Playing the new game

Damien Bailey and Lee Stott  consider how to tax the virtual world of e-sports

E- sports athletes are not alone in earning income from such sources. The title ‘streamer’ is given to an individual who may not necessarily be skilled enough to compete in competitions but is able to entertain whilst playing video games. Whether or not this income is subject to tax or NIC will depend on the age-old question of whether it is profit derived from a trade, profession or vocation and taxed via self-assessment as self-employed income. 

The profits of a trade are given a wide definition under Income Tax Act 2007 s 989. However, following the case of Ransom v Higgs [1974] STC 539 this is more commonly considered to mean ‘operations of a commercial character by which the trader provides to customers for reward some kind of goods or services’.