September 4, 2014

For N&O, ‘Contract to Cheat’ is a different investigative approach

Series exposes widespread tax cheating in construction nationwide. And it’s truly digital first.

Our new series, “Contract to Cheat”, published online Thursday, reveals widespread tax cheating in the construction industry in North Carolina and beyond. In North Carolina, in fact, we estimate $467 million a year in annual state and federal tax revenues lost through companies misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

The series is unusual for us in a couple of respects. Our typical investigative series publishes nearly simultaneously in print and online and, while we have the occasional collaboration with our friends at The Charlotte Observer, that’s where the sharing usually ends.

This time, however, we published first digitally. And we published it all. You can find five days’ worth of coverage, considered in the traditional print sense, all at once online, along with video, interactive graphics, documents and stories. Our print series starts Sunday and runs through Thursday.

And you’ll also find a lot of work from other places within our parent company, McClatchy. We led the national investigation here, but we partnered with sister papers in Charlotte; Ft. Worth, Texas; Miami; Kansas City, Mo.; Belleville, Ill.; Columbia, S.C.; and Fresno, Calif.; as well as the McClatchy Washington bureau and ProPublica, an independent news organization in New York.

Here, reporter Mandy Locke and database editor David Raynor did the work of finding and acquiring thousands of pages of fairly obscure federal payroll records. With the help of a team of experts, they also assembled a method of calculating tax losses in North Carolina, Florida ($400 million) and Texas ($1.2 billion) from misclassification.

They joined with Franco Ordoñez in Washington, Rick Rothacker of The Charlotte Observer, photographer/videographer Travis Long and reporters from the other organizations to find the records, the workers, the employers and the experts to pull together what we believe is a compelling report.

Whether you read it all online at once, or one day at a time in print starting Sunday, we hope you’ll agree.

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This blog contains some of our previous investigative work and news we think you'll find interesting. We post fresh updates and follow-ups to stories, as well as supplemental information to our investigations. We also try to point you to other great investigations from around the country. Follow @dankanenando, @josephcneff and @MandyLockeNews on Twitter.

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