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HMRC internal manual

Business Income Manual

Meaning of trade: badges of trade: interval of time between purchase and sale

The interval of time between purchase and sale may be important. A person who buys an asset and holds it for many years before disposing of it may be in a stronger position to argue that this is the realisation of an investment, than if the sale follows very soon after purchase. Similarly if you can show an intention, at the time of purchase, to sell quickly, that supports the idea of trading because trading implies the idea of turning over assets for profit. Even if no such intention is admitted or demonstrable, the fact that a sale did actually take place after a short period of ownership will help the trading inference if you can find sufficient of the other badges of trade.

The short period of ownership in Wisdom v Chamberlain [1968] 45TC92 was a factor in favour of trading as was the fact that, in Johnston v Heath [1970] 46TC463, the individual had contracted to sell the asset before he had acquired it.

In Marson v Morton and Others [1986] 59TC381, at page 392, the vice chancellor said, when discussing the badges of trade:

‘What were the purchasers’ intentions as to resale at the time of purchase? If there was an intention to hold the object indefinitely, albeit with an intention to make a capital profit at the end of the day, that is a pointer towards a pure investment as opposed to a trading deal. On the other hand, if before the contract of purchase is made a contract for resale is already in place, that is a very strong pointer towards a trading deal rather than an investment. Similarly, an intention to resell in the short term rather than the long term is some indication against concluding that the transaction was by way of investment rather than by way of a deal.’

He went to say that this factor was in no way decisive by itself.