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HMRC internal manual

Business Income Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Meaning of trade: badges of trade: repeated operations

Although an isolated transaction can amount to a trade, the systematic repetition of a transaction is a pointer towards trading. Where sets of operations, each set not in itself constituting a trade, are carried out on occasions not widely separated in time, the series of operations may amount to the carrying on of a trade. You should consider not only the number of the transactions but also the frequency with which they are repeated. Thus ten transactions every year would, all else being equal, be more likely to amount to trading than say two transactions every year.

In Pickford v Quirke [1927] 13TC251 Rowlatt J stated at page 263:

‘It is very well known that one transaction of buying and selling a thing does not make a man a trader, but if it is repeated and becomes systematic, then he becomes a trader and the profits of the transactions, not taxable so long as they remain isolated, become taxable as items in a trade as a whole.’

Where there is more than one transaction involved, the case for trading will be much stronger if the pattern appears to be a series of related transactions occurring at not too great intervals of time, and presenting the appearance of habitual and continuous activity. By contrast, the case will be weakened if the appearance is of a number of irregular transactions in different types of property spread over a number of years.