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The Canadian Taxman Goes Browsing on eBay 221

Posted by Zonk
from the don't-get-any-ideas-uncle-sam dept.
Kaneda2112 writes "A story in the Globe And Mail points out that the Canada Revenue Agency is now trolling eBay Canada for high volume sellers — looking to make sure eBay's biggest users are accurately reporting their income. They've successfully gotten a court order for the names, addresses, and other personal information for that website's biggest users. 'Canadians spend about $5-billion online each year and eBay is by far the largest electronic marketplace, accounting for about a quarter of the total sales. The site was visited by nearly 11 million Canadians in August, according to company figures. The CRA said in court filings that it is targeting people who qualified for eBay's PowerSeller program in 2004 and 2005. Only top eBay sellers can qualify for the program, which provides benefits to members. Those benefits include prioritized customer service, special promotions and sales tips.'"
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The Canadian Taxman Goes Browsing on eBay

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  • huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:25AM (#20769145)
    Can't they just buy the users' information?
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:27AM (#20769175)

    Those benefits include prioritized customer service, special promotions and sales tips.
    ...and a free tax inspection.
  • by locokamil (850008) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:30AM (#20769205) Homepage
    ... that there are actually 11 million Canadians? Does this figure include moose and grizzly bears?
  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TofuMatt (1105351) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:31AM (#20769209) Homepage
    Most businesses I've bought from on eBay, even Canadian ones, who have stores, may be Powersellers, and are clearing operating like any other (online) consumer electronics business in Canada (selling, mostly new, goods to end-users) don't charge me federal sales tax. I mean, taxes suck, but they also pay for my healthcare, used to pay for my education, and I do a lot of work for the Government, so I realize that taxes ought be collected. I sound like such a commie, but I'm not. Anyway, I guess this is good. I don't want eBay business to dwindle, but they should be treated the same as Apple Canada or TigerDirect.ca. What else is there to say? Business, big or small, shouldn't be trying to dodge tax.
    • by giorgiofr (887762)

      I don't want eBay business to dwindle, but they should be treated the same as Apple Canada or TigerDirect.ca
      Yeah, and that is: without being forced to pay any taxes.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I don't want eBay business to dwindle, but they should be treated the same as Apple Canada or TigerDirect.ca

        Yeah, and that is: without being forced to pay any taxes.

        Question is, what's different when you sell via eBay?

        If you create a home-based business and sell products and services out of your home, you are expected to pay all the necessary business and income taxes that accrue based on your business. If you create an e-commerce website (or use Yahoo or Amazon), you're expected to do the same. All you've

    • The Law (Score:4, Insightful)

      by p0tat03 (985078) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:38AM (#20769337)

      Having helped my folks set up their own small home business, I learned a few things about tax law. There are two types of corporation - provincial corporations and federal corporations. As a provincial corporation, you only need to charge your customers GST, not the local PST.

      This sort of, kind of bugs me. The law behind this was written in a day and age where it's rare for provincial businesses to trade outside their borders, and even if they do it's a minor part of their income, a drop in the proverbial bucket. But huge businesses like NCIX are still registered in BC, even though they make millions in sales to other provinces (especially Ontario) - and that's a MASSIVE chunk of PST missing, not to mention that it creates an unfair playing field for local businesses. I know many Ontarians who go to NCIX just to skip out on the PST, and it's arguably stealing business from local, er, businesses.

      IMHO if the majority of your operations are not in your home province you ought to be forced to incorporate federally and be forced to follow the local tax laws wherever you operate (in Canada at least!).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by compwizrd (166184)
        at least businesses are required to self-assess and remit the PST when they buy from a non-local supplier
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Nos. (179609)
        Every business still needs to charge its customers PST if they are selling in province. So if I'm in BC, and buy from NCIX, I have to pay PST. If I'm out of province, I don't. This is true across the country.
        • by p0tat03 (985078)
          Sorry, I guess I'm still half-asleep. What I meant to say was that provincial businesses do not have to charge Ontario PST to customers purchasing from ON.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      I mean, taxes suck, but they also pay for my healthcare, used to pay for my education, and I do a lot of work for the Government, so I realize that taxes ought be collected.

      So maybe taxes don't suck? They pay for things most of us like and use... Do you like driving on reasonably nice roads more than your iPod? Is a reasonably sane national healthcare plan more valuable to you than, say, Halo3? Would your prefer allowing crack-heads to cart of your TV, or perhaps you would like a latte instead?

      There's nothi

      • I was having a discussion with a liberal friend of mine last night about taxes. He's a moron, but he's really funny so that's why I can stand him.

        Anyway, he comes up with this: paying taxes are like paying dues. If somebody didn't want to pay their dues for the country club, then the other members of the country club would be right to want him kicked out, and to call him a leech for wanting to be in the country club without paying his dues. I was stunned at the idiocy of the statement.

        We were drinking and j
      • by Dhalka226 (559740)

        The problem is not taxes, it's that your chosen representatives in government are not always representing their constituents

        I do agree to a point, but it reminds me of a great quote from West Wing:

        "I don't know where you get the idea that taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for anything of which they disapprove. Lots of them don't like tanks. Even more don't like Congress."

        All of us would like to keep more of our money, and all of us can come up with things we think are wholly unnecessary. Part of the

    • by Arthur B. (806360)
      Yeah taxes sucks, and it sucks that some guy buying a new skidoo on ebay.ca had to pay for your education, your health care etc.
  • Slow news day? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:33AM (#20769245) Homepage
    I'm really failing to see how this is an issue at all, as businesses get audited all the time. If you're throwing around a lot of money, it's no surprise that the taxman is going to raise an eyebrow.

    This is nothing more than an audit and a crackdown on unregistered businesses. In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency is doing its job (this concept may be unfamiliar to Americans when relating to governmental agencies)

    If you're operating a business, then you should be paying taxes as such. Plain and simple.
    • by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking.yahoo@com> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:38AM (#20769345) Homepage Journal

      This is nothing more than an audit and a crackdown on unregistered businesses. In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency is doing its job (this concept may be unfamiliar to Americans when relating to governmental agencies)

      Absolutely. The number one complaint we Americans have is that the IRS doesn't do its job. We all think that it doesn't audit enough people and would be truly satisfied with it if only it were more thorough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) *
        Absolutely. The number one complaint we Americans have is that the IRS doesn't do its job. We all think that it doesn't audit enough people and would be truly satisfied with it if only it were more thorough.

        That changes when the people being asked are the ones being audited. Everyone's in favor of making sure the other guy pays his fair share, but that opinion changes rather quickly when they become the other guy.

        • Sarcasm (Score:3, Insightful)

          by benhocking (724439)
          Actually, my entire post was meant to be read with a tone of sarcasm, as the moderators who modded it funny evidently realized.
          • "Actually, my entire post was meant to be read with a tone of sarcasm, as the moderators who modded it funny evidently realized."

            Funny rather than insightful? I guess nobody with mod points realizes just how low the IRS audit rate actually is.

    • he Canada Revenue Agency is doing its job (this concept may be unfamiliar to Americans when relating to governmental agencies)


      You know what they say, the most efficient part of any government is the department that takes your money. The CRA is run less aggressively then the IRS so it's not as confrontational.
    • In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency is doing its job (this concept may be unfamiliar to Americans when relating to governmental agencies)

      Yes, it is a little unusual. Around here (the USA) the government usually sits around not doing much and charging us an awful lot for it, while blustering around trying to look busy. When the government actually does do something it's usually incorrect, wrong, over-reaching, or just plain stupid. And, of course, if anyone actually criticizes the government they're

    • In other words, the Canada Revenue Agency is doing its job (this concept may be unfamiliar to Americans when relating to governmental agencies)

      You surely understand that we're a bit anti-tax, yes? Hell, the US born of a tax revolt, and we (by and large) haven't really gotten that out of our system (pretty much everything from the Whiskey Rebellion to present-day anti-tax dodges and enterprises). So it's natural that we're a bit stranger than most when it comes to taxes. ;)

      As for bureaucrats not doing their job (but being shocked when they do)? I suspect that you'll find that to be rather common world-wide. Canada is one of those weird places

      • Oh, sure. I'm no fan of the government taking my money (especially when that money's being used to murder Iraqis)

        However, as long as we've got taxes in place, it's only fair that everyone pays their share. That way, the rest of us pay a wee bit less.
  • The Canadian government smells money, they make a grizzly look like a woosie.
    --------------
    Don't steal, the government hates competition.
  • by onion2k (203094) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:36AM (#20769293) Homepage

    don't-get-any-ideas-uncle-sam

    Maybe it's just me, a lefty liberal socialist Brit, but I don't really understand the mentality behind the 'humourous' tagline here. Selling stuff on eBay means you're earning money. Why shouldn't it be taxed like any other income? Ok, someone selling a couple of DVDs isn't really going to make any dent in the government's revenue, but there are powersellers on eBay with a turnover to rival a large highstreet store, all tax free if you're a bit underhand about it. That's not a good thing. That's a few more potholes in the road, one less nurse looking after you in hospital, a few less books in the school library. Tax evaders aren't Robin Hood*, they're plain old criminals.

    If you give a damn about the quality of your community you probably ought to welcome Uncle Sam getting ideas along the same lines.

    * English folk hero, robbed from the rich to give to the poor, portrayed very poorly in film by Kevin Costner.
    • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:39AM (#20769371) Homepage
      Win.

      Yeah I don't get it either. The basic logic works like this, "I was getting away with it before, don't change/enforce the law so I can't continue my bad practices!"

      It's like when they put in speed/redlight cameras. The majority of people who bitch are the very people the gear is meant to catch. And they're not really pissed off because of the supposed violation of privacy, it's because they know they won't get away with their previously bad behaviour.

      I for one welcome this. I think there should be a discretion though, I mean if I fail to report the $13 toy I sold on ebay last year I shouldn't face prison time. But if you're doing [say] more than $1000/year in sales it should be mandatory.
      • In Houston at least, there are signs posted at all the red light cameras with a (difficult to decipher) pictograph indicating that there is a red light camera at the light. So wherever I go I know where all the red light cameras are.

        Red light cameras really don't add safety. Regardless of how long the light has been yellow, if it is yellow, I'm stomping on my brakes. Is there someone 2 feet from my bumper? I don't know- I don't have time to check because I have to stop NOW or I might get a $50 ticke
      • Did you receive MORE or LESS than the original amount you paid for it? If I understand correctly, and I don't know if I do, it isn't income if you are losing money, i.e. underselling.
    • Basically, we Americans are all for closing tax loopholes — except the ones that we might be able to use. As this is a tech-heavy site, I suppose many Slashdotters make money off eBay.
      • by t0rkm3 (666910)
        I don't know about you, but I'm for closing _all_ tax loopholes. I would like to see a simplified tax code that makes it usable to the common man. If you plan to make money, esp while operating a business, you should consult an accountant for taxes at least. If not for other issues such as payroll, account management, etc.

        Why should there be an industry that does nothing but keep you out of trouble with overly complex laws? Would we tolerate such complexity in vehicle codes?

        It would take some getting used t
        • I was just being humorous. I am in favor of closing all loopholes. That said, the Fair Tax looks more questionable every time I look into its details. I don't have anything against it, but its proponents seem to engage in an awful lot of hand-waving. (Everyone will pay less tax, but we'll have the exact same tax revenue!)
    • by arivanov (12034)
      They probably already got the idea with the minor difference that they are doing it under the antiterror legislation so Ebay cannot say that it has been queried.

      After all, if you possess such a wonderful piece of legislation, why not use it for purposes it was never designed for.
    • Maybe it's just me, a lefty liberal socialist Brit, but I don't really understand the mentality behind the 'humourous' tagline here. Selling stuff on eBay means you're earning money. Why shouldn't it be taxed like any other income? Ok, someone selling a couple of DVDs isn't really going to make any dent in the government's revenue, but there are powersellers on eBay with a turnover to rival a large highstreet store, all tax free if you're a bit underhand about it. That's not a good thing. That's a few more

    • The government probably pisses away more money per day than all the power sellers combined. I LIKE when people figure out ways to cheat the govt. The govt is probably cheating you as we speak, I'll be completely honest whenever they decide to disclose where every penny goes.
    • Well, I guess a lot of people here will agree, even more will disagree and some (ok, I) will say "I would agree if".

      And that if is, if that money would actually be used for the good of all. Yes, I'm (or rather, was) actually a "tax 'em fuckers" person. More tax == good. The actual Robin Hood IS in this case the state. Or should be. More tax means more social balance and fewer criminals (along the theory of "people who have something to lose are wary to lose it"). In theory.

      In fact, with the crooked, inapt,
    • Selling stuff on eBay means you're earning money. Why shouldn't it be taxed like any other income?
      The same reason private individuals (not companies) who sell their used stuff don't pay taxes on that either.
    • Speaking as somebody who has never used eBay (well, I once bought something from half.com but that's it) and thus has no particular stake in this, what bothers me isn't so much that you're required to pay taxes on sales online. Technically speaking I believe you're required to do so in the United States right now and I believe you're even supposed to pay sales tax if the site doesn't handle that for you.

      What bothers me is that the government seemingly got subpoenas for information on these people solely

      • Say it with me everyone, "There is no National Sales Tax in the US". Sales tax is left up to the individual States. The laws are pretty clear that you pay sales tax for Internet transactions only if you and the business are from the same State, and even then, only if the State has a sales tax. Oregon doesn't, and it is pretty convenient to buy expensive electronic gadgets online, ship them to my parents in Oregon, who then mail them to me in Texas. Beats paying an extra 8.5 percent (if you can stand the
    • Somewhere in Canadian tax law (don't ask me to look it up, I get a headache just reading the envelope the tax forms come in) it lists what transactions are exempt from tax. Generally it is a private person selling their own used property to another individual.

      That is stuff that they bought for personal use, and are now selling to someone else is exempt. Not something that they bought with no intention of using, and then re-sold.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You have attempted to buy fertilizer in large quantities on eBay. This has drawn an inquiry from the government. Prepare to have your premises searched for any more explosive materials & terrorist contraband.

    Your cooperation is not an option.

    Sincerely,
    Your Cannuck Government in cooperation with the US Dep. of Homeland Security
  • Hmmm... (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by MightyMartian (840721)
    And while they're at it, perhaps they could investigate some of the rampant fraud on eBay.
  • by spacerog (692065) <spacerog@@@spacerogue...net> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:46AM (#20769453) Homepage Journal
    According to eBay
    http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/welcome.html [ebay.com]

    How do I qualify?

    Each month eBay automatically sends email invitations to qualified sellers. To qualify, members must:

    Have been an active member for 90 days
    Average a minimum of $1000 in sales per month, for three consecutive months
    Achieve an overall Feedback rating of 100, of which 98% or more is positive
    Have an account in good financial standing

    Although that is direct from the eBay site it is not 100% accurate. My experience indicates that invitations to the Power Seller program are based on quantity of items sold and not dollar amounts. Somewhere between 3 and 5 items per month for three or four consecutive months will trigger the invitation email. I get invitation emails quite a bit but never have I sold $1000 worth of stuff in any month let alone three consecutive months.

    • by saikou (211301)
      Does this mean that all they have to do to exclude from the "tax man's view" is simply not accept the invitation to be a power seller? :)
  • Will the almighty tax collector know if eBay has told them everything? I hope eBay sets up a user database system that looks like a real system but in reality is not showing the entire picture.

    I live in Canada and I am chocked by taxes, so I try to do everything in my power to avoid paying as much taxes as possible, it is my civil duty in fact to prevent the government from making me poor, so I wouldn't have to ask the gov't for help, which I do not. It is also important to prevent the gov't from getting
    • eBay is well-known in the states for ratting out any sort of "odd" changes in users' purchasing habits. It's old news here. eBay is more than willing to suck up to any sort of government agency. Even without being asked.

      As for Canadian taxes, that's what is paying for your nationalized healthcare (don't hit me). We always hear the raving about how wonderful nationalized healthcare is and how much we in the US need it. Granted, we hear it from the asshat nanny-staters who want to control every aspect of our
      • by roman_mir (125474)
        This 'wonderful' Canadian health care forces myself and my family to seek health care in the US and Germany. Waiting time for human specialists is ridiculous, while pets get excellent care in no time, because they do not have to go through the same system. Animal hospitals are privately ran, so care is prompt, there are enough doctors and other staff. My father had to spend 15 hours in emergency, waiting fo 9 hours before they admitted him and then another 3 hours even before the doctor showed up. That'
        • I'm very aware of how bad it is. Honestly, I am. Nationalized healthcare issues aren't discussed in our press. The politicians only talk about the positives. They always neglect to mention that UNIVERSAL CARE != GOOD CARE.

          It's the running joke in british sitcoms, eh? heheh.

  • The interesting fallout from this will be the potential effect on prices. Many eBay sellers are cheaper than other merchants *because* they don't pay taxes. If this forces eBay merchant prices to rise, the overall effect could be a decline of sales/profits for eBay overall.
    • It's not sales tax they're after, it's income tax!!!

      eBay sellers don't have to pay sales tax to the government in most cases. They do, on the other hand, have to pay income tax, and always have. If they make income, they have to pay income tax.

      This program is to catch people who are cheating on their taxes. If eBay prices are low because the seller is breaking the law, then that's too bad.
  • Vachss wrote about just this situation, way back in 2000 in his novel, Dead and Gone:

    Lune tapped a few keys, pointed an immaculate fingernail at his computer screen. "You know what that is?" he asked me, as what looked like a string of auction bids popped into focus.

    "A bunch of dope dealers talking in code?"

    "No. It's the IRS."

    "Huh? I don't get it."

    "It's a pattern," he said, spinning on his chair to face me. "You know all this talk about America's 'underground cash economy'?"

    "It's not just talk."

    "Exactly! It
  • sounds like BS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by micromuncher (171881) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @01:42PM (#20771213) Homepage
    Dishonest people misreport their income all the time. Honest people don't. Even prostitutes and drug dealers that report their income in Canada are a-ok (as Revenue Canada is bound by privacy legislation.) But this seems like a gross misuse of RC time and resources. Monitoring eBay to find fraud is likely less fruitful than comparing spending vs reported income. If buddy's credit report shows him having a $2M mortgage and reporting income of less than $50k /yr, chances are something is up.
    • It is ironic. Just think, they are spending tax money to fund a group that has the responsibility for finding unreported revenue. I bet they even spend more to do this than they actually uncover.
    • Oh yeah, offshore accounts are a WAY bigger problem than on-line sales.

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