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Tories challenge Ed Balls over 'receipts for cash-in-hand jobs' comments

Ed Balls said he has kept receipts for everything since he has been in politics. Photo: PA

Ed Balls' suggestion that people have a duty to collect receipts from gardeners and cleaners for the smallest cash-in-hand jobs shows Labour has a "complete lack of understanding" about business, a Cabinet minister has said.

The shadow chancellor said he always demanded a written record, even if it was merely for £10 to trim a hedge, because it was the "right thing to do".

But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it was "absurd" and showed that Labour did not know how businesses worked.

Balls suggested people should get receipts for goods they don't buy in shops. Credit: PA

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna dismissed the row as "a storm in a teacup" and insisted Mr Balls was not suggesting that everyone had an obligation to follow his lead by demanding receipts for minor cash-in-hand jobs.

Mr Umunna told Sky News:

Is he demanding that your viewers keep every single receipt that they get in respect of anything they spend, or make sure that they get a receipt? No, he wasn't doing that.

– Chuka Umunna

Asked whether David Cameron always requests a receipt for cash-in-hand jobs, a Downing Street spokeswoman said:

The issue here is he may have paid cash for tasks, but he hasn't done this in any way to help anyone evade the taxes that they should pay.

If you have one-off payments for something, you may well pay cash. The onus is on the trader, who is responsible for making sure they pay the taxes that they owe.

– Downing Street spokeswoman
Iain Duncan Smith was critical of Ed Balls' comments on receipts. Credit: PA

The shadow chancellor's comments came as Labour and the Tories engaged in furious clashes over tax dodging.

As he was pressed on BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics about what constituted tax avoidance, Mr Balls said:

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.

It's not your job to pay their taxes for them and I think most people you give a tenner to are not going to be VAT-registered.

– Ed Balls