I took a cab yesterday and, as I paid, the driver asked me if I wanted a blank receipt. Now if you’re outside the UK you’re probably wondering what on earth I’m talking about.

Why a blank receipt?! Well almost all taxis here only accept cash, even for long journeys from the airports which can easily be a £100 fare. With a blank receipt you can add a bit to your expense claim and in return the driver hopes you’ll give him a bigger tip. Win-win for both parties.

So let’s just assume that for every taxi journey I get a blank receipt. As I can fill in my own amount there’s nothing to stop me embellishing a bit. For arguments sake let’s assume I’m a relatively honest employee and I add a modest 10% uplift, or even that I genuinely forget the amount and just round up to the nearest £1, or £10, or more. It’s standard practice, it’s what everyone does. It doesn’t really cost anyone anything and it’s practically expected.

But what does it cost you as a business?

The average taxi journey in London is £11.48 according to Transport for London. Lets add 10% and round it up to £13 as a lot of people would. If I make 2 journeys a week that’s only an extra £3. But over a year it would add up to an extra £150. But that’s just for one person, what about everyone else? If you have 1,000 staff doing the same thing – that’s an extra £150,000 per year!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every employee is a fraudster. The vast majority are hard-working, trustworthy and honest. But often people don’t even think twice about it because it’s just ‘what everyone does’. So whilst it’s win-win for the employee and the taxi driver it can actually amount to a big loss for the company.

In case you’re wondering my answer was of course ‘no’ and I got the cabbie to write me a proper receipt. He said he didn’t take credit cards because there was no benefit to him and it just increased his costs (at which point I felt a longer tirade coming on so had to make my excuses!)

Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about the black cab fraternity but it’s a nice example of how exposed businesses are to a bit of ‘embellishment’ of cash expenses. The sooner we get widespread contactless payments the better. And to be honest my cabbie had a point. If contactless payments are going to replace low-value cash spend then the banking industry really needs to address these charges.