Getting Wages Owed –Chile

First of all, this applies to people that teach English (in Chile) without contracts or “salaries” (in the Canadian sense of this term), and bill the institution for which they work (Boletas Honorarias).

Well, I decided to not return to a English teaching gig at an Adventist school of “higher learning” located somewhere in Chile, in part because I found them unwilling to pay me what was agreed.

Concerning this money, despite conversations and emails spanning months –involving the English career co-ordinator, the faculty dean, and the vice-rector of the university– they just ignored their debt. Sure, I would get calls from the career coordinator inquiring for greater billing detail (but only after my inquiries), giving the impression that the matter was near resolution (this is called “tramitación“, usually referenced as “me tramitaron” in Chile, the arbitrary creation of bureaucratic steps to avoid resolution and make one look as the failing party when one fails to or can’t “co-orporate” and to just plain discourage one from seeking resolution). The money owed spanned back from Dec. 2006, and it was not until now in May 2007 I got payed (so who was the party that refused to cooperate?).

Here’s how I got my money. First of all, you have to bill everything else your employer may attempt to con you out of paying (no bill, no recourse), even if you’re told that by circumventing this you will get your money (as I was told by the vice-rector who did ignore my emails verified by the multiple email receipts). Remember, a bill has at least some legal standing and Chilean tax services (SII) will take issue with an employer that does not pay their bills. Thus, it’s in the best interest of employers to settle bills, one way or another. When it comes to a bill that an employer disputes, they can take one of two options. They can decide not to pay you, and fight it at which a lawyer will charge them at least 200 000 Chilean pesos just to assess the case. Or they can just pay you. Thus, when the sum owed is less than a lawyer’s costs (200 000 pesos), then it is in their best interest to pay you, because it’s cheaper.

So that is just what I did, I billed them electronically via SII billing service mentioning a conversation with the vice-rector acknowledging their debt. Golly, after months of beating around the bush and being told to not worry I got a response the very next working day! In this email, they asked me to quickly annul the bill because the amount really owed was larger. Of course, they asked me to issue another bill for the larger amount, the amount “really owed” which still wasn’t over the 200 000 pesos.

Well I showed my accountant friend, which serves as basis for the material presented herein, their email response because I thought it sounded fishy. He said it was on the ball because they don’t have a reasonable and financially sound option other than to pay what’s owed, once they’re billed (the key here). So I did as requested and told the “school” of higher learning that I would personally pick-up the cheque (they were asking for my back account).

Moral of the story, bill everything and don’t let amounts owed surpass a lawyer’s fees.

With a little help of someone familiar with the SII routine, declaring taxes in Chile is a breeze because SII calculates everything –necessitating only your review and authorization. Billing via SII is nice because bills get emailed directly to employers. Best of all, with this billing system SII is immediately made aware of your debtors, which motivates them to pay-up.

Maurice Cepeda

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This article may be outdated and of historical value.


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