Press release

Direct sellers - one month to settle tax bills

People selling directly to customers and who haven’t paid all the tax they owe have one month to come forward and pay up under an HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) campaign.

Under the time-limited opportunity, direct sellers - often called agents, consultants, representatives or distributors - must tell HMRC about the tax due and make arrangements to pay before 28 February 2013.

Direct selling involves selling directly to customers and taking commission on sales without the need for a shop. It can involve demonstrating a product in a customer’s home or selling at a party. Some agents sell door to door, and many use catalogues.

From today, HMRC will be writing to direct sellers to let them know about the Direct Selling campaign. After the 28 February deadline, HMRC will begin contacting direct sellers who did not come forward to take part in the opportunity, if HMRC believes they owe tax.

HMRC is inviting direct sellers to a live Twitter question and answer session, with tax experts who will answer questions about the campaign, on 7 February, between 1pm and 2pm. Follow @HMRCgovuk and tag questions #dsqa in advance or on the day.

Marian Wilson, head of HMRC Campaigns, said:

Anyone involved in direct selling who has not told HMRC about all of their income might not be paying the right amount of tax. The Direct Selling campaign is a chance to bring their tax affairs up to date, on the best terms. Anyone with questions should join our Twitter Q&A on 7 February, where our experts will be available to help.

Direct sellers are generally considered to be self-employed, and are therefore responsible for telling HMRC about what they earn, and for calculating and paying their own tax. For information on tax for the self-employed direct seller, see here. A YouTube video also offers help.

To take part in the campaign, direct sellers should:

  • Tell HMRC about the tax due and make arrangements to pay any tax, interest; and penalties owed by 28 February 2013.
  • Complete a form online

Nearly £540 million has been raised by HMRC from campaigns, and a further £137 million from follow-up activity. Twenty three criminal cases are underway and four convictions have already been secured. Campaigns launched so far have targeted offshore investments, medical professionals, plumbers, VAT defaulters, coaches and tutors, electricians and online traders.

Notes for editors

  1. To watch HMRC’s Twitter Q&A on 7 February, follow HMRC at @HMRCgovuk

  2. For further help and support about the campaign, direct sellers can phone 0845 602 3353, where a dedicated team is available to give information

  3. The benefits of the Direct Selling campaign are that those who make a full disclosure:
    • will be offered a simple and straightforward way to put their tax affairs right; and
    • may not be charged a penalty at all, with most receiving a penalty of no more than 10 per cent of the tax they owe.
  4. Once this disclosure opportunity closes on 28 February, direct sellers who have not come forward but are found to have unpaid tax liabilities may face higher penalties, rising to 100 per cent of the tax unpaid or, potentially, criminal investigation

  5. Further information on HMRC campaigns