HMRC Target Online Sellers Red-Flagging Thousands

More than 4,600 online sellers have been red-flagged to marketplaces for tax evasion during the last two years, HMRC has said. As a result, many sellers have had their online stores deleted.

The red flags, known as Joint and Several Liability (JSL) notices, were introduced in 2016 to protect British businesses from being undercut by overseas sellers committing VAT evasion.

HMRC sends notices to online marketplaces when it finds a seller using its platform not paying the correct VAT. If the seller is not removed from the site, the marketplace will be pursued themselves for any future unpaid VAT by those sellers.

Since the rules were brought in, HMRC has sent thousands of JSL notices to online marketplaces and seen over £200m of extra VAT being declared by these overseas sellers.

During the same period, the number of applications for VAT registration by overseas businesses grew to 58,000. This compares with just 1,650 applications between 2015 and 2016.

Emma Jones, founder of small business support network Enterprise Nation, commented: “These rules protect the hundreds of thousands of legitimate sellers who are simply trying to run a business via online marketplaces, we give it our full support.”

Online marketplaces are required by law to check if overseas sellers should be registered for VAT and, if so, that the VAT number displayed is valid. If they don’t, marketplaces can be liable for any tax owed to HMRC by these sellers.

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