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Basically I am considering starting a game server that has optional donations for people to gain little perks. All the money donated will go towards the upkeep of the server, and any excess will go towards paying for the months that donations aren't enough to cover all the costs.

Will there be any taxes on this money I receive?

Note: All transactions will be done through Paypal, and I live in the UK.

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  • 2
    How should I handle taxes for Minecraft server donations? is very similar, if not a duplicate. Jun 18 '15 at 0:26
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    @JoeTaxpayer The question you linked is similar, but for the U.S., not the U.K. (It was missing the country tag, though.) Jun 18 '15 at 1:31
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    For this type of question, I'd be curious to see if the answers change by country. Jun 18 '15 at 10:20
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    I think the answers do vary as it'll depend on the tax laws of the specific country - particularly the precise details over how/what you have to report. Jun 18 '15 at 13:15
  • Without knowing a great deal, but could a seperate business entity be developed, thereby distancing it from yourself, and possibly allowing it to be set up as a charity if it is simply for server upkeep?
    – nickson104
    Jun 19 '15 at 7:26
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There's a couple of considerations here.

Firstly, would this activity count as "trading". If you're trading you are legally required to register as self-employed. The line between a hobby activity and trading can be blurred but a key feature is whether you're aiming to make a profit (whether you manage it or not!).

Secondly are you actually making any money? Even if what you're doing counts as self-employment, self-employed people pay tax on the profits they make from their activities, not on the total amount of money they take in. If you spend all the money you take in on keeping the server running then you're not making any profit so there's nothing to pay tax on.

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This page lays down the requirements for an "unincorporated association" to pay tax (i.e. any group that's not a registered entity). You pay tax is you make money from:

  • Doing business (trading profits)
  • Investments
  • Selling assets (for more than you paid)

it looks like you don't do any of those, so you don't need to file for taxes. There is another exemption that you don't have to file if it is likely that you would owe less than a hundred pounds taxes, which would also probably apply to you.

There are many thousands of clubs and societies in the UK that don't need to register for tax purposes, so you are far from alone. It is probably worth creating an actual club ("Captain Insanity Server Club") and keeping records of donations and expenses for the server. There isn't any need to legally incorporate or anything like that, though you might try having a separate bank account for it if you can get a free one, so that if the tax authorities ever audit you personally you can show them that the donations you received weren't income to you.

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  • I don't know anything about running a server, but I'd imagine with a good number of users he can make far more than 100lbs/yr. Jun 19 '15 at 16:58
  • @JoeTaxpayer The OP said he wasn't doing it for profit, and that any excess would be used to fund future deficits. Jun 19 '15 at 17:05
  • "any excess will go towards paying for the months that donations aren't enough" - you are reading this to mean he will throttle down, e.g. remove donation button, so he always runs break-even at best? His wording was either that, or he simply is a pessimist. Jun 19 '15 at 17:43
  • @DJClayworth: The bit about "likely that you would owe less than a hundred pounds taxes" was what I couldn't and couldn't find, and I did look. Could you post a link?
    – gnasher729
    Jun 20 '15 at 20:02
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Yes if you do it as a hobby, as it's still income. But it should be something you can offset against tax

Either way, you shouldn't be doing this as you, you should either register as self employed or create a company. You register this income as self-employed income (or income of the company) and offset the expenses of running the server against tax.

In the UK, companies (or self employed people, which are basically companies) pay tax on profit not income (unless VAT applies, in which case they're basically just passing the VAT on for their customers). Since you're not making a profit over the whole year (even if some months are profitable) you will pay no tax.

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I suspect that the new VATMOSS rules come in to play here. So you owe VAT for donations from EU countries, providing you are below £81k there would be no UK vat payable though, however then you couldn't recoup the vat you paid out.

Note I am not an accountant but I did speak to one this week about a similar issue.

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  • +1 for a UK-centric answer. The 81k - that's for one's gross income, right? Not just server biz? Jun 19 '15 at 14:45
  • I think it is turnover of the company. VAT is sales tax
    – Ian Turton
    Jun 19 '15 at 14:50
  • So a UKer can earn 81k in a side endeavor and not owe VAT? What about income tax? Jun 19 '15 at 14:52
  • Oh you pay income tax on income of 10k @ 20% rising to 40% over 42k corporate tax @?10% on company profit hence people being companies
    – Ian Turton
    Jun 19 '15 at 16:39
  • You might wish to update your answer. It discussed VAT, but not income tax. Jun 19 '15 at 16:53
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I would assume that under a certain threshold, HMRC doesn't even want to hear from you, because extracting taxes from you costs them more money than you are going to pay. On the other hand, I cannot find anything written about that subject.

I'd suggest to call them at 0300 200 3300 and ask them. Have the annual cost of the server ready, and tell them that you will stop asking for donations if say 6 months of cost is covered. There may be an official threshold that I was unable to find.

Obviously if you receive £1000 in donations and spend £100 for the server, they will want tax payment. If its £110 in donations and £100 for the server, they will likely not care. If they tell you to register as self-employed, it's not difficult, just a bit of a pain. In that case you'd have to pay tax on your income (donations) minus cost (cost for the server and any other cost).

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Unless you are a tax-exempt entity and running this server is clearly within your mission statement: YES, it's taxable income. Sorry.

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    I don't think this is right, although I'm not certain of the exact position. The donations relate specifically to an activity with costs, so I'd expect the costs to be offsettable against the income. Jun 18 '15 at 7:25
  • the other answers are better, agreed.
    – keshlam
    Jun 18 '15 at 20:32

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