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The Biggest Tax Mistake An eBay Seller Can Make!

March 4, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 291 Comments
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…is to register for VAT (Value Added Tax). Yes, registering as a VAT payer when you don’t have to is the single biggest VAT related mistake you can make as an eBay seller. Why? Because by doing that, you become less competitive on eBay’s marketplace where the majority of sellers are not VAT registered.

I know this may initially all sound too complicated and confusing so let’s cover the VAT registration process in detail, and both the advantages and disadvantages of becoming VAT registered.

The whole VAT system is quite complicated, with many exceptions and special rules. I won’t go into minute detail on every aspect of VAT now but if you want, you can read all the information about it on the HMRC website.

I’ll keep this blog post simple and straight to the point – so that you, as an eBay seller, get a clear idea on what VAT is and when you should apply for it.

VAT Rate Explained

The current standard VAT rate in the UK is 20% (as of 4th January 2011). There’s also a reduced rate of 5% applied to some specific goods and services (eg children’s car seats) and zero rated goods & services, such as children’s clothes. We’ll go into more detail on these exceptions in a minute.

The VAT rate is not fixed across all European Union countries so if your business is based outside of the UK, you will want to check your local authority’s website to find out the VAT rate in your country. For example in Ireland, the standard VAT rate is currently 23%, while in Luxemburg it’s just 15%.

When Should You Register for VAT?

You should register for VAT ONLY when you reach the “VAT threshold” and registration becomes mandatory, which currently stands at £77 000. The VAT threshold simply indicates the maximum turnover a business can have had over the last 12 months and still remain / work VAT free.

So for example:

If your turnover over the last 12 months is £50k, you don’t have to register for VAT.
If your turnover over the last 12 months is £80k, you do have to register for VAT.

IMPORTANT!!! If you go over this threshold only temporarily (due to a large, one-off sale, a Christmas promotion etc.) you can apply for exemption from registration. You’ll find more details and information about this on the HMRC website.

To put it simply, you must register when your 12 month turnover exceeds the VAT threshold which is £77k as of today (March, 2013). This figure change almost every year (it’s announced in the annual Budget), so make sure you keep up to date with the current rate.

Also this turnover INCLUDES goods that are ZERO VAT rated – so if you deal with zero rated goods, you HAVE to register for VAT when you go over that threshold. It’s mostly services that are zero rated but there are also a few products, here are some examples:

  • Equipment for disabled people
  • Books
  • Maps
  • Magazines
  • Baby wear
  • Children’s clothes and footwear
  • Cycling Helmets
  • And others…

You’ll find a full list here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/forms-rates/rates/goods-services.htm.

So if you’re dealing with these products, even partially, you will have to INCLUDE sales of these products in your total turnover.

You can of course register for VAT voluntarily at any time but you should really think twice before doing anything like this…

You Should Avoid Registering for VAT for as Long as Possible…

Because when you do, you’ll have to pay more tax, as simple as that. You’ll either have to raise your prices to make up the difference which will make you less competitive OR you’ll have to lower your profit margin to keep the same pricing as before. And it doesn’t matter how you look at this – when you register for VAT, you pay more tax, PERIOD!

That’s why it’s so crucial to stay away from VAT registration for as long as possible. Applying for VAT voluntarily may be the biggest mistake you ever make; it can simply kill your eBay business as in just one day you’ll become uncompetitive.

That’s not even considering additional accounting expenses, as when you become VAT registered; accounting becomes even more complicated than before… VAT returns quarterly or monthly based on your return + each transaction booked now comes with an additional, VAT, field.

I personally started outsourcing accounting completely from the day I become VAT registered as I simply don’t think it’s worth the hassle and time doing this for yourself.

So yes, being VAT registered you’ll also face more expense with accounting. Even online accounting software programs usually have Basic and VAT versions, where the latter is more expensive of course.

THE ONLY exception would be IF you’re selling ZERO VAT rated goods. In this case you’ll be able to get MORE in VAT you’re paying in your expenses than what you take in on sales (ZERO).

So if you’re selling ZERO RATED goods, you would benefit from VAT registration from day one when you start your business.

But Andrew, how about reclaiming VAT on purchases?

Yes, that’s true, when you become VAT registered, you’ll be able to claim VAT back on all business purchases you make. This will include VAT on items you purchase for re-sale, packaging supplies, eBay fees and other related expenses.

But here’s the thing most eBay sellers don’t realise – the amount of VAT you claim back on purchases will be LESS than you take in sales meaning at the end of the day you’ll pay the government EXTRA tax.

For example:

* You buy £1000 + VAT worth of goods in one month (£1200 in total). VAT paid – £200.
* Your other VAT reclaimable expenses for that month (packaging materials, fees etc.) are £240, so VAT part – £40.

So your total VAT for purchases for that month was £240.

Now let’s have a look at your sales:

* You sold all those items for £3000, VAT included.

* This means you took in from sales £500 in VAT.

In your VAT return it would look something like this:

VAT from sales (£500) MINUS VAT from purchases (£240) = £260

This means you would have to pay the government £260 pounds in tax for the last month of trading.

Does that sound like a good deal to you?

Of course not!

As if you were not VAT registered, you would NOT have to pay any of this.

What’s the solution?

Keep trading VAT free for as long as possible. If you temporarily go over the threshold, apply for an exception.

If you see that you are going over the threshold but only by a minimal amount (say £1k or £2k), it may actually be a good idea to reduce sales a bit, to stay just below the threshold. But do this ONLY if you know that you can’t make bigger progress and reach say £100k in sales next year.

In all other cases, you have no choice but to register for VAT when the time comes. At that stage (£77k turnover over the last 12 months) you should have built a solid business, selling profitable items with good margins, and have your own online presence. Then you can be more flexible with pricing and profit margins.

However it’s very difficult to survive when you’re VAT registered and sell ONLY on eBay, unless your margins are very good (like with unbranded products). You’ll essentially be competing with all the people who are not VAT registered and therefore at a competitive advantage to you.

I’m not saying it’s not possible, it definitely is (take me for example or any other large eBay sellers – they’re all VAT registered) – if you buy in true wholesale quantities  directly from manufacturers in China then you can still make profit on eBay even when VAT registered, it’s just more difficult.

To sum it up – stay away from VAT for as long as possible! As registering voluntarily really may be the biggest mistake you can make for your business!


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  1. If I do become VAT registered to I have to pay vat even if I dont go over 85k? I was considering it as a supplier will not deal with me without a VAT number.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Andrew,

      Yes, once you become VAT registered, you have to charge/pay VAT on all sales – no matter what is your turnover.


      1. Aaron Reese

        Not quite true…
        If both companies share a ‘significant’ controlling interest (i.e. same shareholders and/or directors) then HMRC can lift the ‘veil of incorporation’ and treat them as a single entity if they think that separate incorporations have been made to avoid VAT. The short answer is talk to your accountant.

  2. Hi Andrew

    Thank you for providing such a clear and helpful article on this subject. I’m not sure if you are still responding to questions but thought I would ask.

    I’m not above the VAT threshold of 85k and keep below this for all the reasons you have specified. I have an eBay business. There are occasions where buyers will return an item for a full refund. My question is whether refunds are also counted in the total turnover. I would assume that they weren’t but I’m not certain. If they were counted in the turnover it wouldn’t make sense as I will still sell the item, perhaps the following week and if they are counted then it would mean paying VAT twice on the same item if registered. Hope this makes sense.

    Kind Regards


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, of course, I’m still doing it! 🙂

      The answer to that question is complex and based on the accounting rules/system you run your business under. I’m afraid I can’t give you an answer here as there are too many variables. You should consult your accountant about this.


  3. Colin Mayhew

    Hi Andrew,
    interesting article. Definitely food for thought.

    Here’s my question. I have a web design business, just myself, no employees, and I’m also looking at starting an eBay based business, and running the two together. When deciding whether I have to register for VAT, will I have to add the turnover of both businesses together to arrive at the threshold figure or is each one business treated as a completely separate entity for VAT reg purposes?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Colin,

      If it’s the same company (same legal entity), you have to sum up turnover from both “divisions”.

      But of they’re two separate companies, you don’t have to sum turnover, no.


  4. Hi Andrew
    Thanks for the post.

    If I exceed the Vat threshold (currently £85k), as a B2C business I will not be able to raise the price and thus will have to absorb the cost of VAT myself.

    As a result, this will mean that my vatable revenue will immediately reduce to £71k, thus below the threshold, which in theory should allow me to immediately deregister for VAT.

    Therefore do I need to register for VAT at all?

    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi There,

      I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, no.

      Yes, you have to register for VAT if you exceed the threshold and then you can de-register in future if you go below the threshold.


  5. Martin Dimitrov

    Hi Andrew.
    I had that big mistake.
    UK company VAT registered from day 1. Everything was fine when worked with big companies. Flat rate pay 11%. But now on ebay goings terribly. So, do you know any options for deregistation. I’m with turnover around £36 000 annually.
    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      HI Martin,

      If your turnover is below the threshold, you can easily deregister from VAT.

      Just contact HMRC and ask them for the form you need to complete for this.


  6. Hello Andrew
    This is some priceless info for anyone considering going over the VAT threshold.
    I recently moved and instantly struggled to maintain previous years turnovers. Actually my previous turnovers were already dropping. I basically made my business not profiting and have now de-registered.
    A simple example for a sole trader – you have a turnover of 80K and manage a profit before tax of £25K. Happy days. You work harder working weekends etc & manage a turnover of say £95k. This now means you pay VAT on the whole lot (depending of-course which scheme you are using) and now you might only earn £15k Despite all the extra work!!
    I would suggest only going over if you can substantially increase your turnover to 120-150k plus. In my opinion they are killing business with these VAT rules and they should look at changing the already ridiculously complicated rules where by you have the first say 80k VAT free but if you managed to increase turnover to 110k you pay VAT on the 30k. This would encourage business not kill it. But as Andrew suggests ‘live with it’ – this is business!
    good luck

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your comment – you’re dead right on this.

      Many people should seriously reconsider their business strategy before registering for VAT as at the end it could be that you sell more, work more but make less in profit.

      There’s also an option to ask for a temporary exception from the registration IF you think that you will go over the threshold for a short period of time.


  7. Hello, Andrew

    Thank you for all your valuable information you gave.
    Most valuable person for Ecommerce I have found on the Net.

    So, I have started selling on eBay.co.uk, made a company which is still not VAT registered.

    My business model for now is Retail Arbitrage, so I have to make 60, 70 maybe 80 000 turnover per month to make a decent profit, my profit margain is around 10%.

    I hava to register my company to be VAT when I achive the threshold, but as you have written adove I have to decrease my profits to stay competitive. Therefore the work will be the same and the profits will be much smaller.

    Could you please give more solutions, is there any “doors in the law” ?

    One solution is to make 12 companies, 1 company per month.

    I am looking forward to your response.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Hristiyan,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, there are no such “doors” – you either play by the rules or get into shady tax evasion schemes.

      IF your business is not profitable when VAT registered, it is not profitable and you should not be running it, period.


      1. Hristiyan

        Hello, Andrew

        Thank you for your reply.

        Therefore could you please tell me what business model were you doing on eBay?
        Wholesale Products?
        And what is you business model on Amazon.
        Thank you.

        If you have already told about this, please post a link to read the article.

        I am looking forward to your response.


      2. Andrew Minalto

        In the very beginning on eBay, I was doing branded products, drop shipping, wholesale & li9quidation.

        But I quickly realised that margins with those models are not sustainable and moved over to Private Label products business model – same I do on Amazon right now.


  8. Maria Gabriella Johnson

    Firstly a big THANK YOU for your warning. Now I know, I should not register for VAT.

    I have a question, I have been looking for an answer online, but I was unable to find any.

    At the moment I am working in an office and I earn about 30 k yearly (my employer pays the tax and I get my salary after the tax).

    I will try to sell some of my paintings on Ebay , Amazon and Etsy.

    If I will sell 1 painting and if the buyer will demand an invoice, can I produce an invoice without VAT? Or do I have to produce an invoice to the buyer by law?

    Instead of an invoice can I produce a receipt? Do I need to buy a software for a receipt?

    Also if I produce a receipt, I don’t need to pay taxes , isn’t it?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment.

      First of all, if you want to start a business, you need to register with HMRC – set-up an Ltd. company or register as a Sole Trader (easiest option). For this, you don’t have to register for VAT. VAT is a separate thing from business registration.

      Once you’re registered, you can provide invoices to customers – they won’t have VAT as you’re not VAT registered. You can create invoices using any free online software or even Excel or Word. And yes, you will have to do your yearly tax returns as a Sole Trader and pay taxes on your profits.


  9. Hello, thank you in advance for your answer time.
    I am close to 85,000 pounds turnover for 12 months, and my question is can I put my eBay store on vacantion mode for two or three months, whereas the previous months I’ve made a big deal are no longer in the last 12.
    For example
    10.2018 – 15 000k turnover
    11.2018 – 15 000 k turnover
    12.2018 – 15 000 k turnover
    01.2019 – 5000 k
    02.2019 – 5000 k

    and then when i am close to 85 000k to stop selling until 12.2019. so the October and November will be no longer in the last 12 months.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Emil,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, you can definitely do that and many sellers are doing exactly that – they slow down sales or take a break just to stay under the £85k threshold. Temporary this can work but in long term, you, of course, you will never grow your business if you stay below the VAT registration threshold.

      It is perfectly legal.


  10. Hi Andrew,
    I am not a UK citizen, I do not live in the UK, but I use UK IP for the last few months, and recently I’ve noticed that I have been taxed with VAT 20%. Do you think that is correct? I sell on eBay for 3 years now and I have never been forced to pay VAT before. Thanks and regards.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Vessi,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, that is correct. You should be charged VAT on eBay fees.


  11. Hi andrew EBay take 20% off vat from sellers on fees if you are not hitting the 83k threshold on eBay is it still not worth it to be vat register

    1. Andrew Minalto

      No, as you would still end up paying more in VAT to the government.

      The math is actually very simple when you fully understand how VAT works. At same prices, you will always lose out being VAT registered.


  12. Hi Andrew, I am trying to setup a basis for b2b with a m.o.q from the source to the trader/customer for a product which will be resold with only a 20% profit taken. Considering that the stock is projected to be sold alot outside of my home country(UK) and the source of dispatch is HK : 1. Would I not need to register for vat as best interest? 2. What portion of the cost would be vat? I will be using a single product e-commerce site with blogs etc on the site and I’m also doing my best to figure a root to create accounts for leads to complete so that invoicing can be provided and they can also see purchases in their login. I’m not outlaying on the product, I have been listing potential customers to contact so that all costs are covered.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      I’m afraid I won’t be able to provide advice on such multi-country drop shopping schemes.

      You need to contact a qualified accountant/tax advisor to help you with this as it’s a complex matter.


  13. Great article and exactly what I have been looking for. I seek used clothing on eBay and am just under the threshold. I had plans and the chance to grow by x4 times over the next 24 months but now I feel it is unfeasible and too much work to account for every item bought and sold when each item is unique. Quite sad and disheartening.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      It’s called BUSINESS! 🙂

      It is what it is. You either accept the rules or leave it.


  14. Hi Andrew i recently started my online ebay business and so from reading this inless you exceed you VAT threshold you dont have to pay tax is that right? Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Steve,

      This is about VAT – you don’t have to register for it until you reach the threshold, yes.

      BUT there are situations when you have to register from day one in another country, like IF you store goods in another EU country (very common for Amazon FBA sellers).


  15. Marek Piskorik

    Hi Andrew,

    brilliant post, thank you.

    I am currently in the process of setting up a business on Ebay, selling used photographic equipment. I am registered as a business seller and I source from Ebay. NOTE: I am based in the UK.
    The anticipated trade amount should not exceed the VAT threshold in the first year.

    My intention is to sell worldwide, however, I am a bit confused by VAT regulations for EU.
    As far as I understand it, when selling to EU I should be adding the respective VAT to the final price for buyers from EU? Is this correct? Or is it only once I reach a certain threshold when dealing with buyers from that specific country?

    As for the rest of the world, it appears I do not have to add VAT as these are classed as “Zero-rated”.

    Could you please provide some clarity on this subject?

    Kind Regards

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Marek,

      Thanks for your comment.

      IF you’re NOT VAT registered, you don’t deal with VAT at all. You don’t add or take off VAT for any specific sales or customers.

      You’re NOT allowed to charge or show VAT on invoices if you’re not VAT registered.


  16. Hi, my company already uk vat registered ( eBay) and sales more than 99k. Selling worldwide except Asia. Importing from china . Paying import tax. My question is : do I need to pay vat on eu sales . If yes , how it can be because it’s one type of export. Isn’t it?is threre any way to calculate vat on eu sales from uk. Please reply. Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kali,

      Yes, you have to charge VAT on sales to customers in EU unless they provide you with a valid VAT number.


  17. chinyere ogwuegbu

    Hello Andrew.

    I am about to begin drop shipping on eBay.co.uk but eBay didn’t allow my first listing because I live in Greece and will be sourcing and selling items to people in the UK. They said I have to contact hmrc for info on how to proceed. I have absolutely no idea what to do and I’m sure that I won’t do business of up to 70,000£ in the first twelve months. So how do get past the hurdle? Any advice you can give will be very helpful. Thank you!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      There are NO thresholds IF you live outside the UK BUT will keep the stock in the UK and sell to the UK market.

      You have to register for VAT in the UK from day one.


  18. Hi!
    So I am based in the UK and about to form a company (undecided of type) and open a bank account but my business is dropshipping.
    The products are based in India and sold to non UK customers. Some in the EU and some outside the EU, and very rarely in the UK.
    I am confused about VAT (and corporation tax, but who isnt!). Clients will pay me in the UK and I will have to pay my supplier in India for the product and shipping costs. I expect a turnover in excess of £100,000 in my first year with profit margin of 30%.
    I could really do with some advice before shooting myself in the foot.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You should consult an accountant to find best way to set this up, to stay in line with law and pay lowest tax rate possible.

      But in theory, if your goods are stored in India, you should not need to register for VAT in the UK UNTIL you reach the VAT registration treshold. After that, you will have to pay VAT in the UK and in future, also in Europe (when you reach distance selling VAT thresholds in other countries).


  19. Hello Andrew. Cool blog.)

    Please, help me to understand!
    I am citizen of Belarus and leave in Belarus, now sell on ebay and take money through paypal to my account in Polish Bank. My registred addres of ebay in Belarus and ebay dont take any VAts. But if i change register address to Poland, ebay begin include VATs in ebay fees invoice. So, I send all my items from Belarus to the world wide buyers and i dont import items in Poland and EU. I dont pay any VATs. Will i have problems with polish tax governmen, because i use Polish bank account? Should i register as Vat payer in Poland?
    Thank you very much)
    Greetings from Minsk

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Anton,

      With questions like these please consult an accountant as I can’t really provide qualified advice on tax issues.

      As far as I can see – IF you would use a Belarus bank account, you wouldn’t have any problems whatsoever (as you’re outside EU) but as you use that Polish bank account, I don’t know really how that affects the whole situation…


  20. Hi Andrew
    I have also thought the same as you avoid registration however I find my self being asked for vat receipts more and more due to the type of products I am now selling pretty much all my competitors seem to be using the fact that a VAT receipt is given as a selling point and according to Terapeak are selling 3 to 4 times the quantity I am at a higher price
    I am left with the thought that my customers are tradesmen and will actually pay more for an item due to the 20% they lose from vat returns by buying from me would you agree in this case ?
    Due to the nature of registration ie you can not unregister its a bit of a decision I’m facing

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, that could be the case IF the product is bought mostly by tradesman as you say, so majority of transactions would be classed as B2B. Then it would be worth registering for VAT to get in more business.

      BUT you really must be sure that B2B customers make LARGE portion of your potential customer group as if it’s just 10%, it’s still not worth registering for VAT.


  21. Hi Andrew

    Hope you are well.

    I sell goods on ebay on the behalf of other companies and private individuals for a commission. I never actually own/purchase the stock: I sell it, the money comes into my account, I deduct my commission and transfer the balance to the original stock owner. As far as I am aware my VAT liability is the cumulative commission invoices and not the actual eventual sales figures I achieve upon selling the equipment, the key thing being that I don’t actually own any of it?

    Would you be able to give me your thoughts, please?

    Thanks and regards

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I don’t know for sure but I think you would have to use the TOTAL sales number for VAT calculation threshold as all that money goes through your accounts…

      I may be wrong so better get an accountant’s opinion on this.


      1. Thanks for your reply, Andrew.


  22. Hi Andrew,

    Let say I have a UK ebay account and say the turnover will surpass the threshold, do I have to register for VAT on these condition

    1 ) If I source from US, sell in US market
    2) If I source from China, sell in US market
    3) If I source from China, sell in UK market

    Thank you

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Han,

      Yes, yes, and yes.

      All these situations will trigger VAT registration if you reach the threshold because it will still be your UK company who receives all those sales.

      The difference though is how you will apply VAT – for example – when you sell in the US, you won’t have to charge VAT.

      But those are details you need to discuss with your accountant.


  23. Hi Andrew,

    I am located in Slovakia, and about to start sell in the UK using Amazon FBA. I dont think that my treshold will be above that 83k in a year.
    I just paid a VAT service to register me for UK VAT.
    Did I make a mistake?
    She said that it will impact my money in a positive way, but at this point I am started to doubt it.
    If I am living in Slovakia, and I want to store goods in UK in Amazon FBA centers, do I need to register for VAT? will it affect my profit in a good or bad way?
    If I have to, would it be a good idea to register for a UK based company as well?

    I would really really appreciate your answer.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Pali,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, if you’re based in Slovakia and plan on selling in the UK, using Amazon FBA, you NEED to register for VAT in the UK from day one.

      So you did the right thing.

      I will have a more detailed post about the whole VAT thing next week, so stay tuned for that.


  24. Hi Andrew,

    I have turned over £84k in the last 12 months.
    Worried that next tax year will be well over the current £85k threshold.

    I buy and sell used / second hand goods – furniture, antiques etc…
    Will I have to charge VAT on these items?

    I heard something about a margin scheme?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Harry,

      Yes, that is correct – you’ll have to charge VAT on your sales when you become VAT registered.

      There are various VAT schemes available, like FLAT RATE VAT scheme, so please study them carefully to pick one that suits you best:


      I would advice you to speak with an accountant who can recommend best way to move forward taking into account your current business specifics.


  25. Hi Andrew, great page on VAT.

    I have a query. If I run a UK business and sell just one item via eBay.co.uk in a 12 month period at a sale price of £90,000 with fees of say £10,000 which total would I use towards working out my VAT threshold? Would it be the 90k (thus meaning I need to become VAT registered) or the 80k I ‘actually’ receive – thus meaning I keep below the VAT tally?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Graham,

      The £90k of course – your sales.

      Sales is what matters here – that’s the turnover and that’s what triggers VAT registration.


      1. Graham

        Thanks for the help Andrew. One final query…..

        I have an eBay shop, registered as a business seller etc. About 12 months or so ago I noticed that on my eBay fees page the sale of item fees (know as FVF Final Value Fees) have increased 20% with a note on the screen stating ‘The above amount includes United Kingdom VAT’. Does this mean I am now officially paying VAT on my sales, or that eBay are adding 20% to the Final Value Fees?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Graham,

        No, you’re not paying VAT on your sales.

        This just means that eBay started charging VAT on their fees from the UK.


      3. Graham

        Thanks again Andrew, I had a very interesting chat with a friend of mine who attended a HMRC course and was told the exact same as what I found below online. Would you agree with this statement personally?

        “I’ve just been on a training course run by a vat specialist from HMRC, specifically on international trade, and I was very clearly told foreign sales don’t count towards the limit for registration (that was the whole purpose of me attending the course, so I discussed it with the tutor).
        They confirmed that it’s even possible to have a multi-million pound turnover and not have to be vat registered, if sales to the UK are below the threshold (e.g. an export business).

        HMRC don’t monitor foreign sales at all, if you are not VAT registered. You should register in another country if your sales to that country exceed their registration limits, which vary from country to country (can be found on the HRMC website).

        However IF you are registered you have to include all sales in your VAT reports.”

      4. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Graham,

        I don’t really know answer to this but if it came from HMRC directly, it should be true.

        I have always been VAT registered locally first and only then abroad so I don’t know whatever it is true or not.


  26. Hi Andrew i’m in a bit of a pickle. I have exceeded the 85k turnover on ebay UK and reached about 98k in the period of 12 months. Should I reduce my sales to avoid registering for VAT ? I know for a fact my business won’t work if I have to register for VAT as it’s already highly competitive as it is. Ebay sent me emails saying I should provide a VAT number within 30 days to avoid them putting restrictions on my account (stopping me from listing items, followed by removing my listings) etc.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Anon,

      Take a look at this article:



  27. Hi Andrew I have a couple of questions. Is the annual turnover of based on a rolling 12 month period also if I go over the threshold and register for vat what would I do if I then fall below this unregister?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Joe,

      Yes, rolling last 12 month period.

      If you go below threshold you still stay VAT registered – nothing really changes.

      If you see that your turnover will stay below the VAT threshold, then you can de-register from VAT.


  28. I wonder if I can get some advice please. I have been a business seller on ebay for over 2 years. I buy goods from US to sell on ebay. I am currently needing to become VAT registered but im unsure what i need to do. I do have an accountant but he said I need to start putting my prices up 20% to show the VAT. If I put my prices up then I will no longer sell due to keeping prices same as other sellers. My business sells low profit items which means i will be selling at a loss. For an example. Item sold at £12.75 profit of £1.49 once fees postage etc has been taken off. I cannot claim VAT back as I buy from the US so no VAT shows on my invoices. Hope this makes sense.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sharon,

      Please take a look at this article:



  29. Hi, Andrew!
    I’m from Bulgaria (EU), doing dropshipping from Amazon UK to eBay UK, started an year ago.
    Right now I really need a serious help from you.
    So, 2 days ago I received an e-mail from eBay UK:

    “You may need to take actions due to the upcoming changes in the UK Value Added Tax (VAT) rules. Depending on your items location and the size of your business you may need to register for VAT in the UK.

    Please take an action prior the new TAX rules are being in place as of spring, 2018.

    Please check your eBay business profile within the UK, and ensure that you have registered for VAT in the UK:

    • If you are located overseas and forward deploy inventory to the UK (your items are located in the UK).

    • If you post goods to the UK from another EU country and sale for £70,000 and more (approx. USD 99,700/EUR 80,000) a year.

    If you’re selling items to the UK or within the UK, and not compliant with the UK new tax rules, you will be stopped from selling on eBay site.”

    Would you help me with some details about that matter, please?
    Honestly, I’m totally unclear about how to register for VAT in the UK.
    I don’t have an UK address, a company or whatever.
    I already contacted HMRC via their webchat, but all I was told was to sign up and to follow the instructions.
    I explained that I’m actually doing a service between sellers and buyers and I don’t have items stored in UK. Then I was answered that once I register for VAT in the UK, 20% VAT will be applied to my commissions. That was all.
    But as long as I know, eBay already apply VAT to every single selling, monthly invoice, etc. So, does it mean that I have to be taxed with another 20% VAT, i.e. twice?
    Then, once I register for VAT in the UK, how will I render account to HMRC, which procedures do I need to follow, etc.?
    And when starting to register, which option to check? The person from the webchat of HMRC told me to choose “Organisation”, but I’m not sure why?

    As you can see, I’m totally confused and unclear about the VAT registering and that’s why I’m deeply count on your help here.
    Please, give me some important advice, help and all the information I need for that!
    The more detailed info and explanations, the better help and understanding by my side.

    Big thanks in advance!!!

    1. Andrew Minalto