A Taxing Week

No, not my trading, which has gone reasonably well considering I haven't really done that much this week. I was referring to the onerous task of doing my business accounts and filling in my tax return.

I'm my own worst enemy though. When I first set myself up as a self-employed IT Consultant (read Jack of all trades, master of none) I religiously did my accounts every day. It slowly changed to the end of the week, becoming the end of the month and then every quarter when my VAT return was due.

After cutting my business back to look after my kids, I de-registered for VAT at which point my accounts slipped to an annual chore that I find all to easy to put off. There's always something more interesting to do. It's all done now with only the form to be sent off and I can sit back and relax for another year.

This time always brings up the question of gambling profits from a Tax point of view. Yes, I know that they are exempt from Income Tax, but even then, there's a question mark.

Over the years, I've raise this issue with three different accountants/tax consultants. I've had three different answers...

1. You don't need to declare gambling profits on your tax return, but make sure you keep a record of those profits.
2. You should declare gambling profits on your tax return, though they are not liable for Income Tax, and keep accurate records as proof.
3. As number 2 but with the following caveate. If it can be shown that you are a professional gambler, then the Inland Revenue will take the position that that is your employment and tax that income.

I don't earn enough to be particularly worried about it, though getting three different answers from 'experts' in their field doesn't lend itself to making me sure of my position. If so called professionals accountants don't know, how can the Inland Revenue expect the average Joe to be fully appraised?

The third of those responses is also rather intriguing. At what point does one go from being a successful amateur to a fully fledged professional? Is it based on earnings or the number of hours spent in that pursuit? Does the regularity of those earning have a baring on one's professional status?

Me? I spend a lot of hours trading, but I wouldn't class it as my profession.

What of the person who spends all year researching just the one bet and wins £50K? Is his 'professional' status any different from the person who 'earns' the same amount of money by researching one successful bet a day? I've no idea and as I've never had the intention of making this my career, I guess I'll never be in a position to find out.

If any professional traders are reading this, I'd be interested to hear an explanation of the tax situation from someone it affects.


Anonymous said...

End of,no caveats no nothing.
Keep records yes so that you can prove where it came from if asked.
But it is NOT TAXABLE.

Alistair said...

Actually Anonymous it is NOT tax free, it is TAX EXCEMPT. My limited understanding of tax law is that there's a subtle difference.

That small distinction aside, should it be declared on a tax return?

Even though it is exempt from tax, is it classed as income? If it is classed as income, then surely it should be declared irrespective of it being liable for tax or not?

Classing it as income could also have implications in other areas of the tax and benefit system.

Peter Webb said...

Unfortuntely there is no clear guidance. The IR will make each decision on a case by case basis. There is no evidence to suggest that spread betting on the stock market has been taxed and this is much larger than on sports. But each case merits is own criteria and decision unfortunately. Take professional advice if needed.

Alistair said...

Thanks for the comment Peter.

Unfortunately, as discussed in my post, my experience of professional advice is somewhat variable. No doubt a direct result of the absence of clear guidance you rightly indicated.