The meaning of trade for tax purposes
Interestingly, there is no statutory definition of ‘trade’. The only statutory reference to the term states that ‘trade’ includes a ‘venture in the nature of trade’. This absence of statutory clarity has left definition – is a certain activity a trade or not – to the courts, and they have set some established guidance.
This effectively suggests that the term ‘trade’ can be taken to refer to operations of a commercial kind, by which the trader provides to customers for reward with some kind of goods or services.
The courts have also found the so-called ‘badges of trade’ tests to be helpful indicators of trading in some cases. The tests, whilst not conclusive, are used to help determine whether an activity is an economic / business activity or merely a money-making side line to a hobby.
It is clear from the significant amount of case law on this subject that a decision on whether there is indeed a trade is often not black and white. Even if HMRC consider that the activities in question are a trade, taxpayers can make up to £1,000 per year from their ‘trade’ using the trading allowance that was introduced in April 2017.