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Research on the Sharing Economy

User characteristics and tax reporting behaviour

Woman working out finances
Published: November 2017

Find out who is participating in the Sharing Economy and making money by sharing, selling or renting goods and services online.

Aim 

The research, conducted on behalf of HMRC, sets out to understand: 

  • The extent and size of the Sharing Economy in terms of the income generated by it and the characteristics of the people participating in it for profit; 
  • The knowledge, attitudes, and decision-making processes of providers in relation to taxation of income generated through the Sharing Economy.

This information will help HMRC to understand how they could support the growth of the Sharing Economy while making it easier for people to meet their tax obligations and access the allowances they are entitled to.

You can download the full report, Sharing Economy: User characteristics and tax reporting behaviour, from HMRC's website.

Key findings 

  • Around 11 per cent of the working age population, (5.3 million individuals in Great Britain) were found to be part of the Sharing Economy as providers. 
  • Buying items to resell was the most common type of Sharing Economy activity, mentioned by 44 per cent of providers, followed by selling crafts (22 per cent) and renting out space (19 per cent). 
  • Individuals engaging in the Sharing Economy were predominantly young (aged 34 or under) and urban, with the majority (73 per cent) earning a gross personal annual income of less than £40,000. 
  • Participation in the Sharing Economy was mainly driven by the opportunity to earn money, and the flexibility of work. Other motivations include achieving future goals; enjoyment of the activities; and the reputation and benefits of different platforms. 
  • Tax did not affect motivations to take part in the Sharing Economy because providers did not think about it or accepted that it would have to be paid.

Methods 

This is a mixed methods study that involved a number of different strands carried out during November and December 2016 in Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland, including:

  • questions on the NatCen Panel, which we used to estimate the prevalence of Sharing Economy providers in the general population. 
  • two YouGov online surveys. The first was used to understand the demographic profile of those involved in the Sharing Economy. The second was a survey of pre-screened Sharing Economy providers looking at their attitudes and behaviour. 
  • 30 in-depth telephone interviews with providers who derived an income through the Sharing Economy.