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UK Taxman Targets E-Bay Traders

by Robert Lee,, London

01 October 2004

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, the Inland Revenue is preparing to pay a visit to the UK headquarters of the world’s most lucrative online auction site, e-Bay, to ensure that its many millions of regular users are brought into the tax net.

E-Bay has been phenomenally successful since its launch in 1995. With sites in 29 counties, global sales exceed $100 billion.

The site allows just about anybody anywhere to register free and sell just about anything they like, from an ex-partner’s record collection to sporting memorabilia. For example, David Beckham’s miscued penalty kick in the recent Euro tournament found its way into the arms of one enterprising fan who then sold the ball for GBP18,000.

It is more the scale of transactions taking place on e-Bay that is becoming worrisome for the tax man, and the Revenue is concerned that many traders are not declaring trading income for tax purposes.

E-Bay estimates that 430,000 people earn their living by using its global sites, with 10,000 businesses geared to e-Bay in the UK. An astonishing £1 billion worth of cars and vehicle parts is expected to be sold through the site this year alone.

"We are acutely aware of the risks internet trading pose to the Exchequer," a senior Government official told The Sunday Telegraph.

“It is something we are actively looking at. We are looking very much at individuals whether they are trading in cars, motorbikes or Britney Spears' bathwater,” the official quipped.

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