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Tue Apr 17 2012 12:08:45

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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I spent the better part of Sunday engaging in that mass masochistic obligatory American task: taxes. While it was not fun to be glued to the chair all day, it helped me come to some realizations about what had been selling best for me all year on eBay and Amazon, and what I plan to focus on going forward.

I will share my insights (and resources as to selling these types of items), but first I wanted to throw out a question to all readers of this blog: What did you learn about your online sales from doing your taxes? Did, for example, one category outsell another by an amount that surprised you, and what was it? Will it change what you list going forward? Did you make more or less than you expected? Etc.

For me, I found that several specific types of products sold best: perfumes, golf shirts, porcelain/china, books, and jewelry.

Those categories of items made the bulk of my sales, though I will list anything I find at a yard or estate sale that I think looks promising.

Perfumes: I was inspired to start buying these regularly at yard and estate sales by Amy Kagey, who sells them regularly herself, and was featured in this blog post: Selling Perfume Bottles on eBay for Fun and Profit.

Golf shirts: this idea I completely took from the "eBay Selling Coach" Suzanne Wells, who has a blog here. She has sold thousands of golf shirts over the years. Personally, for me, I have found the shirts that have a golfers' name associated with the brand do the best: Bobby Jones, Steve Stricker, Greg Norman, etc. Other brands that do well are Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Tommy Hilfiger, and on and on. If I find one new with tags at a thrift store, I snap it up. Green Masters Augusta National shirts will almost always sell.

Meissen China and other fine brands of china and porcelain: I'm not sure when my love affair with Meissen began. Perhaps it was while waiting in line outside one legendary estate sale, when I overheard a lady standing next to me say "...Oh and the Meissen..." and roll her eyes as if she'd just seen Brad Pitt. There is a Meissen collectors community on I Antique Online; if you know of any others, feel free to share them in a comment here.

Books: what can I say? I can't seem to stop buying and selling them. What's changed is most of my sales now are on Amazon, and they're usually the kinds of books people wouldn't want to just download. Rare old collectible books; hard-to-find, out-of-print books; books that bring back childhood or other memories (yearbooks, for example).

Jewelry: with the prices of gold and silver so strong, this was a no-brainer in terms of fine jewelry. But some of the items I sold were my own pieces that I just wasn't wearing.

How about you? Did going over your sales (and even expenses) for the year give you any insights into what sells best for you? Or worst? Will you stop selling anything or change any of your practices based on what you discovered?




Comments (13) | Permalink

Readers Comments

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
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Tue Apr 17 18:08:42 2012

I find that most people do not want to let on what they sell well, in case other people start copying them.

I sell my own product, so I can't really comment.

I also think that leaving it to tax time to do some sales analysis is a bit late, it should be done say monthly.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 17 22:36:24 2012

Great insight, Julia. The above comment is partially correct. Sales analysis should be dome on a periodic basis. That said, what stood out in black and white was that our eBay sales are becomming less and less important to us. Although our total revenue grew substantially in 2011, our eBay sales declined. Not only is the dollar value less, but by putting our efforts into other venues the percentage of total revenue dropped significantly.

Marginal profit is also a lot less on eBay sales, primarily due to eBay fees, higher returns and the lower price point of our eBay items.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Wed Apr 18 10:15:45 2012

Great point, Essex...great commentary as always. I find the same thing about eBay. I am still selling there for those one-off items more, and things like the Meissen and perfume bottles. My books business, including yearbooks, catalogs, magazines...oh and really cds and video games as well, when I get them, has moved to amazon.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: JoyfulA This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 18 11:33:12 2012

What you wrote about books is true, Julia. The long-tail and, better, the tip of the long tail are worth selling, although the wait may be long. However, I have learned a couple of titles I can turn around fast if I find them cheap.

What I learned doing my taxes was that the rents (by which I mean fees of all kinds) are killing me. Fortunately, I figured that out earlier in the year, but the taxes really reconfirmed my judgment in slashing my rental payments. I am going to list books on e-crater, where my husband did very well with bamboo floor mats, and see how that goes.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Apr 18 12:10:43 2012

It was doing my monthly sales reports and taxes for 2008 that made us finally stop selling on ebay and switch to ecrater although I do sell the ocasional thing on Amazon. Ebay's fees were killing us even with good sales, but when the good sales plummetted due to ebay's nonsensical rules and constant changes, I knew it was time to leave. I had already chosen my path of things to sell and that hasn't changed much. Doing taxes does remind me that every receipt and documented expense is crucial when doing taxes.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Wed Apr 18 19:15:09 2012

EssexEstateServices observes: ''Although our total revenue grew substantially in 2011, our eBay sales declined''

I had an identical experience. I was very pleased with the growth in sales that I experienced at my own web site... and was not at all surprised to see how much the year-over-year sales at eBay had tumbled. Also unsurprising was the fact that even though my eBay sales were down, my eBay fees were up.

Julia may have hit on something in her follow-up comment... and that may be a ''self-inflicted'' contributing factor to the reason that my eBay sales are down. Namely... that I no longer list items of any great worth.

For the most part, I'll only list the items that are at a price-point that I feel I can afford to lose due to fraud or ''electronic-shoplifting''. ~~ Obviously, my profit margin on those items are already razor-thin, and the increasing eBay/PP fees don't help matters either.

In order to adapt to eBay's new environment my new philosophy, and how eBay fits-in with my plans, is to simply view eBay as little more than advertisement. It's not really a place that will allow me to make a living anymore... but it does provide me with an excellent opportunity to DRIVE SALES to my web site.

My eBay items are basically the low-end ''samples''. Although I do charge for them, it's just a way for me to meet people and to introduce the rest of the items I sell.

eBay is the utility pole to which I attach my sign letting people know where they can find a bigger selection and better prices. ~ Many times, I'm able to intercept the eBay sale and convert it into a direct sale. But most times, the initial eBay sale goes through... and the repeat sales are direct to my site.

So, I suppose it would be possible for me to ''up'' the value of the items that I typically list on eBay... but it's just difficult to get excited about eBay anymore.

Considering the effort needed to actually list an item on eBay--even with that clunky old turbolister--I could get ten times as many items listed on my site. AND have time to print up a little flyer that I can include in the package for every eBay sale that I ship out.

@Moonwishes: Yes... receipts are a must! I was able to make things a bit easier this year by using ONE credit card exclusively for business-related items, supplies, services. The year-end statement made everything a breeze. (And a good accountant is also a blessing. Well worth the cost for me.)

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Apr 18 22:46:38 2012

What L learned from doing my taxes is that I don't sell nearly enough to get in Th Ho's lower tax bracelet.

The vast majority of ebay sellers have paid a much higher tax rate on our meager earnings than corporate thieves and liars like The Ho and The Devil have pay on their mega millions.

Further, most of us don't have double secret offshore or Swiss bank accounts to hide money in order to evade US taxes.



What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 19 12:19:12 2012

I knew it was bad but this year after expenses I made 18K! This is for 65-80 hours of work and CONSTANT stress?
I like many other good folks gave up a 60K year job with benefits for this?
GSI and the cassini search are killing us and I am Da#n glad I have an interview next week.
We all need REAL JOBS again so we can stop feeding the monster Donahue who is USING US to subsidize his Diamond sellers.
No changes to protect sellers and ever diminishing exposure- AS USUAL.
Ebay is HOPELESS.
As soon as I get a job I am OUTTA HERE!
INA: How about doing an article about the HORRIBLE EXPOSURE re-lists get?
This needs to be EXPOSED.
Mass. Howler

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: squid This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Apr 19 16:07:30 2012

Millions, perhaps, of people on disability sell items on the internet to supplement their meager subsistence incomes. For them,they can't pay taxes on what they sell because then their already low incomes and health benefits could be lost when the IRS and the rest of the gov comes after them. I've read about these folks and my own wife is disabled and has we are close to another disabled person who is terribly poor. Those sellers now have to make sure they stay under $20,000 a year in sales to avoid having to give up their social security numbers to selling sites and payment sites. Amazon requires SS numbers or tax IDs for over 40 sales, so EBAY or another site is all that's left to them.  They're locked out of Amazon.Internet selling used to be a wonderful resource for the disabled to help them have a couple extra bucks to pay their heating bill in the winter or buy some better food. With the new tax laws and everybody coming after Tax IDs and SS numbers to sell things on the net, what's going to happen to those sellers? (while cuts are also being made to every social net the disabled need to survive).  

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: paperdetective This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 19 18:32:10 2012

Well said, squid. A $20,000 a year sales limit is ridiculous, becaus eit is 'gross'.

With Ebay forcing sellers to included shipping costs in their sales prices (due to the fess over s+h) they have forced even more part-time sellers into the 'taxable realm'.  Thanks Ebay for MAKING us pay taxes that way. Must have a deal with the politicians.  

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 20 00:59:22 2012

@Mass Howler
You are so right about the relists. For every view of an item that doesn't end in a sale, that item gets buried deeper and deeper with every relist. Of course, it means more money in relisting fees for eBay. Looking under completed it is so sad & sickening to see the same items relisted repeatedly until the item drops in price and is practically given away. The sellers who hold their ground on price may eventually sell after months but I'm guessing most just give up since the relisting fees are eating them up. Devaluing items on eBay carries over onto other sites, and also B&M stores as well. Sorry for going off topic.

What irritates me about the 1099 Paypal, is Paypal includes their fees and the shipping charges into the gross amount. Refunds are also included. This puts a lot of sellers over the $20,000.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Fri Apr 20 09:29:31 2012

@squid: While I feel for the disabled (having a disability myself, though thankfully, still able to work) and others trying to make ends meet, I can't support people selling and not paying their taxes. Sorry, but that's just not fair to everyone else who pays the taxes they owe. I'm not talking about someone selling a handful of items, like at a yard sale. But if you're making more than $20K, then you need to be paying taxes on that amount. I get that it does have a negative impact on your benefits, but that doesn't make it right to cheat on your taxes. Perhaps they ought to structure their selling as a business, which opens up a lot more areas for deductions of business expenses and can dramatically lower the amount of profit brought in.

@Ming: Most people who keep money offshore are not doing it to "hide" it, especially since most banks have agreements with the US to report those people now and there have been increasing crackdowns on that sort of thing. No, the biggest reason is probably because those banks are paying much higher interest rates than what one can get here in the US. I don't know about you, but my highest-paying savings account right now is only paying 0.8%. Even after taxes, getting a rate of 5% or higher in another country is still a better deal. Most US money markets accounts are paying 0.01. If you take inflation into account, you're actually losing money on that deal.

What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?   What Are Your Sales Insights from Doing Your Taxes?

by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 20 14:22:05 2012

I could be incorrect about this but when applying for benefits or annual determination reporting, they look at the person's gross income. How right is this when someone is denied or have their benefits lowered?



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