vital program with law enforcement teams in every major metropolitan region in the state. ”
According to a 2013 University of California Los Angeles Labor Center report, the state’s underground economy is estimated at $60 to $140 billion annually, depriving the state of $8.5 billion in corporate, personal, and sales and use taxes each year. TRaCE’s pilot program, created in 2014, provided for interagency collaboration, and the agencies together set out to investigate and prosecute the most outrageous felony-level multijurisdictional underground economic crimes in California. Since its start, TRaCE’s teams have identified more than $210 million in unreported gross receipts and $46 million in associated tax loss to the state. Additionally, through its criminal enforcement actions, the pilot program recovered millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for the state.
The proposed legislation would provide significant support to the TRaCE Task Force, enabling the California Department of Justice, together with our state partners, to combat the wage theft, risks to public health and safety, and tax losses in the underground economy.