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When does selling on ebay become a business?

08 November 2017 ( 25 March 2020 )

How can you tell when selling items on ebay is classed as trading by the taxman? When does raising a bit of extra cash become a business?

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When does selling on online auction sites become a business?

If you are a regular seller on ebay or other online auction websites, how do you know at which point your selling becomes a business in the eyes of the taxman?

Helpfully, HMRC has outlined a number of so-called ‘badges of trade’, so you can work out for yourself where you stand as an online trader:

1. Is there an intention to make a profit (although that alone will not determine trading status)?

2. Also taken into consideration will be the number of transactions, with frequent transactions likely to indicate trade.

3. Have the item or items being sold have been refurbished or modified, to make them more valuable in a sale?

4. Was money borrowed to buy the items being sold, so that the only way to repay the debt is to sell the items?

5. If the items are put up for sale quickly after acquisition, as items held short term are more likely to have been acquired for the purposes of trade.

6. Were the items acquired as gifts or by inheritance? In this case, this would make them unlikely to be items of trade in the eyes of HMRC.

7. Income tax would be payable only if the seller made profits – after deducting allowable expenses – and these profits, when added to other income, exceed the seller's personal tax allowance. But the seller should be aware that even if they don't need to pay income tax, they might need to pay other taxes, such as national insurance and VAT.

There’s more information on the taxes a trader must pay and how to register as a trader at

How to avoid getting scammed on ebay


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.