Know the tax rules for selling online

Selling items on eBay and other online auction Web sites has become a very popular way to get rid of unwanted household stuff, as well as a way to turn a little profit. Many users have even started full-time businesses auctioning merchandise on the Web. But like any business venture, selling items in the virtual world has tax implications that are all too real.

From a tax standpoint, casual selling on eBay is essentially the same as holding a garage sale. If you sell an item for less than you paid for it, you cannot deduct the loss. When you sell something for a profit, however, you must report it on your tax return. Long-term gains on the sale of collectibles, such as artwork, antiques, or rare coins, are taxed by as much as 28%.

Profit is the difference between the selling price and your “basis” in the item. In most cases, basis is simply the amount you paid for it. Inherited items generally have a basis equal to their fair market value at the time of receipt. If the basis cannot be documented, it becomes zero, and you pay tax on the entire selling price.

Online selling activity can reach the point where it is deemed to be a business venture. Status as a for-profit eBay business versus a casual online seller is not clearly defined. Factors considered by the IRS include the amount of time you spend selling online and whether you conduct yourself like other self-employed business owners, such as keeping accounting records and advertising your services.

The good news is that if you are treated as a business, you can deduct expenses related to your selling activity. The downside to business status is that profits from selling online may be subject to self-employment tax. What’s more, depending on where you live, you may have to deal with sales taxes.

Taxpayers who operate like a business, but rarely show a profit, may be treated as hobbyists. In this scenario, losses can only be deducted to the extent of gains.

Whether you are an infrequent user of online auction sites, or an all-out eBay business owner, you cannot afford to ignore the tax implications of selling online. For the details you need to avoid tax problems, call our office today.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today’s small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it.

Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission.

Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations.

She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.

This entry was posted in Business, IRS Articles, Tax and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply