Have you ever wondered why the Queen doesn’t carry cash? Apparently it’s because she has someone to carry it for her and not because it would be weird to have loads of little pictures of herself in her purse, which is a bit disappointing – and would also mean there’s no point in asking her for a stamp. She may well prove to be something of a pioneer in this respect, though, as cash payments are in decline.
According to UK Finance, this year will see debit cards overtake cash as the most frequently used payment method. For context, 62% of all UK payments were made in cash in 2006. By 2016, that number had fallen to 40%. It’s estimated that, by 2026, it will have slumped to 21%. In 2016, £6bn less was withdrawn from ATMs than in 2015.
For installers, this is a significant development for a number of reasons. Aside from the obvious need for alternate means of securing payment – card machines, bank transfers and, if you’re still particularly old school, cheques – it could finally signal the death knell of the ‘discount for cash’ culture.
There’s a perception that this approach is usually instigated by tradespeople who are looking to trouser a few quid off the books – which hasn’t been helped by the likes of finance guru Martin Lewis running a poll which asked “If a builder/plumber/cleaner etc offered you a discount for cash, being pretty clear it meant they would (illegally) evade tax on it. What would you do?” Interestingly, though, 57% of respondents said they would “grab the discount”, which may lead us all some way towards the truth.
We ran our own poll last year, asking how often installers get paid cash in hand. 68% answered “hardly ever” or “never” and only 9% said “most/all of the time”. So who’s really looking to exploit the cash in hand option, the tradespeople who are running legitimate businesses or the customers who think they might get the same professional job for less?
The Government recently announced consultation on the role of cash and digital payments. In part, at least, this is with a view to cracking down on tax evasion. In relation to our industry, it’s likely this is putting the cart before the horse but if the net result is that installers no longer have to deal with customers assuming they’re constantly on the take, so much the better.
It’s also been suggested that 1p and 2p coins, as well as £50 notes, could be abolished. Whether that comes to pass in the near future or not, one thing is for certain. Cash is no longer king… but then the Queen could’ve told you that years ago.