My barber accepts only cash or checks made out to "Cash".

Is there a likely legitimate reason she might want the checks made out to "Cash"? Or am I helping her hide her revenue from the IRS?

  • 11
    You know what's even more useful and less traceable than a check made to 'cash' for someone who wants to do tax evasion? Someone paying in actual cash. Yet many people are comfortable paying cash at many businesses anyway, oddly enough... – fennec Jun 20 '12 at 16:30
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    I had this problem recently. My lawn care guy INSISTS on his checks made to cash when he has a business name on his truck, and his cards. He has left angry voice mails because I won't write them to cash. I won't call him again as this makes me very uncomfortable. He's not some high school kid. There only 70 others companies that will do for us. – user7339 Oct 5 '12 at 17:07
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    If the business owner is hiding money from the IRS or whomever, do you care? The government can cast a wide net at times, but it's hard to imagine they'd prosecute you for paying in cash on the grounds that you, what, should have known that the business was not reporting the income? Are they going to prosecute everyone who uses cash? Or do you feel that it is your civic duty to prevent businesses from under-reporting income? – Jay May 21 '14 at 18:35

There are legitimate reasons:

  • She is a sole proprietor, and doesn't want to give out her last name.
  • She doesn't participate in the banking system for various reasons, and hands the check to a third party.
  • She may have had an unpleasant audit experience with the tax authorities and wants to maintain a smaller record footprint.
  • She may have an abusive spouse or some other personal situation where she values her anonymity.

I wouldn't jump the gun and assume that this person is avoiding taxes, etc. Barbers are usually licensed professions. Since it's generally a cash business, they tend to get audited more often by the tax authorities.

That said, I wouldn't pay her with a check -- you have no idea who is actually cashing the check, and you could run into issues with unknown third parties misusing your account information.

  • 5
    Sole prop isn't a good enough reason; it's easy enough to register a trade name, ie "Bill's Barber Shop", and take checks made it to the business. – Benjamin Chambers Jun 24 '12 at 20:18
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    @BenjaminChambers Perhaps not for you, but it is the vendor's prerogative. As a customer, you have the option to go to another barber or pay cash. – duffbeer703 Jun 28 '12 at 15:55
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    Based on further conversations with the barber, it turns out she's paranoid about one world government taking over with electronic currency. I think she's more afraid of Big Brother than the tax man. – Jeremy Stein Jan 30 '13 at 14:17
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    @BenjaminChambers I see the OP found out the actual reason, but regardless: In at least some states you have to pay a fee to register a business name. Here in Michigan I think I had to pay $50; in Ohio it was, I think, $200. In some states you are legally required to register any business name but in others not, or it can depend on circumstances. Just because someone had business cards printed doesn't mean they registered the name with the state. Etc. – Jay May 21 '14 at 18:40
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    @BenjaminChambers - Here (Illinois), you can register a business (sole proprietor, partnership) with the state for $0, but the county wants you to also register with them and pay a fee, and also publish a notice in the newspaper for (I believe) 3 weeks. This could be $100 or perhaps considerably more depending on which newspaper is used. I would imagine that this (County) registration process and fees might vary widely for different counties, and other states might charge a fee as well. – Kevin Fegan Jun 22 '15 at 3:44

There are benefits associated with a cash only business (the link states a few). However checks made out to "cash" don't reap those benefits listed. For anyone on SE to say your barber hides revenue from the IRS would just be speculation.

With that said there are a great number of disadvantages for a cash only business. And from my experience, a business that goes out of their way to take cash only can be a little suspicious. Luckily you are not committing any crimes or fraud by paying her cash.

  • 2
    check made out to "cash" is not cash, its an untraceable check. There's no direct link between the payer and the payee in the paper trail. The only reason to insist on it is because the payee doesn't want the paper trail link, and that cannot be for a good reason. – littleadv Jun 20 '12 at 4:10
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    It could also be because he does not want the hassle of depositing the check and waiting for money to turn up in the bank account. For small business cash in hand is more worth than in Bank – Dheer Jun 20 '12 at 8:15
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    @littleadv thats not entirely true. The check has the payer's routing and account number on it. The payee might also have to provide id or a thumb print to cash the check, at the very least the check cashing place can have a security camera. – Kirill Fuchs Jun 20 '12 at 12:42
  • Anyone could cash the check and give the money to anyone else. – littleadv Jun 20 '12 at 17:12

To put a positive spin on the whole thing, maybe it's a small family shop, and having the check made out to "cash" means that your barber can hand it to someone else without the need to countersign.

Or maybe his last name is "Cash" - there was a pretty famous singer who fit that description.

Either way, it's not your place to nanny his finances.

  • 3
    - but it could be the OP's place to keep away from a possible shady enterprise and avoid being caught up in a rip-off or investigation. (Not that I think this is such a situation, but the poster is a party to the dealings and does have the right to ask questions) – MrChrister Jun 20 '12 at 16:11
  • @MrChrister - that is a good point, too :) – warren Jun 21 '12 at 15:05
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    Up vote for the observation that the barber's last name could be "Cash". While unlikely, it is a relevant point in the context of this question. I say that because the IRS (we hope!) would be evaluating from the viewpoint of BIG data, where otherwise vanishingly probable scenarios become worthy of consideration. – Ellie Kesselman Aug 31 '12 at 13:12
  • @FeralOink .. and speaking of "Big Data" - there's a proposal on Area51 – warren Aug 31 '12 at 14:39

They're hiding income.

The IRS is a likely candidate for who they are hiding it from but not the only option.

Another possibility that comes to mind is someone who had a judgment against them--a check made out to "cash" could be handled by someone else and thus not ever appear in their bank accounts.


If the business owner doesn't want you to pay him directly, the only reason I can think of is breaking a law. It can be because the business doesn't legally exists, or because the barber wants to evade taxes, or because he doesn't pay his child support or doesn't want his income to be apparent to his debtors in a bankruptcy proceedings.

Either way, stinks.

  • 1
    Or because the person you're paying is stealing from the actual owner of the business... – user10061 May 17 '13 at 2:38

protected by MrChrister May 17 '13 at 5:21

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