On cash, and its increasing irrelevance

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Following my recent posts on the nature of money, there has been some discussion on the nature and usefulness of cash in the comments. The suggestion has been made that my indifference to cash is contrary to my concern for funding the future. I commented in response this morning and thought it worth making my position clear more generally:

This blog is about funding the future. If you had asked me in the 90s whether I thought cash would have had a role in that I would have said “I hope not”.

As an accountant I refused, pretty much, to ever account for businesses that handled cash. They were costly, uncontrolled, unreliable and frankly too commonly criminogenic in nature to take the risk of being associated with, not least because of the risk of Revenue investigation, which was real in those days.

I have worked very hard to eliminate cash from economies for this reason. So, I demanded the end of big denomination notes.

I demanded evidence of source for large deposits.

And, of course, the control of suitcases of cash in tax havens.

But I have also demanded increased transparency of banking in general to tax authorities, whilst seeking that platforms like eBay and Amazon be open to HMRC.

I believe in tax justice. Cash and opacity are its enemies. Nothing will change my position.

But I don't need to change my position. People do not want cash. I would have thought the reasons why are obvious.

And there isn ‘t an honest business owner who is not delighted to put up the sign saying ‘card only'. Cash is a nightmare to manage, and costly too, because of the risks. Of course they also want to be rid of it.

This blog is about funding the future. And cash has no part in it.

Does that give me a civil rights concern? No. That concern does not come from the absence of cash. It comes from authoritarianism.

Does it give me an exclusion concern? Yes, but only because we need to guarantee digital and basic banking inclusion for everyone. Labour tried that in 2019. It is not doing so now. That is where your problem is.

But will I change my mind on cash? No, because it will be a memory soon and has no role in funding the future.

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