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Romanian truckers, hit by taxes at home, tempted by British jobs

BUCHAREST: For 32-year-old Romanian international trucker Nicolae, Britain's driver crisis could be just what he needs to keep his small business afloat.

Britain's shortage of about 100,000 truck drivers, the result of workers leaving the industry, Brexit and the pandemic, has caused havoc with supply chains, with gas station pumps running dry in cities across the country.

In response, the British government plans to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers to help with the shortfall as well as using the army to drive tankers.

"The Brits' offer is attractive," said Nicolae, who owns three trucks, and whose business could face a squeeze from a tax levied on drivers' daily allowances in Romania.

"For me, taxing our daily allowance means bankruptcy because transport-related profits are pretty modest," he said. "Britain is an option ... earnings there are way higher.

Nicolae and about 100 other drivers on Wednesday parked their trucks in Victoria Square in Bucharest outside government buildings, with horns blaring, to protest against the tax and spiralling prices for mandatory insurance policies.

Romania's tax watchdog earlier this year decided to treat drivers daily allowances as taxable income and also to tax transport firms retroactively over five years on the allowances.

Radu Dinescu, secretary general of the UNTRR national association of transport employers, said on average a driver could end up paying up to 90,000 euros in back taxes.

Late on Tuesday, ahead of the protests, the ruling Liberal Party unveiled a draft bill to scrap the back tax payment, but this measure may stumble in the country's fragmented legislature.

Other drivers, including some who are close to retirement, said the higher pay on offer in Britain was tempting.

61-year old Gabriel Bazga said: "I have a younger, good friend who wants to work as trucker in England ... it only takes about one month for all official papers to complete. Payment is very tempting there."

"Let's wait and see, I am also pondering it (if per diems will impact me), as more than 1,000 pounds (US$1,368) pay per week (in Britain) looks good, is good money."

Source: Reuters

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