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BP has said it will compensate coastal businesses in the fishing communities in southeastern Louisiana for money lost during the oil spill that continues in the Gulf. The company is asking those who want compensation for one thing: a tax return.

That’s trouble for some, reports Louis Sahagun of the Los Angeles Times. Many people working in the fishing trade deal in cash. “I worked for an uncle last year who paid me in cash,” said a crab fisherman who asked to remain anonymous. “The BP guy wanted my tax statements, but how can I pay taxes if everything I earned was in cash?” 

People pick up day work. They sell crab out of their garages. They work for tips, maybe, and don’t always keep the most pristine of records. Still, BP reports that it has received 25,000 claims and has made more than 12,000 payments totaling $36 million.

Sahagun finds a cultural disconnect between the oil corporation and live on the Louisiana coast. “We have our own little world, and the whole world is invading it right now,” said Erwin Menesses, 43, who specializes in sewing and repairing fishing nets. “You are not going to find our legacy in the paperwork they are asking us to produce. It’s not there.”

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