Online privacy shaken by HMRC crackdown

Online privacy shaken by HMRC crackdown

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It’s hard to imagine a time when we weren’t being monitored in this security conscious society. And when it comes to our online security and privacy, we want it to be just that, secure and private.

Although very annoying, you’re probably used to those ever popular marketing tactics of targeted ads and ‘site re-targeting’, where items you were viewing at a previous site just magically appear on a current site you’re browsing. These tactics may seem like you’re being monitored, but most sites track previous users anonymously, so there’s little to fear in terms of your privacy. But there is something else you should be aware of when you make your next sale on certain sites.

Did you know, in September last year HM Revenue and Customs very quietly acquired powers to essentially view your online activity on marketplace websites? No? Well this ‘under the radar’ move from HMRC now means they will have extensive access to collect “bulk” information from such sites as Etsy, eBay, and Airbnb.

Under this new law, the taxman can pretty much force these sites to hand over information regarding their sellers. This can include names, addresses, email, phone numbers to more sensitive information like bank account details and the volume and value of transactions made.

online privacy

Don’t panic just yet! As a part time hobbyist who sells the odd piece of clothing or furniture online for a bit of money, rest assured, you’re not being targeted. The experts say the taxman is primarily concerned with those sellers who are regularly making profits or run successful businesses and who warrant investigation.

The point of HMRC ‘stepping up’ their data collection is that there needs to be a crackdown on tax evasion. It’s all well and good having an eBay or Etsy shop, but if you’re making a regular profit on what you sell every month, then you should be classed as a business and pay tax accordingly.

In a Sharing Economy, it has been popularised to trade goods and services online to earn some extra cash as an individual seller, and with the launch of Facebook Marketplace in October last year, it couldn’t be any easier to sell online. But if you are earning anything above £10,600 then you must pay 20% tax. The tax implications of selling items online is certainly something that could easily be forgotten, as it has become so quick and easy to sell on auction sites, or rent that empty spare room you have on AirBnB.

Last year, around 870,000 people — including people making small sums online — failed to submit self-assessment returns before the January 31 deadline. The number for 2017 is expected to top a million.


…to those who are looking to embark selling online using these platforms or if you are already an active seller, make sure you read the rules and comply, as the taxman is now watching.

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