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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Would you give your Social security number to eBay?

The IRS is pushing Congress to require online auction sites such as eBay to obtain taxpayer ID numbers from those who sell on their sites. Hundreds of thousands of people are now making a living on eBay, and the revenuers are concerned that lots of sales profit isn't being reported on sellers' tax returns. I have no problem with making people pay taxes on their gains, but are we going to feel safe giving out our numbers to yet another company that we don't really know that much about?

Comments (15)

I dont think I would want to give them my SSN.
I can see going after people with legitimate businesses on Ebay (there are many), but for the casual seller (like me) who just wants to unload stuff he doesnt want anymore, this is BS. If they go after Ebay, what about Craigslist? The Newspaper classified dept? I really dont see those as any different than Ebay. Just more potential buyers.

Why not simply require ebay to file I-99s (or whatever the correct form is) on sellers who collect above some amount (say $50K or so) that clearly puts them into the business category. This seems more manageable and doesn't require collecting SSNs from the vast majority of casual sellers. It also puts the bulk of the paperwork burden on ebay, the company that is actually making huge profits off the business model.

Kind of how Casinos report winnings above a certain threshold but can ignore all the lower level stuff.

I believe that paypal requires your SSN to setup an account, certainly it does for any account tied to a bank, so most sellers have probably already given their SSN to eBay.

Doesn't seem a whole lot different to me from giving your SS number to Schwab or Washington Mutual or whatever. If you didn't like it, I suppose you could use an S corp or LLC or LLP and get a separate tax id. You might have to pay $10 in Oregon income tax but that would put you in the same league as Portland General.

I think that setting a threshold (as with the casinos) makes the most sense.

I have sold a few home made craft items on eBay. If I now have to give them my ssn to do this, will I, or will I opt not to list my items?
I don't know the answer.
I know it would be one potential negative in the decision process.
Would I find myself needing to really track my costs so I could verify profit or no profit. But I guess I am supposed to do this anyway.

The glitch comes when I sell something for a friend (i.e. use my account for their one time item). Now is this "my" profit?

There's no need to give out your SSN. Here in WA, you can set up a business online and get a tax ID number right away. Use the tax ID number instead.

I would use Craigslist more in the event Ebay required SSN.

Jud: I think you're missing the forest for the trees here. If you give eBay a taxpayer ID, the government will use it tax you, the same as if you give them an SSN. The point of the article is that people currently sell lots of stuff on ebay and don't report any of that income, and neither does eBay. The feds want to change that, and I suppose that eBay will fight tooth-and-nail to keep things the way they are.

I guess I'm just not as excited about paying taxes as our fearless leader Jack is. I recognize that it's within the spirit of the tax code to report all income,

"within the spirit of the tax code to report all income,"

Which is kind of a backward way of saying that it's against the law (as in "crime") not to.

Respectfully, I didn't miss the forest for the trees. I know that people like not to pay taxes; I'm one of them. On the other hand, the taxes I'd pay legitimately at eBay (if required by the govt) is small potatoes compared to the lost sales if I consistently tried to sell somewhere else. If I sell $100 worth of stuff on eBay and give away $20 to taxes, I'm still better off than if I could only sell $50 worth of stuff on craigslist, tax-free.
Not to mention, it's your legal obligation to pay taxes owed.

Allen L:Which is kind of a backward way of saying that it's against the law (as in "crime") not to.

I'm not advocating that anyone should avoid paying taxes that are required by law. I'm just acknowledging that tax evasion happens, and it will continue to happen, whether eBay collects ssn's or not. If we take it as a given that money is a strong motivator for many many people, the question today is where the balance hangs: does a higher percentage of the eBay-using population fail to report income, than people who don't use eBay? If the answer is "yes," perhaps government reporting is necessary. If the answer is "no," then isn't this just another example of treating a symptom, instead of the disease?

Jud: no offense was intended. I thought your response effectively addresses the identity-theft issue created by giving out ssn's, and since that's what Jack asked about in the original post, I'm the one who is off-topic.

But Travis's response in this thread is exactly what I'm talking about- I would use Craigslist more in the event Ebay required SSN.

Requiring eBay and Yahoo auctions to obtain ssn's will effectively force people to use other venues which don't obtain ssn's or report income. eBay will lose business as a result of the change, so they'll fight it on those grounds, rather than the "we think it should be easy to evade federal income tax" grounds.

And note: this sort of conflict over information and financial transactions has been expected, and it's one of the reasons that the US has export controls on strong encryption. A certain percentage of people will do everything possible to avoid paying income tax, whether or not the methods they and their accountants use are actually legal.

"A certain percentage of people "
At current tax rates, I don't think that percentage is very high (but I have nothing to back that up other than the belief that people in this country, unlike, say, Europe, are pretty conscientious about paying the taxes they owe). Jack probably knows Jack, and more, about this.

I am now scared stiff to have a garage sale!


run (don't walk) far away if ebay required your ssn. that site isn't very safe... especially with personal info. i know this. it happened to me.

ebay owns paypal. paypal is very shady... check out this site if you want more info about what has happened to people who deal with paypal. www.paypalsucks.com

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