HMRC interest in eBay sellers of bullion and jewellery.

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HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), employ specialist officers who work in the "backroom".

As far as the eBay bullion market is concerned, the "specialist" refers to use of knowledge and experience gained in the jewellery and bullion markets and they are responsible for successfully prosecuting a range of complex cases from VAT and duty evasion on imported precious-metal products to plain tax evasion through failure to declare revenue from the sale of raw and worked precious-metal products. Jewellers are of particular interest due to the many opportunities available for irregular dealing, but coin dealers and bullion dealers are not unwatched!

An important part of HMRC's work is the detection of suppliers of counterfeit and forged currency, and the creation of "network maps" is usually the key to the uncovering and liquidation of the source. (Note well that counterfeits, fakes or forgeries are NOT the same as copies or replicas. The former are intended to deceive whilst the latter are not.)

eBay is a great place for HMRC to quietly conduct successful searches for such suppliers, and their clients - it's a little-known fact that buyers of fake coins and some copies or replicas, are usually added to the interest list and a watch kept in case of future sale of said item without declaring it to potential buyers as a fake item.

Please remember that if you supply a coin or note that you know, (or even believe), to be counterfeit or fake, (as opposed to a clearly marked or stated copy), you are concurrently committing several actions which may render you liable to criminal prosecution with strict penalties imposed upon conviction, including imprisonment.

This is also the case if you misrepresent the metal composition or falsely describe it; so if you knowingly sell a base metal item as silver, for example,  or knowingly describe 9 carat gold as "solid gold", (in fact, it only contains 9 parts gold to 15 parts other metal, so it's not solid), or pass off or falsify a hallmark, then you would be rendering yourself liable to prosecution.

There is an interesting loophole: if the item concerned does not exactly copy the original item, then it may not be regarded as a counterfeit as long as the difference between it and the original was obvious. So for example, if someone sells a Queen Victoria Sovereign dated 1920, this could not be a counterfeit because by then, Queen Victoria was long dead and such coins never existed. However, this does not allow sellers to be complacent, because other laws forbid the passing off of items as originals and the 1920 QV Sovereign would obviously be defined as a fake whilst the fact that it was still passed off as a Sovereign would also be illegal.

It's a complex area, so it's always better to play safe and sell genuine items at a fair price.

As you may have noticed, eBay have recently started requiring business traders to register as such. This is because of the risk to eBay of being prosecuted for aiding and abetting a range of infringements of the law if they continued to fail to take action to identify the growing number of business sellers evading both their responsibilities and the payment of tax by posing as private individuals. If you sell a lot of scrap packets, jewellery, coins or bullion on eBay as a private individual, you are extremely likely to attract the attention of HMRC, often covert, sometimes overt! Complex software and computer systems allow HMRC to cross-reference dealer activities both on eBay and elsewhere.

HMRC also has a legal right to exchange information about any interesting individual with other agencies and organisations, such as the immigration service, benefits agency, local authorities and even banks for example. Many people forget that the "R" in HMRC stands for "REVENUE", (or "tax man" in simple English!). So if you're a seller on benefits of any kind, especially incapacity benefit, your activities will probably also be of interest to HMRC.

As a business seller, you have an obligation to state clearly on eBay, within one page of a selling page, your company name, address and contact details.

HMRC powers are wide-ranging and have recently been augmented to allow a more effective fight against such sellers. Businesses selling as individuals, and failing to declare that trading to HMRC, run the risk of being charged with tax evasion, money laundering and, in extreme cases, assisting terrorism.

Enjoy your eBay and .... BE GOOD, BE HONEST!

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