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Last month HMRC held an online question and answers session via Twitter for e-traders who may have not been paying the right amount of tax. We ask; was HMRC’s first social media Q&A campaign a success?

Added 10 April 2012

HM Revenue and Custom’s first question and answers session on the social media site, Twitter, took place on Wednesday 28 March, for one hour between three and four o’clock.

A press release on HMRC’s website – www.hmrc.gov.uk – first announced on 20 March that details would be published on HMRC’s Twitter account prior to the Q&A session taking place.

Those following @HMRCgovuk on Twitter were asked to post their questions on the social media site using the hash tag #emqa for ‘e-Marketplace Questions & Answers’.

“HM Revenue & Customs?

I have some questions prepared, some from Forums, and we want Qs from tweeps too. Tag them #emqa and we’ll try to answer as many as we can.

3:04 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details ”

The question and Answer session was hosted on Twitter to respond to questions people had on HMRC’s e-Markets Disclosure Facility; aimed at online traders who have not paid the right amount of tax.

HMRC’s e-Markets Disclosure Facility is a time-limited opportunity that offers online marketplace traders the benefit of lower HMRC tax penalties, of no more than 10% of tax owed, should they come forward to declare and pay the tax owed.

Online traders who wish to take part in HMRC’s e-Markets Disclosure Facility have until 14 June to tell HMRC they wish to take part and a further three months until 14 September to voluntarily disclose details of tax owed and make arrangements to pay the amount in full.

Those who have been trading online and not paying the right amount of tax, but choose not to take part in the e-Markets Disclosure Facility; HMRC have said that they will ‘investigate those who have failed to respond’.

Kam, from HMRC’s press office, started by asking the questions prepared, which were answered by one of HMRC’s campaign team staff, Laura.

“HM Revenue & Customs?

Hi, this is Kam from the HMRC press office, I’ll be MC-ing this twitter Q&A session on the HMRC e-marketplaces campaign #emqa

3:00 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

“HM Revenue & Customs?

We have Laura of our campaigns team here who is an expert on the e-marketplaces campaign. I’ll pose the Qs and she’ll attempt some answers.

3:02 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details ”

Questions covered included:

‘Who is the campaign aimed at?’ and;

‘What’s the difference between personal and business selling?’

The first prepared question was answered with simply “People trading on online market places who haven’t paid all the tax they owe “; the answer to the second question provided a link supposedly directed to HMRC’s video guide that would “help you decide if you are trading”.

The link provided linked to HMRC’s e-Marketplace Campaign website page – www.hmrc.gov.uk/campaigns – rather than linking to HMRC’s released YouTube video, HMRC e-marketplaces Campaign – Trading or Not Trading – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYgCctGY_Ug .

During the hour long e-Markets Disclosure Facility question and answers session, two questions were pre-prepared and collected from the following forums by HMRC: Money Saving Expert and Wholesale Forums.

Money Saving Expert

Q.

“HM Revenue & Customs?

Q from forums: soolin on MoneySaving Exp: Are you working with any e-marketplace sites to get their assistance with this campaign? #emqa

3:23 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

A.

“HM Revenue & Customs?

A: We have contacted a number of e-marketplace sites to tell them what we are doing… #emqa L

3:30 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

“HM Revenue & Customs

A: HMRC gets info from number of places inc the public. Where we have a legal right we obtain info from e-marketplace providers #emqa L

3:32 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

Wholesale Forums

Q.

“HM Revenue & Customs?

Q from wholesale forums: dots_and_spots_Jeff: I have often wondered what the tax implications would be of being, an Amazon affiliate #emqa

3:49 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

A.

“HM Revenue & Customs?

A: There are no special rules. Please refer to our guidance to decide whether you are trading http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/campaigns #emqa L

3:51 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

So, HMRC have contacted online trading sites to inform them of the e-Markets Disclosure Facility and it appears that they may also be looking to obtain and use information from such sites, where legally possible.

In response to the question taken from Wholesale Forums another link has been provided to HMRC’s e-Marketplace Campaign website page, which seems to be present in a couple of responses; directing followers of the Q&A session back to information that they more than likely have read, if they are unsure whether or not they qualify to take part in the e-Marketplace Disclosure Facility.

Questions posted under #emqa by Twitter accounts, answered by HMRC during the hour long session, reached a grand total of four.

Questions covered included:

Whether people selling “memorabilia online to raise funds for protesting” class as trading;

“What if haven’t kept records of costs of all purchases but now realise might be trading as activity increased”;

“Hope that when you advise people they may be trading that you also flag up potential working tax credit entitlement”, and

“I have a small business on-line, I keep most of my money in PayPal and re-invest in advertising etc, should I declare this?”
Answers to the above questions, from HMRC, mostly included further links to other guidance pages on HMRC’s website.

When asked on raising funds for protesting through selling memorabilia online, HMRC responded:

“HM Revenue & Customs?

Can’t comment on individual cases. If you think someone isn’t paying the right tax you can report it http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/tax-evasion/hotline.htm L #emqa

3:21 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

On the question of missing records:

“HM Revenue & Customs?

Make your best estimate and let us know what you think you owe. Keep your calculations, we may need to ask for them… #emqa L

3:43 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

“HM Revenue & Customs?

Make sure you keep records from now. More info on HMRC website http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/record-keeping/index.htm#emqa L

3:46 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

On tax credit entitlement:

“ HM Revenue & Customs ?

Good point. Anyone taking part should read the campaign guidance which has a section on Tax Credits http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/campaigns #emqa L

3:56 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”; and

When asked on a small business on-line, re-investing in advertising, HMRC said:

“HM Revenue & Customs?

If you spend everything on advertising you might not have made a profit yet, but this sounds like trading #emqa L

3:36 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

“HM Revenue & Customs?

If you are trading it’s best to register with HMRC as soon as possible http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/selfemployed/register-selfemp.htm#emqa L

4:11 PM – 28 Mar 12 via web · Details”

Tweeting their last e-Market’s Disclosure Facility answer, HMRC wrapped up the questions and answers session at 4:12pm on Wednesday 28 March. And then tweeted that they would update the e-Marketplace “campaign guidance to reflect today’s Q&As”.

But how successful was HMRC’s first social media Q&A session in providing more information to the taxpayer on the e-marketplace campaign?

The two questions that were prepared by HMRC prior to the question and answer session taking place could have been more informative. As the first question of, ‘who is the campaign aimed at’, is self-explanatory from information already provided on HMRC’s campaign webpage for online marketplace traders and also displayed in the campaign title- ‘e-Markets Disclosure Facility’.

Although you are limited to what you can achieve in such a small time-frame of only one hour, it appears that not much #emqa activity happened on Twitter; considering 200 million tweets per day were reached in June 2011 – Figures taken from Twitter’s official blog – http://blog.twitter.com/2011/06/200-million-tweets-per-day.html.

HMRC answers to the four questions, which were re-tweeted and answered through HMRC’s twitter account – @HMRCgovuk – mainly included links to information already provided on HMRC’s website; Pages, which may have already been looked to for advice from those asking questions.

HMRC’s first Twitter Q&A session may have been more successful if it had seen more exposure prior to the event taking place. It was mentioned in a press release on HMRC’s website one week prior to the event and was mentioned on HMRC’s Twitter account on 6 occasions, prior to the Q&A session taking place.

Whether HMRC’s first social media campaign was successful in providing information for taxpayers unsure whether they are classed as online traders or not, and whether they qualify for the e-Marketplace Disclosure Facility, can only be answered by those who asked HMRC the questions.

For more information on HMRC’s e-Marketplace Campaign please click here – http://www.kinsellatax.co.uk/hmrc-targeting-online-traders

Are you trading online and failed to declare your income to HMRC?

KinsellaTax will make a voluntary disclosure on your behalf to HMRC, which could dramatically reduce an HMRC tax penalty.

KinsellaTax staff consists of ex-HM Inspector of Taxes and ex-HM Custom ad Excise officers fully trained in all typed of HMRC tax investigations.

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