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You can't hide online

Traders who profit from selling goods and services online have been warned to come clean about their tax affairs.

Martyn Bramwell, from Dyke Yaxley Chartered Accountants, in Shrewsbury, said HM Revenue and Customs were currently offering an amnesty for e-traders to get their tax matters in order.

"Their campaign is targeted at people who are trading online through e-marketplaces such as eBay and PayPal - often referred to as online auction sites or online markets.

"This isn't about selling a few personal items after a clear-out, but about people who are trying to make a real profit by selling items wholesale, or who are making goods to sell online."

But Martyn said the opportunity to tell HMRC about any previously undisclosed income and any outstanding tax would soon come to a close.

"In order to take up their generous terms, any online sellers must tell HMRC that they want to take advantage of the e-markets disclosure facility by 14 June at the very latest.

"And once that deadline has passed, there will be no more opportunities to come clean and anyone who has failed to come forward will face a tough clampdown by HMRC officials."

Martyn said anyone struggling to decide whether they were using the e-markets for purely personal use or whether their activities were considered commercial should ask for professional help.

"Don't be concerned if you sell a few personal items online every now and again - your're not the target of this campaign.

"But if you are trading commercially online, ask for help in order to get your tax right and so avoid the penalties a clampdown will bring."

He said sellers should also be aware that they would be unable to hide behind a log-in address that seemed to protect their real identity. 

"E-marketplaces such as eBay and PayPal are now required to hand over addresses of sellers to HMRC, so there really is no place to hide.

"It's better to come forward voluntarily than to wait for the HMRC team to track you down, as it's clear their punishments will be severe and could have wide-ranging consequences."

Dyke Yaxley's Martyn Bramwell