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Cash and digital payments in the new economy
One of the announcements in the Spring Statement was the possible demise of the 1p and 2p coins and the £50 note, but for different reasons. It seems that more and more of us are paying for small transactions such as our morning coffee by using contactless payments.
Those who do pay in cash and where the cost is say £2.99 we put the penny change in the charity pot and many are thrown away! The £50 note has been linked to money laundering and other illegal cash-based payments.
The increase in contactless transactions and consequent reduction in the number of small coins in circulation will have a significant impact on the charity sector as many are reliant on peoples’ small change being donated outside supermarkets and stations.
The consultation on the future of cash in the economy also considers the role of cash in tax evasion and illegal activities. The vast majority of traders and businesses accepting payments in cash will do so honestly. However, in some cases, the anonymous and untraceable nature of cash transactions is perceived to facilitate tax evasion, hidden economy activity, or money laundering. This harms the honest majority of businesses who find it harder to compete, and means less money goes towards our vital public services.
HMRC are aware that payments in cash can be a problem for tax compliance. In some cases, this is because taxpayers find it difficult to keep accurate records of all their transactions. HMRC have identified that cash is used by a small minority of people to hide or disguise their taxable income by not reporting, or under-reporting, what they owe.
The consultation paper suggests that the increasing use of digital payments and reduction in the use of cash could have a positive impact on increasing tax compliance and decreasing money laundering. However, the increase in digital payments may only have a limited impact, if the dishonest minority continue to use cash to hide or suppress their income. Could the next step be to make it mandatory to pay your window cleaner or gardener electronically? Not yet…