Nearly 20 mystery shopping industry representatives went to Washington to meet with lawmakers Wednesday on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million independent contractors who are mystery shoppers.
Congress proposed legislation last year on worker classification – whether individual workers are treated as independent contractors or as employees by the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The goal of the legislation is to address the “tax gap” caused by the improper classification of workers for tax reporting purposes. The Independent Contractor Proper Classification Act stalled in 2008 due to presidential opposition but is expected to be re-introduced in 2009.
MSPA is closely monitoring this proposal and cites multiple concerns:
- It hinders a person’s ability to earn extra money at a time when so many people need it
- It will impose new compliance costs on small businesses and others who rely upon independent contractors
- It will increase the cost for companies to utilize mystery shopping providers to objectively evaluate a customer’s experience and train/reward their employees
“The service our member companies provide, via independent contractors, has become a critical part of how companies train and reward their employees,” said John Swinburn, executive director of the MSPA.
The MSPA is among many industry groups currently lobbying to fight this bill.
“This is about the front-line people, the working moms, dads and grandparents who will have their ability to supplement their income severely impacted,” said Ron Welty, owner of IntelliShop, a mystery shopping company in Perrysburg, Ohio. “What we’re fighting literally amounts to millions of job opportunities for real people.”
Cathy Stucker, author of “The Mystery Shopper’s Manual,” makes her living as an independent contractor and has long advocated the benefits of mystery shopping for businesses of all sizes. She says the passage of this bill will have multiple negative consequences.
“If this becomes law, it’s a losing situation for everyone, the contractor, the business and ultimately companies who benefit from mystery shopping,” Stucker said. “It’s going to increase the cost of doing business for everyone, limit our ability to be our own boss, and negatively impact those who evaluate and enhance a customer’s experience.”