New tax law: Ebay classifieds must report sellers to the tax office - who now has to fear the tax authorities (and who doesn't)

Many people earn a few euros with sales via Ebay classifieds, Etsy or Vinted.

New tax law: Ebay classifieds must report sellers to the tax office - who now has to fear the tax authorities (and who doesn't)

Many people earn a few euros with sales via Ebay classifieds, Etsy or Vinted. But now a new tax law is causing a stir: since the beginning of 2023, supposedly small private sellers have also been able to move into the focus of the tax office much more quickly. Because online portals are now obliged to automatically forward data on sales processed via the platform to the tax authorities.

Although most private sales remain tax-free, the law causes great uncertainty. "Many unsettled users have been contacting us for weeks, but only a very small number are affected at all," says Pierre Du Bois, spokesman for eBay classifieds. Every month, millions of private buyers and sellers romp around on the classifieds portal, which operates independently of the former parent company Ebay.

What is really changing for (private) sellers on online platforms and who will soon be threatened with tax claims? The overview.

The Platform Tax Transparency Act (PStTG) has been in effect since January 1, 2023. This states that online portals must report data about transactions on their platform to the Federal Central Tax Office - not only from professional traders but also from private individuals. Tax investigators have already been able to request such data from the platforms if they suspect tax fraud. Now they can more easily determine whether a user should have paid taxes on their earnings. The law is primarily aimed at professional black marketeers, but private sellers can also be affected by the reporting obligation.

Not every transaction has to be reported, but only above certain exemption limits. The platform must be reported to the tax office if a user has made at least 30 sales on a platform within a year or if his annual revenue exceeds 2000 euros.

Means: If a user makes 29 sales on two different platforms, and thus earns less than 2000 euros per platform, nothing is reported. Conversely, a single sale is enough for a report to the tax office if the proceeds exceed 2000 euros. The platforms have to transmit personal data, tax identification number, the number of transactions and the amount of sales proceeds and fees.

In practice, the platforms can only report sales that they are aware of. This applies to all portals that have their own payment function through which transactions are processed. On some platforms this is the default way. In the case of transactions on Ebay classifieds, on the other hand, only very few private individuals use the built-in "Buy Direct" payment function. "As a rule, we do not gain any knowledge of whether the seller and the prospective buyer agree, so there is actually a sale," says Ebay classifieds spokesman Du Bois. The platform does not report what classified ad users process via Paypal or cash at the front door. Therefore, many classifieds users are not affected by the law, says Du Bois. "In any case, the number of ads that a user has placed is irrelevant for the assessment."

Just because the platforms report something to the tax office does not mean that taxes are due on it. Because the Transparency Act does not change the rules as to when you have to pay taxes on your proceeds. It's just easier to spot now when you break the rules. In principle, individual, irregular private sales are generally tax-free. Commercial sales with the intention of making a profit, on the other hand, are taxable.

Unfortunately, there are many cases where the classification is not obvious. Because here it is not just about the number of sales and the amount of proceeds. Anyone who clears out their basement and sells off a bunch of old stuff is usually still acting privately. Household goods and similar items of daily use can therefore also be sold completely tax-free above the registration limit of 2000 euros.

But private sellers can also be subject to tax, as the Bavarian wage tax aid writes: Anyone who resells jewelry or other items that are not assigned to everyday use within a year must state the entire profit in the tax return - but only if the exemption limit of exceeds 600 euros.

Even supposedly private sellers can be classified as commercial if they meet certain criteria. It doesn't help if you write "This is a private sale" in your offer. The tax office recognizes commerciality, for example

These criteria leave gray areas that are interpreted differently by tax offices and courts. Ultimately, it remains a case-by-case decision.