Waltons Clark Whitehill, the Hartlepool-based chartered accountants and business advisers, has warned local internet sellers that they could fall foul of new tax surveillance powers.

Local residents and businesses could be caught out for neglecting, even inadvertently, to pay tax on their internet sales, Waltons Clark Whitehill is warning. New powers give HRMC the ability to see who is selling what, how much they are making and, most importantly, whether the necessary tax has been paid.

Changes to the Finance Act allow HMRC to access customers’ account details from leading online trading and sale sites including eBay, Airbnb and Etsy, at any time. Unlike in the past, officials do not need any evidence of wrongdoing or permission to see these details.

Heather O’Driscoll, Managing Director at Waltons Clark Whitehill, said “We are trying to make people aware of how these new laws could affect them. Many people might not realise that they are required to pay tax on certain types of sales they make online.

“HMRC is not trying to catch out one time sellers or occasional users. These new powers are being used to identify patterns and to target repeat sellers or online businesses that use these sites to avoid paying tax that they owe. People just selling an old TV or some clothes on eBay every now and then do not need to worry.

“If someone is concerned that they might have neglected to pay tax on online sales, a chartered accountant can make sure that their tax affairs are correctly dealt with.”