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eBay CEO: ‘I supported the American Rescue Plan–but a little-known provision will hurt millions of Americans who buy and sell used goods online’



This year, record inflation has taken a heavy toll on Americans, with high energy and food prices plaguing them for months. And while the Inflation Reduction Act offers some relief, it will take time for people to experience its benefits.

Many Americans need extra cash today, not tomorrow, next week, or next year. This is where online marketplaces play a critical role. For millions, these marketplaces are more than just shopping platforms: they are an economic parachute helping to fund critical everyday needs such as food, medicine, and utility bills. Those people will find themselves in a real bind should Congress fail to address a major change to the tax reporting requirements for online sales before the end of the year. 

The vast majority of Americans selling online are not running businesses, but rather are casual sellers who occasionally sell used or pre-owned goods to make a little extra money. These individuals’ sales online have typically been below the threshold that would trigger a notification to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which means they did not receive a 1099-K tax form–until now.

Section 9674 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included a last-minute provision that drastically reduced that threshold, imposing a significant administrative burden that could jeopardize access to these marketplaces for millions of Americans. 

As the CEO of eBay, I supported the American Rescue Plan, which provided economic relief for American workers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the lowering of the 1099-K threshold from $20,000 in annual payments (and 200 transactions) to just $600 does the opposite of the legislation’s intended goals and will cause confusion, increased cost, and tax overreporting for those Americans who need the extra income the most.

Today, online marketplaces have taken on even greater significance amid the economic challenges of the past two years. Platforms like ours help individuals find items that may not be available in stores and often at a fraction of the price, which helps people save money that can be used for other necessary expenses. We are committed to promoting the interests of casual sellers as we educate policymakers about the important role re-commerce (the reselling of pre-owned goods) plays in helping hard-working individuals and families.

As many Americans find their paycheck doesn’t stretch as far these days, they are turning to the re-commerce market to supplement their income. This is particularly true for women, who have shouldered a lion’s share of the pandemic’s economic burden. The small amount of money earned from cleaning out a closet or garage can ensure the utility bill is paid or there is food on the table. A survey of e-commerce sellers that had less than $20,000 in online sales last year found nearly half are selling online to pay for necessary personal expenses such as medicine, housing, and clothing. The new reporting threshold could put that in jeopardy.

Over the years, filing taxes has grown increasingly complicated, confusing, and expensive–taxpayers spend tens of billions of dollars each year on software and other filing expenses. The new reporting requirement checks off all those boxes for casual online sellers who will be surprised to find they may receive an IRS 1099-K form come the next tax season. While the IRS considers the sale of second-hand goods for less than the original purchase price to be non-taxable income, casual sellers would have the burden to prove to the IRS that they earned no taxable income from those sales. And, if they don’t have proof of the original price, then they could be liable for income tax on those sales.

Most casual sellers are unlikely to have the original receipt from the old bike, stroller, or gently used shoes they sold online, and it’s unreasonable to require such proof given the small transactions involved. Many will decide they need to hire a tax expert while others will simply overreport their income to be on the safe side–wasting money that could have a real impact on household budgets.

Potential and existing sellers, daunted by the possibility of a complicated tax form, may simply refrain from participating in the marketplace altogether or even throw away those items which could be used by someone else instead of adding to our landfills.

The more budget-conscious consumers who are flocking to the re-commerce market to purchase previously owned goods will be particularly impacted by this change. Online marketplace platforms offer alternative avenues for finding much-needed items that are either more expensive elsewhere or unavailable due to persistent supply chain issues. If sellers sit on the sidelines, weary consumers will have to look elsewhere, which will make this holiday season even more difficult for many.

Tax regulations that govern the re-commerce market must be based on common sense and account for those Americans who only use online marketplace platforms occasionally–Section 9674 does neither.

eBay urges Congress to immediately raise the reporting threshold to a more reasonable figure that would maintain access to online marketplaces for all Americans without undue burdens, additional expense, or fear of making a tax misstep.

Jamie Iannone is the president and CEO of eBay, Inc.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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