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Polish Language School Scams? Clarity Required!

15 Apr 2008 /  #1

This year I am self-employed but last year my UK coworkers and I were employed by a national translators. My Polish would make a two year old look like a genius but I could never get a straight answer as to why it was the case that we were employed as translators. Every month we were asked to sign forms in Polish, every month we asked for clarification and everytime perfectly decent English speaking Poles lost the ability to speak English.

I found out yesterday that UK English teachers in Poland don't have to pay tax in Poland for the first two years of their stay (tax is still due in the UK but, of course, we have a much much higher personal allowance than in Poland).

My question is: Just exactly how was my company screwing me? Is the tax rate or ZUS payments lower for translators than for teachers? Answers on a postcard.
cazza - | 12  
15 Apr 2008 /  #2
You usually have to have a qualification to teach abroad so if you dont have that it could explain why you were employed as a translator and not a teacher?
MrBubbles 10 | 614  
15 Apr 2008 /  #3
Sounds like a scam to employ you on 'umowa o dzielo' (sorry about spelling) - if you are employed on this kind of tax agreement the employer doesn't have to pay your zus. They might not have to pay the full rate of tax either.

Problem with ...dzielo is that you have to produce a tangible object divisible from your person. As you provide a service, a teacher cannot be legally employed on this status -You should be employed on 'umowa zlecenie', which is a contract to provide a service.

Schools get round this by officially hiring you to produce programes of study, materials or lesson plans, which you officially teach for free. The translation idea sounds novel and might be yet another product of the inventive minds managing language schools, tirelessly working to figure out surprising new ways to avoid their responsibilites.

Of course, this arrangement means that you might not be contractually obliged to teach your lessons, but then again, they are not obliged to offer you another contract when the current one is up - hence you sign a new contract every month. Another 'benefit' for the school, I heard, is that if you are paid direct to your bank account every month the tax office gets wind of it more quickly.

A surprising number of the 'reputable' language school franchises engage in these kinds of practice. It probably doesn't matter if you're only here for a year or two but if you want to stay in Poland long term, they should be paying your zus.

There is something truely twisted about the whole private langauge school sector in Poland.
mafketis 35 | 11,735  
15 Apr 2008 /  #4
I think Mr Bubbles is right.

Plus (I'm less sure here) if you're working umowa o dzieło then you might not be getting health insurance which would make any medical attention a strictly paid process.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Apr 2008 /  #5
That's right, if u work under that agreement, u don't get medical insurance as of right as it's connected with ZUS. I had the E211 form from Scotland which is a reciprocal agreement between Scotland and Poland
mafketis 35 | 11,735  
15 Apr 2008 /  #6
I thought it wasnt just teachers but anyone was exempt for two years (if there's an agreement between the governments involved).
OP BurntMaze  
15 Apr 2008 /  #7
Sterling work, MrBubbles. That sounds like what they're doing.

I have some information from ZUS confirming that my company paid but it only relates to the Translator remuneration. That is, the amount they said I was being paid for my translation work.

I worked in Italy before and I thought they were dodgy. It seems you're right about Polish language schools.

I have my own registered company this year, which my school set up for me, however this also refers to my business activities being teaching and translation. Is this done so as to make me complicit in their scam, I wonder. Perhaps I am too paranoid.

Anyway, if I can get proof that I have never been employed as a teacher in Poland then there is a good chance that I can move to a employed position with another company that operates under the taxation agreement that states that a teacher, professor or researcher from the UK does not have to pay tax in Poland. At the very least it'll mean I have a larger personal tax allowance to work with.

I wonder what the chances of me getting a reference from my school are?! They're not pleased that I've raised all of this. Not pleased at all.

Thank you all for your info!!!!
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
15 Apr 2008 /  #8
Just exactly how was my company screwing me?

well mate, what you call tax your employer calls beer fund
OP BurntMaze  
15 Apr 2008 /  #9
loud and clear, bubbawoo. loud and clear.

i hate paying tax but what i hate more is people telling me they paid it for me and the pocket it.
Seanus 15 | 19,706  
15 Apr 2008 /  #10
Welcome to the reality of falsification. Do I smell sth burning?
MrBubbles 10 | 614  
16 Apr 2008 /  #11
I have my own registered company this year, which my school set up for me, ... Is this done so as to make me complicit in their scam, I wonder. Perhaps I am too paranoid.

Well you can never be too paranoid in this job. The ironic thing about the ...dzielo dodge is that you end up doing more work - filling on forms, translating etc. - so that they can pay you less.

However, becoming freelance to work for a school doesn't really make you complicit in their dodgy deals, as long as you are free to choose other customers to work for. What you have to be careful of is that the school doesn't start telling you that you cannot work for anyone else because of some 'non-competition clause' in your contract. If they do have this, the school has to compensate you for the lost business (and ask you to sign the clause seperately) but the chances are, like with my boss, they are talking rubbish. A common trick all the same.

I'd like to take a moment to mention some of the other deals that have been offered to me by Polish schools in the past

- Teacher lives in Poland but school says he is resident in the UK. Because the teacher gets paid less than the minimum threshold, he doesn't pay any tax. This was thankfully made totally illegal since Poland joined the EU but some schools might still try it with US residence.

- Teacher has, let's say, 800 zloty a month written on contract but given verbal arrangement of , let's say,2000 a month. The school pays a lower rate of tax for the lower amount. Of course you have to be stupid to fall for this one and I didn't.

- Agreeing a NETT hourly rate and writing it on the contract only to tell you after signing that all amounts on contracts are GROSS amounts. This happened to me a few years back and I lost a couple of thousand

- "let's not bother with contracts". Very common. There's nothing that makes you feel more the professional that getting the tram to some elementary school on the edge of town in the evening, doing a 'lesson' without any materials and getting slipped a fifty note at the end. In some ways I like the honesty of this approach but it really isn't a long term option.

I'm sure there are others but none come to mind right now. What they go to show is that the private language school market in Poland is exceptionally terrible when it comes to employment. I don't know why they should be so much worse than others. Perhaps it is something fundamentally twisted about the school owners? Many of them are trained 'teachers' themselves - they have problems dealing with adults in the real world so they ruthlessly exploit the ones who work for them. I appreciate the tax system makes it expensive to employ people but they actively find ways to screw you harder to to their work for them, and expect you to be grateful for it.
mafketis 35 | 11,735  
16 Apr 2008 /  #12
One simple tactic I heard used to happen in Warsaw (in the 90's) was to "hire" a native speaker and just not pay them (through a combination of excuses and being hard to find). The trick was to see how many lessons you could get out of them before they wised up (you'd be surprised how many). And even with a contract most natives were too weak in language and savvy to be able to get it enforced.

By the time the native realized what's going on the school had usually gotten a month or more of free lessons out of them and there was usually another naive native waiting to take their place (at which point the game would begin anew).
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
16 Apr 2008 /  #13
i was offered a head of department position at a private business school back in the mid 90s which i left a good job to accept.

once there i found that i was nothing more than a glorified teacher at a school pleased to have a native speaker on the staff.

i also found out once i had started that i wouldnt be paid monthly, as had previously been agreed, but at the end of every semester.
Matyjasz 2 | 1,544  
16 Apr 2008 /  #14
Ouch.. I know a private collage in Poznan that is notorious for not paying their staff on time. It looks that they are not the only ones. :/
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
16 Apr 2008 /  #15
i had to get heavy and assume a 'dont fuk with the wongs' stance - wouldnt have got to that if they had jst been honest at the start
MrBubbles 10 | 614  
16 Apr 2008 /  #16
The trick was to see how many lessons you could get out of them before they wised up (you'd be surprised how many)

Oh that reminds me of a school in Lodz. They were hiring staff and insisting on 2 trial lessons (unpaid of course) from each prospective member of staff. Of course, none of them were good enough so the school had 2 free lessons off each applicant. apparently half their Summer course was taught that way....

wouldnt have got to that if they had jst been honest at the start

Exactly. the schools simply don't understand that if they treat you fairly, you will treat them better in return
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
16 Apr 2008 /  #17

but there are also a lot of teachers who take the p!ss
MrBubbles 10 | 614  
16 Apr 2008 /  #18
Well, I've met a couple, agreed, but the bad ones have generally been 22 year olds who have never had a proper job before and you can spot them a mile off. If the school owner takes more time to recruit more experienced staff and offers them something better contract-wise, I'm convinced everyone will be happier.
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,510  
16 Apr 2008 /  #19
the bad ones have generally been 22 year olds who have never had a proper job before

yup, or middle aged with a drinking problem that they failed to mention at interview ;-)
MrBubbles 10 | 614  
16 Apr 2008 /  #20
Heh! That's the thing about EFL. All the alcoholics ended up in the ex-Soviet states, the religious types went to the Middle East and the pedarasts went to the Far East...
OP BurntMaze  
16 Apr 2008 /  #21
the worst teachers i've encountered are the ones who had no career to speak of prior to teaching and who flitted from job to job blaming one thing or another for their failures. the 22 year old grads may have a rather narrow view of the working world but at least they don't have the bad habits and bitterness of some of the older guys who are escaping failure back home.

i'm 30 and worked in finance in england (only two companies in five years). i can tell you that i'm escaping the soullessness of listening to people talk about the equity in their property or what car/hifi/holiday they're planning to buy and listening to middle aged men who have no relationship to speak of with their families. the kind of guys who come into work on sundays so they can avoid spending time with their family - crazy! also i could never get very excited about a new investment product or targets.

teaching is a good gig and rewarding more often than not but i have to say that polish schools do depress me somewhat. are there any honest schools?!

It seems shocking to me to ask the question 'which schools are the least dishonest' but what can you do when the more you read the more your realise that polish language schools are rotten to the core (or am i being overly harsh?).

i'm planning to move from the armpit of poland (katowice) to krakow or bielsko biała but would hate to fall into, well, the many traps that seem to have been set by the evil school owners.

can anyone recommend some excellent schools? by excellent i mean those that don't fiddle tax, do encourage teacher development, do have teacher resources, do look to retain teachers for longer than one contract period and, finally, do treat their customers, the students, with respect rather than seeing them as something that simply generates cash.

i wonder, am i being over-optimistic?
16 Apr 2008 /  #22
open up your own school
benszymanski 8 | 465  
16 Apr 2008 /  #23
I thought it wasnt just teachers but anyone was exempt for two years

There is some info on this website about it:

British Embassy - employment

It says "Subject to certain conditions, the remuneration of a visiting professor, teacher or researcher will not be taxed in the country visited for a period not exceeding two years".

There is a link there to more detail about it but I was too lazy to read it...
OP BurntMaze  
16 Apr 2008 /  #24
miranda miranda was that what you did? tell me more!

i've been chatting with an american girl about hiring an apartment and teaching there but to be honest i really really really don't want to stay in katowice. shame.
16 Apr 2008 /  #25
miranda miranda was that what you did? tell me more!

yes. Set up your bussiness starting small. If you are good, you will do well. I worked for both private and public. Eventually I went on my own.

i've been chatting with an american girl about hiring an apartment and teaching there but to be honest i really really really don't want to stay in katowice. shame.

you can do it anywhere.

PM me if you like.
17 Apr 2008 /  #26
Which is more dishonest? Businesses which operate in a way that is technically legal or a state which takes from your employer 20% of what your employer pays you as a ZUS contribution plus of what you earn 20% from you as a ZUS contribution plus 30% of what is left and then takes either 22% or 7% of everything which you spend? Remember that the state does not provide decent medical care and can't even provide decent roads.

Don't bother with Krakow. Far too nice a place and attracts far too many backpackers, so there will always be another teacher along next week to take your place if you get lippy with the boss. In BB avoid IH unless you want to starve to death.

Just set up your own one-person company and take care of the tax issues yourself. Also, work for at least three or four schools. When they know that you can get along perfectly well without you, and that they would have a problem getting along without you if you left, suddenly schools are very very nice to you.

Oh, and take off the rose-tinted glasses.
OP BurntMaze  
17 Apr 2008 /  #27
Oh, and take off the rose-tinted glasses.

absolutely harry. i was talking with my girlfriend tonight and we came to the conclusion that krakow would be a bad idea. didn't know that about bb though. although, saying that, if they pay as badly as ih katowice then it's no wonder teachers starve. it's a cheeky little scam that one actually. the appearance of tax free earnings, hmmmmm. lots of people fall for it, clearly.

oh, and you're quite right about the tax situation. i thought it had been established as fact that low tax economies operated more efficiently. laffer had a point, you know.
LwowskaKrakow 28 | 431  
21 Apr 2008 /  #28
There must be a national organization defending workers's rights against any form of abuse or non pyment of ZUS like a Work Inspection institution or something like that because it is mandatory in Europe.

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