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Someone found me because he noticed that while working on the freelancing site, US workers get top dollar. Therefore, he wants someone in the USA to create an account for him, and work under that account under a revenue share agreement.

I think that the ethics of this are shady. Likely, people/companies are looking for US employees because they only want to or can legally hire from the USA. Otherwise, perhaps they only trust Americans, or don't want to be bothered by different currencies. Is there a legal reason for this? I looked through the TOS, but I don't know what part of it deals with impersonation, if any.

Likely, this would mean that he would work under my name (which means that my reputation follows his), or that my account would be under his name (meaning that my taxes are somehow linked to his name). If this arrangement is motivated by competitive pressures alone, reputation risks are a concern covered by the return of the agreement, but if it causes more serious concerns, then obviously this is a danger zone. Could such an agreement result in account termination from the company, or in legal problems?

This question is not about the legitimacy of the person's request (spam).

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    As you are asking about specific policies, that's off-topic here. What you want is legal advice from a trained individual.
    – Aida Paul
    Apr 10, 2020 at 15:47
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    OP isn't asking about legitimacy, but for everyone else that is interested, this is spam. I know at least 10 other freelancers on Upwork, all have received the same message several times.
    – flexi
    Apr 10, 2020 at 18:01
  • BTW, I am not granting the person's request, only looking for the ethical/legal reasoning, free of opinion. Apr 10, 2020 at 18:38
  • Harper's post seems entirely compelling: violations of tax law and immigration law are no joke. Even just the contractual issues of representing a certain fitness for a job (e.g. living in the right time zone) that you can't deliver would be bad. I know this isn't your actual question, but it seemed at least worth flagging the possibility that strangers offering such business deals may be out to hoodwink you rather than your "mutual clients." Such arrangements could also turn you into a money laundering mule, pull an identity theft, straight up blackmail you (see Harper: felony), etc.
    – Josiah
    Apr 11, 2020 at 22:11
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    You should be able to contract work out that's been requested from your business. That would be a legitimate arrangement. If you decided to take that route, you should be aware of all taxes and laws associated with that, to determine if it would still be worth your while.
    – Dom
    Apr 15, 2020 at 15:16

3 Answers 3

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I looked through the TOS, but I don't know what part of it deals with impersonation, if any.

Could such an agreement result in account termination from the company, or in legal problems?

https://www.upwork.com/legal#registrationand

"ACCOUNT PROFILE To register for an Account to join the Site, you must complete a User profile (“Profile”), which you consent to be shown to other Users and, unless you change your privacy settings, to be shown to the public. You agree to provide true, accurate, and complete information on your Profile and all registration and other forms you access on the Site or provide to us and to update your information to maintain its truthfulness, accuracy, and completeness. You agree not to provide any false or misleading information about your identity or location, your business, your skills, or the services your business provides and to correct any such information that is or becomes false or misleading."

"ACCOUNT PERMISSIONS You agree not to request or allow another person to create an Account on your behalf, for your use, or for your benefit, except that an authorized employee or agent may create an Account on behalf of your business. By granting other Users permissions under your Account, including as a Team Member or Agency Member, you represent and warrant that: (a) the User is authorized to act on your behalf; and (b) you are fully responsible and liable for the User’s acts and omissions, including for obligations and liabilities relating to making payments and entering into Service Contracts and the Terms of Service. If any such User violates the Terms of Service, it may affect your ability to use the Site and Site Services. Upon closure of an Account, Upwork may close any or all related Accounts."

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More than likely the Terms of Service for Upwork would prohibit you from sharing your account with another user, regardless of where they are based. Violating the TOS would most likely be cause for termination of your account.

Any income reported by Upwork or the client would be reported as your income and you would be liable for any taxes just as if you had earned it directly. Even if you were willing to take on the risks this could land you in legal/tax trouble that could be expensive for you to remedy.

There is also the possibility of either industrial espionage or export limitations. Doing work with the purpose of gathering information or simply working in systems and/or products that can not be legally exported outside the US.

But perhaps most importantly to you is the simple issue of fraud. By allowing another to use your credentials to perform work while presenting it as yours would easily be prosecuted as fraud. This could result in both criminal and civil penalties.

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  • What would the TOS be called? I have been looking for it. Apr 10, 2020 at 17:23
  • @DenisG.Labrecque TOS is 'Terms of Service' at upwork.com/legal
    – Steve
    Apr 10, 2020 at 17:26
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    under the "possibility of industrial espionage or export limitations" paragraph - you really don't want to be the person who was found responsible for passing information like this to a foreign source. That can land you in serious legal trouble... and if it's "under a revenue-share agreement", then you're also giving this person blackmail over you. There's a good chance that the US won't be able to effectively prosecute them where they are, but that is not the case for whoever it is that's on the US side of the account. That sort of thing can quickly lead to even more legal liability.
    – Ben Barden
    Apr 10, 2020 at 18:15
  • @Steve I know what TOS stands for. My question was about the section title. Apr 10, 2020 at 18:37
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It's a Federal felony

Having it done to you unawares is called "employment identity theft". You fully participating (for pay, no less) is "illegal employment conspiracy".

You might think "oh, this is a hack, it's too imaginative for them to have made laws against it yet". Which only tells me you're not an employer of unskilled laborers near the Mexican border. If you were, you'd have to constantly prove to the Feds that you're not doing that, because lots of employers conspire to hire illegal immigrants under someone else's name.

  • Here. This guy (Arroyo) who would be standing in your shoes just got 27 months in the Federal slammer. That's a felony conviction, and the Feds don't give early release. They won't extradite from Pakistan for a crime of this level, so their eyes will be on you.

Also, you'll get stuck with the tax

Mind you, all that person's income will post as income for you. That will be on top of your normal income, which means it'll be taxed at your next dollar rate, i.e. your top bracket. You could be paying 30% tax or more on the money between Fed and state.

Some people don't know the gory details here; they just tick 0 or 1 exemptions on their W-4 "and it always comes out even for me". For bracketing reasons, that won't work if you have 2 parallel jobs at once, and it will wildly under-withhold leaving you with a giant tax bill on April 15. Further, the person could pull a dirty trick on you, and select 70 exemptions, (yeah you can really do that; I've done it!), at which point 0 taxes would be withheld at all, leaving you holding the bag for all the income tax "you" supposedly made.

Your partner giving you, say, 20% won't even pay the income tax, which again is happening at next dollar rates e.g. 22% or 25% Federal and ??? state.

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