Do HMRC contact Private Sellers through eBay?

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We’ve long suspected that the HMRC e-marketplaces campaign simply scraped Business Sellers’ contact details from eBay, which is why we’d not heard from a single eBay user registered as a Private Seller who had received one of the tens of thousands of letters sent out.

Today we have heard of our first Private Seller on eBay who appears to have been contacted, but it’s all a bit strange. An eBay account with the User ID was registered on the 14th of June this year and sent the following message to an eBay user:

Good morning,
Could you please contact HM Revenue & Customs on 0845 300 0627.

(8.00 am to 8.00 pm, Monday to Friday
8.00 am to 4.00 pm Saturday).

To discuss the income tax incurred by yourself from the sale of goods from on Ebay.

Please quote enquiry.(UK/EBAY/11X/1XX/111)* in any correspondence.

– hmrcinspector
*Reference number anonymised

We have a number of concerns here at Tamebay. There’s nothing to establish whether this is actually a legitimate message from HMRC, or if it’s simply mischief making by another eBay user. We don’t have access to the back end of eBay so we don’t know the user email or registered address. We’d also love to get a sneaky look at eBay’s back end to see how many eBay messages have been sent from the hmrcinspector account but again only eBay have access to that information.

If this was a legitimate tactic by HMRC to contact suspected tax dodgers (and there’s nothing to say that the seller in question hasn’t fully paid their dues), we would have expected at the very least for there to be an eBay About Me page with full HMRC contact details so that you could verify it was legitimate.

We’d also have expected HMRC to request permission from eBay before using their site to contact eBay’s customers. Why has there been no announcement either from HMRC (or from eBay) saying that some sellers may have legitimate communications though eBay’s messaging system. If nothing else then HMRC should have confirmed with eBay that they’re not breaking the user agreement which clearly says “ (unsolicited commercial communications)” and “You may not use our communication tools to send spam”.

Of course if this is a hoax then the implications are serious for the perpetrator. HMRC say they reserve Criminal Investigation “for cases where HMRC needs to send a strong deterrent message” which includes “the impersonation of HMRC officials“. That’s a criminal matter with possible jail time and not a civil prosecution with a fine.

We’ll let you know if we hear whether this is legitimate of if it is a hoax. If it’s a hoax then hopefully appropriate steps will be taken. If it’s legitimate then top marks to HMRC for attempting to tax businesses masquerading as Private Sellers, but they need to ensure that their communications are unquestionably authentic.

15 Responses

  1. haha, I wonder who has the job of sending the message to every buyer they suspect. Im not aware of any systems that would allow bulk mailing?

    also as stated, this is probably in breach of ebay’s rules so I wonder how long it takes ebay to ‘ban’ them.

  2. .
    This is also encouraging a ‘transaction’ off ebay, Perpetrated by site communications, Ha, ha.

  3. It would appear that they initially registered as h.m.r.c.inspector but changed to hmrcinspector the same day.

    A change of name takes this from a possible reckless act to a deliberate and intentional act and if genuine no problem, but if a scam then heads should roll.

  4. my first thoughts that it has to be a hoax, though if the recent letter thing from HMRC is the standard WHO knows ?

  5. I think it’s a (sad) hoax. I struggle to believe they’d create an eBay account, for starters!

  6. 100% certain this is a wind-up, the HMRC aren’t that inventive and I’m certain they would have more info on eBay to back it up too.

    Might copy it and send to one of my “private seller” competitors though, you know the one with over 4,000 feedbacks…

  7. I believe this is a hoax.

    HMRC swooping upon all ebay private sellers using just 1 ebay id?

    It’s not feasable for every employee of HMRC charged with finding tax dodgers to have access to this single ebay user id.

    Each area has it’s own local Tax Office to deal with people exclusively in that area. I don’t think they would all come together under one id to tackle such a massive place as ebay.

    If I were the seller who received this message I would be worried that someone was out to cause mischeif and not in a nice way….

    I presume they have asked ebay for advice as to it’s validity or to report a bogus official…..

  8. “To discuss the income tax incurred by yourself from the sale of goods from on Ebay.”

    This is not HMRC language, it makes no sense. It’s an obvious hoax, and not even a good one.

  9. The English looks like its been written by a five year old

    Quote “From on Ebay”

    Hoax 100%

  10. It seems from comments left that the majority think this is just a hoax. Maybe it is, but I would like to know what eBay intend doing about it.

    Trust and safety wakey, wakey job to do!

  11. Here’s what @HMRCgovUK said:

    “@wholesaleforums HMRC does not have any accounts registered on any e-marketplace sites and wouldn’t make contact using this method…”

    eBay HMRC is definitely a fake then.


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