Spending too much time on Trade Me? Here are ten ways to tell if your flirtation with Trade Me is turning into a serious business — and, if you are indeed in that position, ten other things you should know to help make that business soar.
BUSINESS OR HOBBY – DOES IT MATTER?
If you’re running a business, your business expenses are deductible but you have to pay tax on your income. If it’s a hobby, you can’t deduct any expenses but then you don’t have to pay tax on your sales either.
Inland Revenue’s point of view, paraphrasing its published advice on the subject: the same rules apply, whether you’re selling on Trade Me or offline. If you sell stuff you don’t want or need any more, there are usually no tax consequences. However, if you sell things on a regular basis you might be regarded as being in business and consequently should declare the sales for income-tax purposes.
THE TEN TELL-TALE SIGNS THAT YOU’RE RUNNING A BUSINESS ON TRADE ME
As a general rule you’ll be considered to be in business (and should declare and pay tax on your Trade Me sales) if:
1. You acquired your products with the purpose of onselling them
2.Your intention is to make a profit from your selling activities
3. If your business involves dealing in such products
Note the ‘OR’ — any one of these conditions is enough to lead to the conclusion that you’re running a business on Trade Me. A key factor that Inland Revenue will consider when evaluating your case is how often or how regularly you’re selling on Trade Me. A high feedback count in a short period of time may be good for business — but it’s also a good indicator that you’re actually running a business.
Business or hobby — it’s one of the ‘grey areas’ of tax law. Some of the other issues that Inland Revenue (and the courts) consider if they need to establish whether an operation is hobby or business are:
4. Scale of operations
If it’s relatively large-scale, it’s probably a business. If it’s small-time, it could be a hobby.
5. Volume transactions
Many sales make business work. Just a few sales suggest a hobbyist (or a really lousy businessperson).
6. Commitment of time, money and effort
If you don’t have a life any more, it’s a business. If you’re only occasionally engaged in Trade Me-selling, hobby status seems likely.
7. Frequency of sales
Regular = business; occasional = possible hobby.
8. Financial results
Large sums of money changing hands, whether profitably or not, indicate a probable business venture. Small dollar values suggest you aren’t very good at this, and if it’s not just a hobby then maybe it should be.
9. Type of activity
If you’re dependent on Trade Me for your livelihood, tick business. If it’s mostly for fun, tick obsessed.
10. Buttoned down
Do you have systems and processes set up for your Trade Me efforts? Quacks like a business to us. Or are your operations loose as a goose? Then you’re either feeding a hobby or setting yourself up for a major business quack-up.
CONGRATULATIONS, IT’S A BUSINESS!
So your operation fits one or more of the Ten criteria above? Well done! Time to get even more serious about doing business on the site. Here’s another top ten list for your collection, this time of 10 key points to improve the prospects for your Trade Me offerings:
1. There are four wholesale levels when it comes to manufactured products: manufacturer, importer, distributor and intermediary. The further up the chain you have to buy, the harder it is to make money when you sell. Try to get as close as possible to the original manufacturer of a product. How? If you see a product you think would be a profitable seller on Trade Me, check the markings on the product and/or the packaging for point of origin. Then pick up the phone, ask for sales and start talking likely volumes. At the very least they’ll point you in the direction of the nearest importer or distributor.
2. Don’t be an early adopter. Never buy new or soon-to-be-introduced products unless you’re absolutely certain they’ll sell on Trade Me (based on historical results for similar products).
3. Don’t buy fad products, unless you buy at bargain-basement prices direct from the manufacturer or importer and you’re buying right at the height of the fad (which, frankly, is unlikely).
4. All products have life cycles. First, they’re launched, full of hope and excitement. Ultra-hot new products, where demand exceeds supply, can sell on Trade Me for a premium — if you’re able to find a dependable product supply source and can get in when demand is at its peak. (Guess wrong about a product’s popularity, however, and you’re cooked. Anyone want to buy a Catwoman plastic toy — we’ve still got a few hundred left?)
5. Not all products survive the launch phase. But those that do tend to become established then turn into a steady seller at retail. During this phase you’re unlikely to match the buying power of the large retail chains, so it’s not a good time to sell this product on Trade Me (except for pre-owned versions bought for a song and resold at highly discounted prices).
6. In the next phase of the product life cycle, sales begin to dip as customers move on to the next big thing. Retailers will start clearing stock at discounted prices — but not at enough of a discount to make it worth your while buying up product. Once again, this is a poor time to buy for resale on Trade Me.
7. Finally, the products fall into the liquidation phase, flogged off for pennies in the dollar. This is when you’ll be able to make a decent profit — so long as the product still has inherent appeal for potential purchasers.
8. Don’t buy products in volumes that represent more than 10% of the total quantities available on Trade Me. You won’t corner the market; you’ll just take a bath.
9. Don’t buy a product if there are more than 10 competitors selling the exact same thing on Trade Me.
10. Never buy a liquidation or end-of-line item unless it carries a well-known brand name.
For a whole lot more about running a business on Trade Me, may we direct you to Chapter Seventeen of Trade Me Success Secrets, available through our Trade Me Store.
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