Tax Tips for Online Auction Sellers

By | May 27, 2009

An online business comes with many tax breaks, but it also comes with some tax responsibilities. There have been recent reports about the interest of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in taxpayers with offshore bank accounts. The IRS’ interest, however, extends beyond offshore bank accounts. The IRS reminds you to report your worldwide income including online auctions sales to foreign customers on your U.S. tax return and lists the possible consequences of hiding income overseas.

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, you must report income from all sources within and outside of the U.S. This is true whether or not you receive a Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement, a Form 1099 (Information Return) or the foreign equivalents. See Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income (PDF) for more information.


Tax Tips for Online Auction Sellers

Online Garage Sales
If your online auction sales are the Internet equivalent of an occasional garage or yard sale, you generally do not have to report the sales. In a garage sale, you generally sell household items you purchased over the years and used personally. If you paid more for the items than you sell them for, the sales are not reportable. Losses on personal use property are not deductible, either. However, see Sales of Appreciated Assets at an Online Auction for gain reporting.

Home-Based Online Auction Seller Businesses
If your online garage sale develops into a business and/or you have recurring sales and are purchasing items for resale with the intention of making a profit; you may have started an online auction business.

Online Auction Sales Trade or Business
If you are operating a viable online auction seller business you may be entitled to deduct business expenses. Do you have an established business and you are augmenting your sales with online auction sales? Then, remember to include the online auction sales in your business income. View an IRS video on Business Income or read a transcript of the video.

Sales of Appreciated Assets at an Online Auction
Examples of appreciated assets often include art, antiques and collectibles. If you have online auction sales of property where the sales price is more than your cost or other basis, you usually will have a reportable gain. These gains may be business income or capital gains.

Sales of Depreciated Business Assets
If you sell business assets or close your business you may have capital gains, ordinary gains and depreciation recapture to report. An example is the sale of an automobile used for business.

For tax information if you sell or close your online business view the IRS video entitled Closing a Business or read the transcript online.

Some promoters are targeting home-based businesses including online auction sellers for abusive tax schemes.


Sales Tax and Online Auctions

Sales tax should be collected on your eBay sales if the state you live in charges a sales tax. You need to collect sales tax only from buyers that reside in the same state. You do not have to collect sales tax from buyers that live in other states. Each state has its own set of goods that are exempt from sales tax. For example, there is no sales tax on food. Some states also exempt certain types of sales transactions such as garage sales. Be sure to check with your state’s sales tax authority for more information. When you purchase items for resale using a seller’s permit, you don’t pay sales tax on that purchase. However, when you sell the items, you need to collect sales tax. Depending on your sales volume, the collected sales tax must be paid to your state’s sales tax authority on a bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.


References/Related Topics for Tax Tips and Online Auction Sales

Online Auction Sellers
Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home
Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, & Car Expenses
Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business
Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

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