eBay sellers get one week warning

Ebay signPaul Sakuma/AP/Press Association Images

If you sell regularly on eBay the taxman has issued a final warning that you desperately need to get your tax affairs in order in the next week, or there is a serious risk you will be hauled up before HMRC and made to pay a small fortune in tax and penalties.

So who needs to worry about this particular crackdown, and what should they do?


HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is running a series of crackdowns on different kinds of traders that it doesn't believe have paid the proper tax. It has announced that it is all set to launch one to catch out eBay sellers who are breaking the rules.

The campaign is aimed at people using online marketplaces, who are not up to date with their taxes. Online marketplace traders who come forward between now and 14 June to register their intention to take part in the campaign can benefit from lower penalties than those who HMRC catches up with.

Last month, HMRC wrote to more than 30,000 people trading on the internet to let them know about the crackdown. It has now said that another 100,000 people could also be in the firing line.

Taking a chance

There are plenty who know all about the crackdown, but are hoping to escape unnoticed. However, Marian Wilson, head of HMRC Campaigns, warned: "If you owe tax and don't get in contact, do not assume that HMRC will not catch up with you soon. It's better to come to us before we come to you."

If you don't come forward, there's every chance that you will have to pay a fine that is equal to the sum of cash outstanding. In some cases there could be criminal proceedings.

If you do own up in the next week, then you will still have to pay the tax and there may still be penalties, but they will be significantly lower than the ones for people who are caught out later, and are likely to be no more than 10% of the tax outstanding.

More than £510 million has been raised by HMRC from voluntary disclosures during campaigns launched so far against offshore investments, medical professionals, plumbers, VAT defaulters, coaches and tutors, and electricians. A further £125 million has been raised from from follow-up activity. There have been more than 18,000 investigations, with a further 4,600 still ongoing.

The good news

This crackdown isn't going to hit absolutely anyone who has bought or sold anything online. People who sell only a few personal items are unlikely to be liable to pay tax on what they sell, and are not being targeted by this campaign.

If you are unsure whether your e-marketplace activity could be seen as trading can visit HMRC's website and can watch a YouTube video for advice.

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