Ed Balls claims that people should get a receipt from your gardener condemned as ludicrous

Mr Balls said he would review every existing tax-planning scheme if he becomes Chancellor

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Indy Politics

People should always ask for receipts when they hand over money for the smallest job in the house or garden, the shadow Chancellor has insisted.

Ed Balls said he always requested proof of payment from tradesmen, even if it was only for £10 for trimming a hedge, because it was the “right thing to do”.

His guidance was described as “ludicrous” by one backbench Tory today. The week-long dispute over tax-dodging by multimillionaire clients of HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary took a more personal turn yesterday when Mr Balls was pressed on his definition of tax avoidance. “The right thing to do if you are having somebody cut your hedge for a tenner is to make sure they give you their name and address and a receipt and a record for the fact that you have paid them,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Asked whether he observed that rule, he replied: “Absolutely. That’s because I am the shadow Chancellor and I’m extremely careful about these things. Over my life, have I ever given people a tenner and not [been] given a receipt for it? Probably yes.” But he said he had always asked for receipts since he had been involved in politics.

His remarks were ridiculed as “ludicrous” by the Conservative MP Peter Bone. He said: “If you go into a café for a cup of tea you would not expect a receipt for it. It shows a complete lack of understanding of business. Is he trying to imply that if you are a small business that deals in cash, you are trying to dodge tax?”

Mr Balls said today he would review every existing tax-planning scheme if he becomes Chancellor.