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Australian Gov't Asks eBay To Name Big Sellers

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the fishing-expedition dept.

Australia 215

beaverdownunder writes "In an effort to combat fraudulent claims lodged within its Centrelink welfare-payment agency, the Australian Government has asked auction-site eBay to name all Aussies who sold more than $20,000 worth of goods in the last year. Should someone be found to have been doing such a high-volume of business on eBay while claiming Centrelink benefits but not declaring that income, they could potentially face prosecution. However, the president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O'Gorman, says this action is a gross invasion of privacy. 'What we say should happen is that if police have probable cause for investigating someone, they go to a magistrate, they get a warrant and they access that person's eBay records that way,' he said."

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I see no problem with this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40335765)

I sold a few hundred in text books that felt like a part time job. $20k is no joke.

Re:I see no problem with this (2)

ezweave (584517) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336211)

The point is not that they shouldn't pay taxes, the point is that there are already avenues in place to get this information. I think it should be illegal for governments to demand private information from eBay or etsy or the like without having a reason to investigate.

Re:I see no problem with this (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336553)

The government can ask for whatever they like, which is what they are doing. It sounds like it is completely up to Ebay to cooperate or not: they aren't "demanding" the names. If they start forcing Ebay to cooperate, that would be a little different. Also, the fact they are publicizing this is a good thing, rather than simply asking behind the scenes.

Re:I see no problem with this (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337005)

And the government may sensibly require ebay to turn over records of anyone selling over 20k or whatever it is on their service. Just as the government can demand your employer turn over your salary information. Ebay isn't your employer, but if you're moving that much money with them there's probably a good case for 'self reporting of income' to require ebay to verify all of it, which means they'd have to dump the data to the government. That might (probably does) mean new laws. But there's nothing particularly wrong with new laws.

That doesn't mean the income is necessarily taxable either. Or at least 20k isn't taxable.

I don't know how it should be illegal for the government to get this information. Really ebay could be obliged to report *all* sales to the government as part of doing business wherever they are.

Re:I see no problem with this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337309)

Taxation thing aside, isn't Centrelink like their welfare? If people are moving tens of thousands in product over ebay, it's worth knowing if they're scamming the Aussie welfare system while making enough that they don't need it.

Re:I see no problem with this (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337077)

And those books probably cost you several thousand, so you had a loss. You had no taxable income.

Re:I see no problem with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337729)

The government seems to think it has the right to tax every single time money changes hands. I disagree with this, however I find it hard to define which instances of money changing hands should be taxed.

I'm fairly certain my definition would include more than just "selling an item for more than I bought it for", but I'm willing to hear you make your case as to why that should be the sole deciding factor.

Re:I see no problem with this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337205)

The problem is doing it carte blanche instead of obtaining a warrant to do so when you have probable cause.

Non-Australians take note (3, Informative)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337725)

A quick note for non-Australians, Centrelink is the agency that distributes Australian pensions and unemployment benefits. This has NOTHING to do with tax at this point although I'm sure the ATO (Australian Taxation Office, our IRS) will get interested if Centrelink catches any welfare cheats.

I don't see the outrage (3, Insightful)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335771)

I guess I just think people should pay their taxes. If I make over 20,000 dollars, my employer reports me. Not sure why other people should get away with it because they're selling stuff on E-Bay. It's not really an invasion of privacy. They didn't ask for what people were selling, just if they made over a certain amount of money selling stuff. And it's not like their looking for some people who sold one or two trinkets. 20,000 is a lot of income you're trying to hide.

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

6ULDV8 (226100) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335811)

eBay also has the right to say "not without due process" as it applies to the jurisdiction.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336427)

IANAL.

In some countries that works much simpler: eBay would have to divulge the names on the first request, because otherwise it would be helping criminals.

In few countries, sites like eBay obliged by law to report all transactions to the tax agency.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337187)

Only if they have a nexus there. Otherwise the country could demand the ISPs cut ebay off. But, beyond that Ebay is under no obligation to cooperate with a foreign govt.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337929)

Only if they have a nexus there. Otherwise the country could demand the ISPs cut ebay off. But, beyond that Ebay is under no obligation to cooperate with a foreign govt.

Except the obligation that they don't like being shot. Oh sure, they'll go through "channels" first, but ultimately, it's about not being shot.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337537)

otherwise it would be helping criminals.

Yes, that would be unspeakable. And in Australia, of all places!

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335853)

Yeah, inclined to agree. I'm no more of a fan of government intrusion into more areas of life than the next guy, but as an Australian taxpayer I also want to see the welfare using our tax dollars on those who are genuinely needy (given than most government benefits in this country are means-tested). This is no different than the dodgy guy down the road claiming Centrelink benefits without declaring his job, or claiming for non-existent children etc.

$20k seems like a reasonable threshold too, though perhaps you'd want to also add a minimum number of items threshold as well (someone turning over many items to make $20k can probably be said to be a 'business on the side', whereas someone who just does a one-off sale of something expensive, say a car, and who isn't likely to use Ebay much on an on-going basis, is a different story).

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336043)

And somebody who sells something like a car is probably taking a loss on it and isn't technically "making" money. They'd have to figure out the value of the asset before it would really qualify as breaking the welfare rules.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336195)

Not true - in the case of the 20k it is report-able income and the 25k value of the car is the lost value showing 5k in losses for the year meaning you wouldn't pay any taxes on the 20k because you didn't actually make money.

Here int he US if you have contractors or deal with people the company is supposed to send you a 1099 if they paid you X amount as they also will write off X amount as expenses so they don't pay taxes on it but rather you do.

In this case it would make sense for Ebay to be reporting 1099's (i know this is AU and not US but use the ideas not the names) and the individual would file them with their taxes just like anyone else.

I understand and agree with what they are trying to do, my bet is there is a better way of doing it via the existing tax laws than to make new laws for specialty cases.

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337111)

Shouldn't they just be auditing the people applying for welfare, rather than tracking the financial activity of the entire financial population?

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337595)

Is the expression "bludging bastards" still in common use down there?

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337771)

Is the expression "bludging bastards" still in common use down there?

Only by gutter journalists who like to create headlines rather than report them... oh, and ignorant dickheads. Seriously, like any country we have some fair dinkum idiots down here. :)

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335899)

One issue is, there's no way this info stays with the welfare folks. It's going to go to the tax revenue folks as well. And the drug folks to see if anyone is selling paraphernalia. And half a dozen other agencies.

The way modern governments and law have developed, you're pretty much guaranteed to be breaking some law.

But directly to DP's point, if there's evidence or reasonable suspicion someone is breaking the law, and the government goes after that person, that's not necessarily an invasion of privacy.

But this kind of fishing expedition is pretty much by definition an invasion of privacy.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2, Insightful)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337355)

Oh no, criminals might get caught! What an issue!

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337535)

I'll reiterate my idea from another post above. If the government wants to do a fishing expedition for ONLY welfare cheats, and we want to keep them from fishing for lots of other info and harassing other people at the same time, it's easy to do. Have Ebay compile a list of records of all the people selling over $10k or $20k or whatever; each record has the person's name, ID number, etc., enough to make them uniquely identifiable. Make a cryptographic hash of every record. Then have the government do the same for all their welfare recipients. Then compare the hashes; this will identify people who are common to both groups; Ebay can then hand over the information for those people, without revealing anything else.

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335907)

The problem is that Ebay is not pure income. I didn't sell anywhere near $20,000 last year... more like $5000. But that's NOT really profit. The $5000 of used games/books/video originally cost me ~$7000 to acquire. So the net profit is negative income (a loss). I'd still be entitled to collect welfare or unemployment checks.

I would expect the tax agency to understand that basic principle, but I suspect they are more motivated by the desire to pay-off their budget deficit and will scew a lot of innocent people in the process..... people who are selling-off their possessions in order to survive unemployment, and actually losing money in the process. (Like my cousin who sold-off his $20,000 motorcycle for $10,000 just so he could buy food.)

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336155)

The problem is that Ebay is not pure income. I didn't sell anywhere near $20,000 last year...

Right, so you file paper work with the government explaining what you spent, just like every other law abiding citizen. They are looking for tax and welfare cheats. Are you so anti-government that you approve of tax cheats?

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336329)

Are you so pro-government that you approve normal citizens doing their (government) job at their (citizens) expense?

It's up to the government to be able to correctly tax their citizens.

Your approach is like "you own me heavy money, unless you take the burden of proving you don't".

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Informative)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336467)

People have made this argument, and the courts have soundly rejected it. Otherwise every employer would save all the compliance and reporting costs related to reporting salaries and bonuses to IRS. All businesses would like to take the stand, "I would not maintain any records and would not provide anything till you get a court warrant". It is the duty of every citizen to cooperate with the government to catch the tax dodgers and free loaders.

You are probably a free loader and hate the ability of the government to find evidence of your tax dodging.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337597)

You are probably a free loader and hate the ability of the government to find evidence of your tax dodging.

Nothing the grandparent even remotely suggested that, and you know it. Strawman arguments are lies.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337255)

Are you prepared to supply the government with documents for every purchase and sale you make? Since that's what they'd need if they wanted to track the profit you make on these auctions.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337815)

Are you so pro-government that you approve normal citizens doing their (government) job at their (citizens) expense?

It's up to the government to be able to correctly tax their citizens.

Your approach is like "you own me heavy money, unless you take the burden of proving you don't".

Unfortunately in Australia, that's the standard model. The citizen does the paperwork and the government audits at random and/or it warrants an audit.

Re:I don't see the outrage (-1, Flamebait)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336453)

I think the government should stop hassling the little people and going after the Megacorps/banks that owe billions or even trillions in backtaxes. (But of course the government never does that, because the politicians are corporatists... bought and paid for. The politicians only go after the citizens, not the real billion-dollar thieves.)

Example: Warren Buffett. He owes over a trillion in taxes over the last decade, but do we see President Obama going after him? No. They act like best friends and Obama praises Buffett for creating the "Buffett rule" to be passed in Congress.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336809)

[citation needed]

No, really, please provide me the information that corroborates your wild accusations. Are there tax loopholes that large corporations are able to step through in order to avoid paying taxes? Sure, but to state that these same corps owe back taxes, and that someone like Warren Buffett owes a trillion in back taxes is just plain, pants on head, count to potato dumb.

So, like I said,

[citation needed]

PS: A decent citation, not some nutjob tinfoil-hat leftist commie hippie crap website that also claims 9/11 was an inside job. Keep links like that to yourself.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337971)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/29/warren-buffett-taxes-berkshire-hathaway_n_941099.html [huffingtonpost.com]

It's actually 1 billion not 1 trillion (oops). Still my point stands: The politicians let guys him & other megacorps go slide w/o consequences, but instead go after us who owe just 0.0001% as much. Why? Because the rich & corporations buy immunity.

Corporations that paid zero taxes:
http://www.alternet.org/economy/150387/2_3rds_of_us_corporations_pay_zero_federal_taxes%3A_us_uncut_movement_builds_to_make_them_pay_up [alternet.org]

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336475)

I didn't sell anywhere near $20,000 last year... more like $5000. But that's NOT really profit. The $5000 of used games/books/video originally cost me ~$7000 to acquire. So the net profit is negative income (a loss).

And if you tried to insure them, would their insured worth be $7,000?
If you didn't sell them, could you use them as the equivalent of $7,000 to purchase other goods, pay bills, etc.?
If you lost them, would you save up of $7,000 in order to regain your existing current wealth?
If you had to buy them again in the condition you left them in, would it cost you $7,000?

I guess if your tax system allows such tax shenanigans, you should certainly exploit it.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336843)

I didn't sell anywhere near $20,000 last year... more like $5000. But that's NOT really profit. The $5000 of used games/books/video originally cost me ~$7000 to acquire. So the net profit is negative income (a loss).

I guess if your tax system allows such tax shenanigans, you should certainly exploit it.

It's not tax shenanigans. Inventory cost $7k, sold for $5k, it's a $2k loss, so obviously no tax paid on it. The revenue agency would probably want proof (or be able to ask for proof anytime in the next ~7 years) of the original price paid though.

A business can even get tax deductions over the life of an asset from Capital Depreciation [wikipedia.org] . When the asset is finally sold, unless it's sold for more than the accountants estimated it would end up being worth again there's no tax.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336847)

If I insured such a thing, I'd get enough insurance to replace them new, which would probably be more than I paid the first time for such things.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337845)

i assume that you reported to centerlink that you had at least $5000 worth of assets when you applied for the payment, right?

Re:I don't see the outrage (4, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335933)

But! But! This is on the Internet! None of the meatspace rules are supposed to apply here!

Bullcrap. Avoiding sales tax across state lines in the US dates back to Sears Roebuck and even makes some sort of sense. But the idea of somehow being beyond the law just because of the Internet is barmy. eBay is involved in the transaction as a broker. Here in the U.S. they should be forced into at least filing a Form 1099 or something, getting the state taxes comes back to the same problem as sales tax. And I'm sure Austrailia has a similar procedure to report income for non-employee contactor/consignment/etc sitautions. The actual story here is that they haven't been reporting this sort of income for years. Sounds like they need a knot yanked in their asses.

I'm a conservative with so many libertarian leanings I's switch if the LP wasn't overrun with Idiotarian Libertarians who seem to only care about being worse surrender monkeys than than Dems and legalizing weed. But there must be taxes and nobody gets a pass on paying them. How high should the rates be I'll be happy to argue; too damned high! But ya gotta pay something. And to be raking in $20K+ free and clear while suckling at the public teat is right out.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336365)

I am not obligated to pay California or any other foreign tax, because I don't live there and do not have representation in their government to make my voice heard. (i.e. That I think 9% tax is nuts.) I only have to pay tax to the governments where I have representation.

When I ordered some stuff from the UK, the store tried to scam me into paying VAT. Naturally I refused. I have no voice in the Parliament, and therefore have no reason to pay them a tax.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336693)

Paying tax doesn't give you a voice.

That's a complete nonsense argument.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337231)

Paying tax doesn't give you a voice.

That's a complete nonsense argument.

Umm.... Absolutely it does. Every heard of this little thing called the United States and a little thing called a Revolutionary War?

Now if I visit somewhere else I am subject to their taxation as for the business I do there. However, if I am in Indiana Canada or New York has no power to tax me. Otherwise it would be taxation without representation.

Re:I don't see the outrage (3, Informative)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337193)

Um... If you travel to california you are obliged to pay sales taxes in california. Whether you can vote there is completely irrelevant. Governments have no particular obligation to give anyone representation. Nor does paying taxes give you any guarantee of representation, (ask juveniles or anyone living in Washington D.C. if you're confused by this).

When you were doing business with a UK retailer you tried to scam them out of VAT tax. They *have* to pay VAT taxes on the stuff they bought and they add to the VAT at each step. You can file a claim with the *government* after if you are exempt from VAT, but the retailer is obliged by law to collect it, otherwise it comes out of their pocket. I don't know for sure about the UK but Ireland has some sort of VAT reduction thing for tourists where you can get some of the VAT you paid back.

Also, your one line assertion that 9% taxes are nuts is childishly foolish. Different areas tax in different ways. There's nothing particularly nuts about a 25% sales tax or a 1% sales tax. What matters is total government taxation, and who bears the burden.

VAT by the way isn't sales tax. It seem like it. But it isn't. It's a value added tax. At each step of the production process tax is added based on the value added at that step. Talk about an administrative nightmare. I'm not suggesting it's a good or efficient system (although it certainly has its advantages), but it's not a sales tax.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337453)

But do you still expect California police to stop strangers from beating you up in the street before killing you when you visit the state?

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

WoodstockJeff (568111) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336395)

"Here in the U.S. they should be forced into at least filing a Form 1099 or something, getting the state taxes comes back to the same problem as sales tax."

But... eBay isn't GIVING the seller any money. They are CHARGING the seller for their service. Why should they file any tax forms on the seller? It is the buyer that would, potentially, issue the tax document, not eBay.

And how can they say the winning bid amount was the final sale amount, anyway? Let's say I put in a winning bid of $600 on a used Widget. I arrive at the seller's location with $600 in hand... And the Widget is damaged in a way that wasn't known/documented. The seller and I agree to a reduced price of $450. Or, I discover that he has a complete set of the accessories for said Widget, and buy $1200 worth of stuff from him, in addition to the Widget. eBay doesn't know any of that.

Even neglecting the privacy issues, it's a flawed concept.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336619)

> But... eBay isn't GIVING the seller any money. They are CHARGING the seller for their service.

There is a consignment store/flea market across the street from where I work. If you put stuff in there for them to sell you can bet it will get reported. At least in theory.... we all know reality often differs, especially in a down economy... it isn't as bad as Greece yet. Explain why should eBay be different? Especially when you consider that for all practical intents and purposes 'eBay' == eBay + Paypal. So they are bringing buyer and seller together, charging fees AND processing the exchange of money.

As for your specific objections, selling for a different price than what was finalized on eBay is a violation of eBay policy and voids your transaction protection. Making an additional sale doesn't involve eBay but is of course still a taxable transaction even if it is unreasonable for eBay to be involved in reporting it.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336561)

I'm a conservative with so many libertarian leanings I's switch if the LP wasn't overrun with Idiotarian Libertarians who seem to only care about being worse surrender monkeys than than Dems and legalizing weed.

Actually laughed out loud at this, and that's an extreme rarity. Thanks.

--Jeremy

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336837)

Bzzzt. wrong. This is just as insane as a few years back Washington state revenuers wanting apartment owners, etc. to collect sales taxes on the washing machines, vending machines, etc., they might have in their apartment complexes, etc.

While right, as in the letter of the law, this is just inane stupid - stepping over a dollar (as in, all of the corporate and business taxes deferred or waived to keep "big businesses" in town) to pick up a dime.

Sure, it's annoying if the "welfare queens" have figured out an alternate revenue stream that they don't pay taxes on that boosts their standard of living just a little bit more than what they'd have without it. But, seriously, how many of them are really living the rock-and-roll lifestyle, though? Y'all should spend a couple of days living the life of someone on welfare. Or does it piss you off that much that they can now buy 6 Old English 800's and a couple of extra packs of cigarettes to suck down instead of one?

Geez. Talking about continuing to kick people when they're down, even if they're trying to pick themselves out of it, just a bit.

Re:I don't see the outrage (1, Flamebait)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337315)

> Y'all should spend a couple of days living the life of someone on welfare.

Why would I do that? I havta work, millions on welfare depend on me. :) Seriously, it does piss me off when I'm in the checkout line in Walmart behind people buying food I can't afford (snow crab!?!) and they whip out the ol Louisiana Purchase card. I'm buying Sam's Choice and these clowns wouldn't dream of settling for a store brand. Because they don't have to.

And it isn't anything new. My first job was bagging groceries way back in the late '70s and it was just as bad then. Loading up the trunk/bed of new Lincolns, Caddies and F100 Pickups (as in temp plates) with stuff I certainly didn't get to eat growing up as poor but not on the dole. But I was certainly 'rich' enough to be 'paying my fair share' to help fund that bull crap according to my pay stub.

Re:I don't see the outrage (2)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335995)

So if my neighbor is cheating on his taxes, why should the government have my transaction records for ebay?

It would be no different than reading everyone's e-mails because they're "sure" someone is a terrorist.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336167)

does that mean you make money sending emails? if so, why are you not reporting it to the tax man?

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337269)

Except that everyone has to pay taxes. If you've even had 1 dollar in taxable income via ebay sales and didn't report it you're cheating on your taxes too. The government right now only cares if you did enough ebay sales that you have enough income for it to be worth looking into. But if they believe it worth the effort they could demand ebay turn over *all* transaction records and dig through those to figure out how much taxable income is there. That would seem like a nightmare of a problem though (because they wouldn't have records of expenses from ebay). 20k is a somewhat arbitrary crossover point where they figure its worth looking into.

Now australia might have laws (I'm not an aussie I have no idea) about sales of 'garage sale' type situations where any profits you might get are not considered income up to a point. But if you exceed that amount by one dollar you're obliged to report the dollar as income. There's no reason to treat ebay differently.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336489)

but if you made over 500k (even in AUD), you've probably got all sorts of other quasi-legal options for you to avoid paying taxes, no? Yet you are worried about the poor schmucks on welfare "not paying their fair share"?

Hmm...

Re:I don't see the outrage (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337043)

The catch would be that 20k in sales on ebay isn't 20k in taxable income. If you spent 19k to buy stuff you sold for 20k, and spent 500 dollars in shipping your taxable income is only 500 dollars (or at least, would be in some places).

But ya, the point is sound. You shouldn't be able to launder money through ebay, if you have enough ebay sales it starts becoming a commission/sales job, and needs to be reported as income. The problem is that you're self reporting the price you paid for things still (before reselling them), unless you bought them on ebay initially.

It might be that the 20k figure is too high or too low. I wouldn't be surprised if thats the point where they figure you've probably moved enough money that there's *some* taxable income there worth looking at.

Re:I don't see the outrage (0)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337475)

$20,000 on ebay isn't income. It's revenue. There's a big difference.

If I sell a bunch of stuff on Ebay, the government has no right to force me to pay income taxes on that. They don't make businesses pay taxes on their revenues. Why? It's simple: if the business sells $1M worth of stuff, but it cost them $900k to make that stuff, then they only have $100k of profit. So they only have to pay tax on $100k, not $1M. (Aside: it's pretty sad that I have to explain such basic things here on Slashdot, but I guess this is the state of education these days.)

Similarly, if I sell $20k worth of used crap on Ebay, where do you think all that stuff came from? Unless I stole it, I had to pay money at some point to buy those things in order to resell them. If the stuff is used, then it's possible there's zero profit involved, and I'm actually selling it at a loss. It depends on if it's stuff I bought new and used myself, or if I'm a used equipment reseller; if the latter, then $20k really isn't that much, and only represents probably a few $k in profits, certainly not enough to be an income; if you're looking for income tax cheats, then you need to set the bar much higher than $20k. And if it's the former, you're probably looking at someone or a business that's selling off some of their old expensive equipment, and $20k isn't much here either, as one or two pieces of specialized equipment can get that much money on the used market.

If poor people making extra income on Ebay (selling used stuff in quantities not high enough to be a decent income by itself, but in conjunction with welfare it comes out to be a lot), I have a proposal: cryptography. Have the government make a list of records of every person on their welfare roles, including name and ID number or some other unique identifying information. Make a hash of all those records. Have Ebay do the same for everyone in Australia selling over $Xk per year. Compare the list of hashes to find matches, and then Ebay only supplies those peoples' information. That way, everyone else's privacy is maintained, and the government only gets a list of people who are on the welfare rolls, and doesn't get a lot more information along with it.

big ears on my piggy makes me SQUEAL! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40335795)

pig head enema

Ill bite (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40335809)

Paypal is required by law to report transaction volumes to the IRS as potential income in US. Why cant the australian gov. just do that? You cant take payment by check/mo on ebay anymore so all transactions are electronically traceable. If joe welfare is taking public money and selling large volume on ebay isnt he guilty of both tax evasion and welfare fraud? This seems like more of a job of whatever tax collecting agency Australia uses.

Re:Ill bite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336557)

"Paypal is required by law to report transaction volumes to the IRS as potential income in US. Why cant the australian gov. just do that? You cant take payment by check/mo on ebay anymore so all transactions are electronically traceable."

You mean my John.Doe@mailinator.com account that feeds my Cayman islands credit card?

"Sold More Than $20,000 worth" != Made $20,000 (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335815)

You have to take into consideration overhead costs, product purchases, and other various retail related expenses.

Not that I'm defending the practice, just pointing out facts.

Re:"Sold More Than $20,000 worth" != Made $20,000 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40335831)

You have to take into consideration overhead costs, product purchases, and other various retail related expenses.

  Not that I'm defending the practice, just pointing out facts.

you do that on the tax forums.

Re:"Sold More Than $20,000 worth" != Made $20,000 (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337283)

ya, 20k is probably the point where the government has decided you're doing enough business that this counts as business and needs to be treated as such. Whether 20k is arbitrary or calculated in some way I don't know though.

wow, common sense! (4, Insightful)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335845)

if you suspect someone, you get a warrant, not a list of XX people who made more than YYY. Why should ebay do the cops job? now remember that ebay is in probably 95% of the countries on the planet. Why should ebay do the polices job in over 200 countries?

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335969)

For the same reason your bank reports to the IRS any transaction over 10,000

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336035)

the bank != ebay I dont give ebay my money to hold onto and act as my keeper. I pay ebay for a service, It is up to me to do the right thing and thats how it should be. It is beyond unreasonable to expect ebay to be able to do what is being asked here, and will obviously be asked from other governments if they say yes without driving up their cost, and in turn driving up our fees.

Re:wow, common sense! (2)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336091)

No but Paypal (owned by Ebay and used for most Ebay transactions) IS legally a bank in most countries, including Australia...

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336131)

Actually I shouldn't have blurted that out ... I was sure I had read they were governed by banking regulations in Australia, but I can't find a cite for that right now. I did confirm though that:

- It's NOT considered a bank in the US; and
- It IS considered a bank in most European countries.

Australia tends to be more EUish than USish when it comes to banking regulations, but I can't find anything definitive on this either way. Hmmm...

Re:wow, common sense! (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337931)

It's incredibly difficult to become a 'bank' in Australia due to the way our laws are structured. Most financial institutions are treated as credit unions or financial services funds.

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336171)

ok, than why are they not going after paypal for transaction history instead of ebay for the top sellers history? wouldnt going after paypal for transaction history be a little bit more on the most people will be ok with it because it is a bank? not abusing a private company to spend money of its own to do the work that generally a warrant is needed to obtain?

Re:wow, common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336151)

You perform financial transactions with both your bank and ebay, on which both of them make money. It's not really different. You just want to weasel out of a little scrutiny.

Hmm, what are you hiding?

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336245)

Hmm, what are you hiding?

says the AC

I make financial transactions with burger king when i buy a burger, should burger king be required to report the people who buy more than 100 burgers a year?

Re:wow, common sense! (2)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336397)

Your life insurance and TPD company would be most interested!

Re:wow, common sense! (2)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336339)

Hmm, what are you hiding?

My privacy.

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336685)

I guess my privacy is also being invaded when my employer sends my W2 into the IRS. Hasn't ever bothered me much though.

The simple fact of the matter is that there's some shit you have to put up with when you live in a civilized society. Giving details of your finances to the government is one such thing. Doesn't seem unreasonable to me, because without the government, there'd be no transactions in dollars to report.

--Jeremy

Re:wow, common sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40337281)

I guess my privacy is also being invaded when my employer sends my W2 into the IRS. Hasn't ever bothered me much though.

The simple fact of the matter is that there's some shit you have to put up with when you live in a civilized society. Giving details of your finances to the government is one such thing. Doesn't seem unreasonable to me, because without the government, there'd be no transactions in dollars to report.

--Jeremy

Hmm... The U.S. wasn't a civilized society before 1913 (income tax) or 1940s (withholding)?

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336491)

You walk into a car dealership and try to buy a car costing over $10000 by paying cash. The feds would be on to you before you leave the lot. The car dealerships and many other businesses are required to report any transaction more than a threshold. How did the feds get Eliot Spitzer?

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336735)

I bought a $12,000 car with cash and no feds were ever directly involved. I had to sign a couple of forms and that's about it, one of which was an acknowledgement that the transaction was being reported.

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337213)

Very good. But the law requires the businesses to make you fill a form and make them report the transaction. Nothing more burdensome is asked for in the e-bay case. Why is there an expectation of privacy there?

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40337397)

Because when I buy a car from a dealership, I'm paying them more than $10,000. When I pay for eBay's auction service, it costs much less than that. If eBay were to start selling cars rather than just providing a marketplace, then they would have to report large transactions too.

Imagine a car dealership in a shopping mall (some of these do exist). Part of the lease agreement is that the mall management gets some fraction of the stores revenue. Asking eBay to report large transactions is a little like asking the mall management to report large transactions through one of their tenants.

Re:wow, common sense! (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336615)

now remember that ebay is in probably 95% of the countries on the planet.

So? Are you implying that because a corporation is multinational, they shouldn't have to comply with each individual country's (in this case, proposed) legislation because it's difficult?

Why should ebay do the polices job in over 200 countries?

For the same reason my contract employers have to fill out IRS paperwork when they pay me.

-Jeremy

Income reporting is not violation of privacy. (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335871)

All employers are required to report salaries and bonuses paid to their employees. All businesses are required to submit detailed reports of their sales and maintain documentation for auditing. All wholesales, retailers and everyone is required to maintain clean accounting of their counterparties and submit them while being audited. Just because the commerce happens over the internet does not give you additional rights or additional expectations of privacy.

Re:Income reporting is not violation of privacy. (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336499)

Income reporting is not violation of privacy you say? Maybe in Australia.

In USA all employers become de-facto uwilling agents of the IRS, since the employers are forced to collect and report data, as well as collect money and transfer them directly to the government without any judicial review?

Why is private property being collected from innocent civilians, confiscated and provided to the government exactly?

( at least in USA ) income taxes are illegal and are collected illegally. [slashdot.org]

Re:Income reporting is not violation of privacy. (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336749)

When you sell something through eBay, you don't get paid by eBay, you are paid by the seller. In fact, you pay eBay.

Cart Meet Horse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40335885)

How do you get probable cause for tax evasion without looking at financial records?

You could argue that the person's observed life style is in excess of their declared income but that could still be an invasion of privacy unless you get a warrant. You end up having to get a warrant to gather the evidence to get a warrant to gather evidence to ..... . Reductio ad absurdum.

I would bet that employer's in Australia are required to let the government know what they are paying their employees. This is effectively the same thing only the "employer" is E-Bay.

Re:Cart Meet Horse (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335937)

except you are paying ebay, ebay isnt paying you, therefore the "ebay is the employeer" aspect shouldnt hold up although IANAL

Get a warrant (5, Insightful)

Novogrudok (2486718) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335913)

My opinion is that anybody who has a turnover of $20K a year on eBay should mention this on their tax returns. If they did not make a profit, chances are they do not have to pay any additional tax (depending on local laws).

However, "pro-active reporting" or policing should not be done by eBay. If the Revenue Office or the police have suspicions about a particular person -- they should get a warrant to get data from eBay, just like Terry O'Gorman says.

Income reporting (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40335959)

I don't know what it's like in Oz, but here in the US if you have any sort of income via salary, investments, pensions and yes even selling goods on EBay it gets reported to the IRS on various types of forms generally 1099 or W2 something or another.

One thing to keep in mind is even if the Ebay income is reported on a 1099 to the IRS, that income isn't necessarily profit that you have to pay taxes on. Ebay fees, shipping costs, the costs associated with the acquisition of the items etc all count against the income. And the fact is few people really make any profit on Ebay.

I really don't consider this an unusual invasion of privacy. It part and parcel of the normal invasion of privacy needed to run the system of anal rape known as income tax. Since the US Constitution was amended to enable that many years ago, Congress has the power to write laws to enable it. There isn't much you can do about it except move to someplace that doesn't do that.

Re:Income reporting (1)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336371)

It part and parcel of the normal invasion of privacy needed to run the system of anal rape known as income tax. Since the US Constitution was amended to enable that many years ago, Congress has the power to write laws to enable it. There isn't much you can do about it except move to someplace that doesn't do that.

As Eduardo Saverin did?

Re:Income reporting (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336785)

When you sell something through eBay, you don't get paid by eBay, you have to pay eBay.

to the irs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40335973)

I thought ebay already reports sales to the IRS? or was that only PayPal? If they report to the IRS, no reason they shouldn't just dump all the relevant data to the Australian equivalent and let them sort it out however they want.

Dear Centerlink (2)

sidevans (66118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336019)

I sell more stuff on gumtree than ebay, and there's no electronic transaction record, and they pay cash, and its free...

Enjoy the red tape shit fight

Regards
A Taxpayer

Seems like a PayPal problem... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336025)

The problem I think is more with PayPal than eBay, the Australian Taxation Office can look into an Australian bank account at will because it is tied to the Australian Tax File Number (TFN). This is a legal requirement of operating as a bank in Australia. PayPal as far as I am aware does not have an Australian banking license, and hence is not required to bind the TFN to the PayPal account. The .au government just needs to force PayPal to acquire a banking license to operate in Australia. I think that would also give Australian users of PayPal the much needed legal protections that they have with their regular bank accounts.

Government Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336077)

If the government is giving this money to these people, they have the option of doing background searches and requiring bank records to prove the level of income of the individual requesting the funds. If they choose to not do that, they can't go after them after the fact unless they do have probable cause.

The crap I had to go through to prove my income before getting support for my child when he was born was insane. They needed all my bank accounts listed as well as the last 3 months of statements from all of them. All my credit liabilities, and a dozen other things.

If they saw income over 28k I wouldn't have gotten assistance. Simple as that.

US started tracking big sellers in 2011 (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336095)

[Internet] companies have to issue a 1099-K for people sell 200 transactions or over $20,000.

abo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336119)

If you're living off of the taxpayers, you deserve no privacy. It's supposed to help you get back on your feet, not let you be a society-draining welfare queen.

Jump on board United States (0)

adosch (1397357) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336127)

I am all for this type of exposure, not because I believe in total abiding. The issue I share with the Aussies is that people in this world as leeches to society. I know people who claim unemployment, get food stamps, state assistance, have nothig in their name, file for bankruptcy with a bunch of toys under their possession, etc. and are "professional sellers" on eBay, all the while shuffling funds to their PayPal account from the bank. It's pathetic and I feel no shame on ousting garage like that to lessen the debt on taxpayers like myself.

Re:Jump on board United States (3, Insightful)

Cimexus (1355033) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336173)

Unfortunately the real cheats will simply open multiple Ebay accounts and make sure they only sell $19,999 or less on each one per financial year ;)

Re:Jump on board United States (1)

Lisias (447563) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336469)

You right.

For every complex problem, there's a solution that is simple. AND WRONG.

Brazil's government is happy on finding simple solutions for taxing. And almost every one of them just hits the honest citizen, because the dishonest ones already came with a (simple!) workaround.

Taxes in Brazil is paid only for the honest citizens - the government just can't reach the dishonest ones.

not surprising (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40336137)

given that some centrelink employees are running their ebay business while they are at work

pot?
kettle?
black?

fix your own backyard first centrelink

Why not provide eBay the addresses? (0)

ace37 (2302468) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336555)

Why not take this the other direction and have the government get it legal with the courts or whoever and then provide eBay a list of welfare payees or addresses they want to cross check? All the government needs to do is figure out what data they actually need before making the request and get it stamped--nothing hard there. Then privacy is protected, and the government gets only the data they intend to investigate.

Re:Why not provide eBay the addresses? (4, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 2 years ago | (#40336763)

Wait, did you really just say that giving eBay, a private multinational company, the names and addresses of Australian welfare recipients doesn't infringe privacy? Imagine you're an Australian welfare recipient who doesn't even use eBay. Do you still think your statement is true?

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