Business Owners Warned Over Social Media Snooping

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4 Sep 2014

Business owners are being warned to be careful how they use social media to promote their business. HMRC are watching. We've heard anecdotally about a couple of instances where business owners came unstuck:

1) A car showroom owner in Newcastle got into trouble with HMRC when his books did not show a number of cars that had been advertised for sale on Facebook.

2) A business owner in the south of England had difficulty explaining the pictures on Instagram with the caption "Check out my new speedboat". Yes, really. This wasn't declared on his disclosure of assets.

3) From our own files, a beauty salon in Glasgow had been putting up statuses along the lines of "Hurry guys, we only have one appointment left this week." During investigation, the owner was asked to explain the difference between this statement and the spaces in the diary. We were able to successfully argue that this was a marketing ploy to "create a buzz" - which we are assured was exactly the case - but it did create doubt in the inspector's mind, which is clearly something to be avoided.

The moral of the story? Facebook and SM can be an excellent way of promoting your business and we're not for one minute suggesting that you engage in tax evasion. But be very careful. HMRC's Investigation Unit are a resourceful bunch and anything which raises questions with them should be carefully considered.