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Taxes and the eBay Seller

Here is a great article by Kristine A. McKinley a CPA and a Certified Financial Planner. I always get questions from eBay sellers about paying taxes on their eBay earnings. The simple answer to the question is that if you sell on eBay and make over $400 in eBay profits –yes you have to pay taxes. Read Kristine's article for more detail and to understand the rules.

 Are You Required to Report your eBay Earnings?

Many people ask me if they are required to report the profits they earn on items they sell on eBay. The answer is "yes".

If you sell items on eBay for a profit, then you should report your eBay sales, and you may owe income taxes on any profits. It doesn't matter if it's just a hobby or if you are trying to build a business.

Generally, any income you receive from all sources is subject to income tax unless it is specifically exempt by law (hint: eBay profits are not exempt by law). That means that a lot of activities that you might not think of as taxable, such as garage sale income, gambling winnings, and yes – eBay profits – are taxable.

You must file a tax return if your net earnings from self employment are $400 or more. You are self employed if you carry on a trade or business for profit. If you are selling on eBay with the intent of making a profit, then you are self employed.

To report your earnings, you should file Form 1040, and attach Schedule C or C-EZ. Schedule C is used to calculate your net profit or loss from your business, which is then reported on your Form 1040.

At this point, you may be thinking "I don't run a business; I just sell on eBay as a hobby". Unfortunately, income from hobbies is taxable as well. Even worse, you can only deduct expenses up to your hobby income, which means losses are not deductible.

There are several tax advantages to selling on eBay. Personal expenses, such as the use of your car, home or computer may become partially deductible, retirement savings plans can shelter part of your eBay income from taxes, and you may be able to hire your family to help shift income to members in a lower tax bracket. So even if you only sell a few items on eBay, not only are you required to report your eBay earnings, it may even help you reduce your income taxes by taking advantage of tax opportunities available only to small business owners.

Finally, there is a common misconception that if you did not receive a 1099 or W-2, you are not required to report your income. This is not true. All income is reportable, regardless of whether you receive a form or not. EBay is only a facilitator of the auction; therefore you will not receive a 1099 from eBay reporting your sales.

Kristine A. McKinley, CPA, Certified Financial Planner®, and founder of Beacon Financial Advisors, teaches individuals and families how to invest and plan for retirement, college, and other financial goals. Kristine offers financial and tax planning on an hourly, fee-only basis.


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