Tax & admin · 26 October 2017

Airbnb and eBay users making “on the side” cash urged to come clean to HMRC

Chiang Mai, Thailand - September 4, 2016: Apple iPhone 6s plus with Airbnb application on the screen. Airbnb is a website for people to list, find, and rent lodging.
The average Airbnb host earns around £3,000 per year through the platform

UK residents making a regular income through platforms like Airbnb and eBay have been urged to consider whether they are required to submit self-assessment tax returns to HMRC, or else risk instant financial penalties.

It was recently predicted that the typical Airbnb host in Britain earns around £3,000 per year through the platform, hosting for an average 36 nights. Since summer 2016, the UK’s community of Airbnb user has increased by 80 per cent.

Now, accounting software provider FreeAgent has warned that Airbnb hosts – as well as those using platforms like eBay and Gumtree to regularly sell goods – could face a run-in with HMRC if they do not declare their income via self-assessment.

If people are considered to be earning a regular income through the sharing economy or an “on the side” business – meeting HMRC’s “badges of trade” qualifications – and do not register for self-assessment as soon as possible, they could face an instant £100 fine and risk further penalties for outstanding tax payments.

Revealed: HMRC’s ten most ridiculous self-assessment tax expense claims

In the previous tax year, 840,000 people – 14 per cent of all UK tax payers – failed to submit their self-assessment return before the deadline on January 31 2017. The deadline falls on the same day in 2018, and those running a side business have been urged to register with HMRC as soon as possible.

Commenting on the rise of such side businesses, Ed Molyneux, FreeAgent co-founder and CEO, said: “It’s important to remember that it’s not just people who run their own established business who need to submit a tax return.”

“With the rise of the sharing economy and the increase in the number people making regular sales on sites like eBay and Gumtree – as well as renting out property on Airbnb – many people are making money outwith their usual work,” Molyneux explained.

“Therefore, HMRC looks at a range of factors to determine whether a person is ‘trading’ or not and whether they need to pay tax on that income.”

HMRC has recently updated its nine “badges of trade” guidelines, outlining when it defines something as a business income.

  1. Aiming to make a profit
  2. Regular transactions that suggest “a trade”
  3. The nature of what you are selling
  4. Existence of a similar trade
  5. Changing an item, i.e repairing a car for sale at a profit
  6. How the sale was made, i.e. Amazon more likely to be used for business than eBay
  7. Where the money came from to buy the item, i.e. borrowing money would indicate a trade
  8. How quickly the item was sold after buying
  9. How you acquired the item, i.e. inherited goods from a family member would not indicate a trade

Molyneux added: “Many people in the UK may be currently unaware that they actually have to file a self-assessment tax return, so it’s vital that everyone checks whether the money they make is taxable income or not.

“By reviewing any ‘on the side’ cash you accumulate against HMRC’s badges of trade, you’ll be able to tell whether you need to register for self-assessment and file a tax return – and avoid any nasty surprises from the taxman in the future.”

Going to miss the self-assessment deadline? Find out the excuses you will need

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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