Labour tax row: A receipt will help protect you

Just because someone asks to be paid in cash doesn’t mean they’re trying to avoid tax

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Should you demand a receipt from a tradesperson? There’s a simple rule of thumb: if you ask someone to give you an invoice for work done, then you should expect a receipt when you pay. If you haven’t asked for an invoice, you shouldn’t always expect a receipt.

That’s the basic etiquette, but what about your legal position? If you don’t have a receipt, you don’t have any proof of payment. So for your protection, in case there are any problems with the work done, you should always get a receipt.

What about the tax position if you pay in cash? Just because someone asks to be paid in cash doesn’t mean they’re trying to avoid tax. There are several reasons why some traders prefer cash, not least cash flow.

If a tradesperson was caught not declaring income then they could be prosecuted for tax evasion. Ultimately that could mean a prison sentence.

If they didn’t declare any income they received from you, that doesn’t mean you’re guilty too . The offence is committed by the non-declaration.

In theory, if you had deliberately paid someone in cash to help them avoid tax, then you could be colluding in tax fraud. In practice, the tax authorities will not go after individual payers. They’re only interested in those who actually committed the fraud.

However, would you want a criminal working for you?

Tradespeople have several legal obligations. They must inform HMRC they are trading and therefore liable for income tax. They must also register for VAT if their turnover is above the VAT threshold of £81,000. Finally they must submit correct and complete tax returns.