How Does eBay Affect my Taxes?

eBay taxes
Paypal issues a 1099K in some situations.. Getty Images

eBay is like any other business, if you earn money doing it you need to report those earnings to the IRS. Unlike side hustles that pay cash like pet sitting, selling items on Craigslist, selling plasma, shoveling snow, or cutting lawns, eBay sales are trackable through Paypal. When it comes time to file taxes, always consult a licensed tax professional for tax advice. Here is what you need to know about eBay and taxes, and a few ways to stay organized so that when tax time rolls around, you won't be scrambling to find the correct documentation to file.

How Does the IRS Know What I Sold on eBay?

They don't. The government has no way of seeing what you sold on eBay, or how much your sales were. They cannot see your sales reports or access your account. If you $20,000 or more was deposited into your Paypal account within 200 transactions for a calendar year, you will receive a 1099K. According to the IRS:

"Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions, is an IRS information return used to report certain payment transactions to improve voluntary tax compliance.  You should receive Form 1099-K by January 31st if, in the prior calendar year, you received payments:

  • from payment card transactions (e.g., debit, credit or stored-value cards), and/or
  • in settlement of third-party payment network transactions above the minimum reporting thresholds of –
    • gross payments that exceed $20,000, AND
    • more than 200 such transactions"

You will not receive a 1099K unless both conditions, $20,000 gross payments AND more than 200 transactions are met.

This presents the next question.

Do I Have to Report Gross Sales Less than $20,000?

According to the IRS, if you only sell occasionally and your online sales are equivalent to a physical garage sale, you do not have to report gross sales. Examples of this would include selling children's outgrown clothing or toys a couple of times a year, having moving sales as you downsize your possessions, or selling items as an online estate sale after a loved one has passed.

There are a few conditions to help you determine if your eBay business is an actual business or a hobby:

  • If you are intentionally purchasing items for resale this is considered a business and you should report gross sales.
  • If you are selling items online on a regular basis, you should report the earnings.

Benefits of Reporting eBay as a Business

If you are in the category of running an eBay business rather than a hobby seller, it is imperative to keep good records so that you can deduct expenses. For the layperson, this means that you can subtract expenses related to your business to bring down your taxable income, resulting in paying lower income taxes. If you spend money on your business, keep receipts, and even better, record expenses in a spreadsheet monthly so that tax time isn't confusing or overwhelming. This is the perfect spreadsheet for eBay sellers

According to the IRS, examples of expenses that may be deductible include:

  • Inventory costs
  • Inventory storage systems such as bins, tubs, or cabinets
  • Office supplies such as tape, printer ink, cleaning supplies
  • Mannequin or dress form
  • Laundry products, stain removers, lint rollers
  • Shipping supplies including boxes, plastic bags, bubble wrap
  • Mileage when sourcing or going to post office
  • Educational materials including eBooks, courses, books, or DVDs
  • Professional services (accountant, attorney)
  • Professional organizations
  • Storage unit rental fees
  • Subscriptions for services such as Terapeak, InkFrog, or Stamps.com
  • Coaching or mentoring
  • Advertising such as business cards, Facebook ads, or local newspaper ads
  • Computers
  • Office furniture 
  • Repair costs such as computer or printer repair
  • Travel to trade shows, seminars, or business events
  • Bank service charges
  • Sponsorships

If you do not have an accountant or CPA, it is best to search for one that comes recommended by someone you trust. Don't just rush to the closest tax professional chain or the company who has set up shop in Walmart. Taxes are serious business and you are hiring a professional to do an important job for you. Do your homework and interview several tax professionals before turning your business over to them,

Ask around on Facebook for recommendations, or ask other small business owners in your area about their CPA. Small business owners are usually eager to help other out and when it comes to professional references. Look on Yelp for reviews or check Angie's List. Make sure you hire an experienced reputable professional. Audits are a nightmare, you don't ever want one!

*Disclosure: This is not tax advice. Always consult a licensed tax professional for tax advice.

Updated on August 6, 2016 by Suzanne A. Wells.

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