Your eBay rights and responsibilities

As a buyer, you have some responsibility to make sure that the goods you're purchasing are being legally sold. eBay can't police all of its listings, so you may occasionally find pirated DVDs and software for sale. You lose your consumer rights when purchasing such items.

Many of us cheerfully sell the odd knick-knack on eBay without giving the legislative impact a second thought. However, as well as sticking to consumer law – and abiding by the Sale of Goods Act – you may have to give the Inland Revenue some consideration, too. Don't start worrying about it too soon, though: the law gives you quite a lot of leeway.

If you're only selling personal possessions without the intention of generating a profit, you're only liable to pay capital gains tax. Fortunately, you can sell up to £9,600 of your own bits and pieces before you have to let the taxman know about it. If you start to earn real money from your sales – especially if you're buying items specifically to sell on eBay – then you're a trader, and you will have to pay income tax.

According to UK tax law, you must inform the Inland Revenue that you've set up a business within three months of your launch date. If you're using eBay as a shopfront then you're definitely in business. From that point on, all of your income from the site beyond your personal allowance (£6,475 in the current tax year) will be subject to income tax.

You'll need to keep a complete record of all your earnings and your expenditure, including hosting payments and postal costs. If you expect your income to be more than £67,000, then you'll also have to register for VAT.

For a full guide to the ins and outs of your responsibilities, read the free lealet The No Nonsense Guide, which is available to download as a PDF document from BusinessLink here.

Whether you're a buyer or a seller, eBay is a mature platform with dispute resolution and security honed down to a fine art, and you should feel confident to buy and sell online with the law on your side.

If you can't find what you're after, check out four eBay alternatives below:

Madbid review
The Freecycle network review
Amazon Marketplace review
Ebid review

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First published in PC Plus Issue 281

Liked this? Then check out 10 killer apps for eBay buyers and sellers

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