- Tax officers monitor eBay and AirBnB to check up on activity
- HMRC has been hiring teams of ‘data analysts’ and ‘intelligence analysts’
- Taxman can now force auction and payment sites to hand over your details
- Investigators now have extensive access to Etsy, eBay, Booking.com and Airbnb
Tax officials are spying on eBay and Airbnb customers’ accounts to obtain their names, addresses, bank account numbers and details of what they buy and sell online, Money Mail can reveal.
HM Revenue & Customs quietly acquired powers in September which allow it to snoop on anyone who uses so-called marketplace websites that connect buyers and sellers.
It means teams of investigators now have extensive access to websites such as Etsy — where craft-makers sell items like homemade cards and knitting — and eBay, as well as property and holiday letting sites including Booking.com and Airbnb.
Target: Tax officials are spying on eBay and Airbnb customers’ accounts to obtain their names, addresses, bank account numbers and details of what they buy and sell online
They can also see customers’ online shopping and sales receipts with payment firms such as PayPal and Worldpay.
Under new laws, these websites can now be forced to hand over millions of customers’ details whenever the taxman asks.
Officials don’t need any evidence that you have done something wrong to see your data, nor need they ask your permission or inform you that they’re snooping.
HMRC can feed this information into a sophisticated new computer system that flags up anyone who appears to be evading tax.
The powers are part of a drive to catch tax cheats who make a tidy profit from so-called ‘sharing economy’ websites.
Millions of people are making cash online, thanks to a boom in such sites. These online marketplaces allow any number of sellers to flog goods, services — or even a room in their home.
The middleman site takes a small cut of the proceeds.
But accountants say many sellers do not realise they owe tax on the profits they make.
Last year, around 870,000 people — including people making small sums online — failed to submit self-assessment returns before the January 31 deadline. The number for 2017 is expected to top a million.