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eBay sellers targeted in HMRC crackdown

31 July 2015 - 12:33 by Graham Miller

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Gizmodo and a number of other media outlets have jumped on the news that HMRC is increasing the amount of attention it pays to undeclared earnings people make to supplement their incomes. They point out that people who use eBay and other online marketplaces to sell items for cash could come under scrutiny.

In a paper published by the tax authority last week, it is pointed out that the annual cost of people who make money from a variety of ventures of this kind without declaring it could be almost £6 billion, which at a time of government cuts, is a significant sum missing from the public purse.

It is necessary to point out that HMRC does not go so far as to point out specific projects which might allow people to make money in the digital realm, without revealing it in their tax returns. But as well as marketplaces like eBay, there have been suggestions that apps and services including AirBnB will also be impacted.

The ability to sell items to others via a site that provides a secure place to carry out safe shopping online is something that millions of Brits enjoy using. But while some people may sell the odd item here or there, there are others who make their living by using eBay and its competitors.

AirBnB is a much more recent phenomenon, with people renting out their homes to travellers for nightly fees. And HMRC could well be stamping out the idea that people can use their current accommodation to make cash, without also declaring that they have done so.

Quite how effective any campaign it mounts to counteract people who do not make HMRC fully aware of their tax affairs remains to be seen, but the high profile nature of the sites being mentioned could cause a change, as people look to legitimise the way they use safe shopping online.