Online Traders with Unpaid Tax Offered Amnesty via Twitter Q and A

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is breaking new ground by hosting a Twitter Q&A on Tuesday, 28th March for retailers selling through online marketplaces who have unpaid tax or are unsure about whether they should pay tax on their earnings.

The eMarkets Disclosure Facility campaign is the latest in a series by HMRC targeting sectors where the tax take is thought to be lower than it should be. It offers an amnesty to businesses that voluntarily disclose information about untaxed earnings.

According to an HMRC spokesman, some £35 billion in tax goes unpaid each year in the UK. Plumbers, accountants, doctors, dentists and self-employed tutors have already been targeted. (See Tradespeople Urged to Declare Unpaid Taxes and Pay Reduced Fine)

The campaigns have so far clawed back £500 million through voluntary disclosures and a further £105 million through follow-up activity, as well as leading to several arrests for tax evasion. The spokesman was keen to stress that they were not just targeting tax evaders, but clearing up “grey areas” by helping businesses understand their tax status and make payments correctly and on time.

In this case, they are targeting sellers who either deliberately evade tax or have started selling casually, but are in fact now running a business via online marketplaces such as eBay.

“If someone’s selling hundreds of things a week, then clearly that’s a business. We do hear people say ‘I’ve been selling for the last three months, but I hadn’t really thought about registering as a business to pay tax and now I don’t know what to do’,” he added.

The aim of the Q&A will be to answer tax-related questions and direct people to helpful sources of information. Retailers can take part by messaging HMRC’s Twitter account @HMRCgovuk between 3-4pm on Tuesday, 28 March.

Small businesses can also fill out an online notification form or call 0845 601 2944 with their name, address, National Insurance number and Unique Taxpayer Reference number.

Those that voluntarily disclose information about unpaid tax and arrange for full payment, including interest, by 14 September will benefit from either no penalty at all or a significantly reduced penalty.

Businesses failing to declare their earnings are at risk of an investigation by an expanded team at HMRC. These firms face penalties of up to 100 per cent of the tax owed and possible criminal prosecution.

“Our campaign is part of a wider HMRC initiative to provide support and guidance to the public on tax evasion,”

said HMRC’s head of campaigns Marian Wilson.

“Our aim is to make it easy for online traders to contact us and make a full disclosure of income, thereby putting their affairs in order.”

Find out more about the eMarkets Disclosure Facility and download the eMarkets Disclosure Facility PDF

If you sell through online marketplaces and are unsure about your tax status, HMRC has produced a guidance video HMRC e-marketplaces Campaign – Trading or Not Trading

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