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Yard sailing through Revenue Canada waters

Clair Peers sifts through some of the items he has collected in his collection at his antique shop in Great Village, about a 20-minute drive outside of Truro, N.S. Peers helps organize a giant yard sale each year that attracts buyers from across Nova Scotia and beyond. Selling items in yard sales has become a way for some to earn some extra money on items they no longer use.
Clair Peers sifts through some of the items he has collected in his collection at his antique shop in Great Village, about a 20-minute drive outside of Truro, N.S. Peers helps organize a giant yard sale each year that attracts buyers from across Nova Scotia and beyond. Selling items in yard sales has become a way for some to earn some extra money on items they no longer use. - Harry Sullivan

While making some extra cash through yard sales isn’t going to bother Revenue Canada, using it as a business will

It was a quill box, a highly sought-after bit of First Nations craftwork, and it was priced at only $2 at a Nova Scotia yard sale.

A rare find.

“They’re very artistic and it takes a lot of work to make them,” said Clair Peers, co-organizer of the West Colchester 75 km Yard Sale. “They were very popular at the turn of the century.”

Snatched up by a local antique dealer, that quill box was put on eBay where it quickly received an offer of $700 before it was taken off the e-commerce website, sold for $1,000, and then re-sold for $5,500.

Or so says the local legend in Great Village, about a 20-minute drive from Truro, N.S.

The original buyer of that quill box at the garage sale won’t talk about that deal – except to say he only paid $1 for it and later traded it for something else.

But Peers, who is also an antique dealer, still fondly recalls that quill box as the greatest thing he’s ever seen at a yard sale.

After 12 years co-organizing this massive yard sale event, Peers has seen a lot of knick-knacks trade hands.

Every year on the second Saturday of July, the entire area west of Truro from the junction of highways 102 and 104 through to Great Village turns into a garage sale Mecca. As many as 1,000 homeowners take out stuff from their garages, basements and sheds and put them out for sale in an event that draws people from throughout the Maritimes.

“It’s the same marketing concept as the fast food industry,” said Peers. “If you travel … and see a McDonald’s sign, guess what? You’re not only going to see a McDonald’s. There’s also going to be a Tim Hortons and Wendy’s and Burger King.”

Setting aside one day a year for a mega yard sale creates a buzz.

“It draws more people to the area,” said Peers. “There’s so many people and so much interest. People come in from everywhere in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.”

Bargain hunters often love garage and yard sales because they can lead to rare finds, quirky devices, out-of-print books, hand-knitted baby sweaters, or classic tunes that tug at the heartstrings of the nostalgic.

“Take a look around your basement and find stuff you don’t want anymore or you’ve put away in a box,” suggested Peers. “You can go to your parents’ house and say, ‘Hey, where are my old comic books?

“Old records are really hot right now,” he said.

Vinyl records – that’s what older generations played before iTunes and CDs, kids – that he’s seen bought for about $15 each later sold at yard sales for as much as $60 each. Old metal signs for soda pop or advertisements can also be hot commodities.

But it’s absolutely vital for anyone putting on a yard sale to know their prices.

“Putting your prices too high is the biggest mistake there is,” said Peers. “It drives everyone away. You have to be price conscious.”

A good way to price items is to simply go on eBay or Kijiji and see what others are charging.

 

“A good rule is to put the baby clothes with the baby toys and the tools and that sort of thing with the guy stuff,” said Peers. “The guy looking at the oil can might be a little uncomfortable with (the baby toys and clothes).”

A perk of making a few extra bucks from a yard sale is that the money is usually tax free. Unless a homeowner is operating a second-hand retail store under the guise of a yard sale, there’s no HST to collect. The revenues are also probably not something which has to be declared to the Canada Revenue Agency.

But, be careful.

It’s not quite as easy as just stuffing all the money from the yard sale in a wallet.

Marilyn Hicks, an independent tax specialist, said in an interview Revenue Canada’s rules don’t usually require most people with yard sales to report that income. But almost anything that sells for more than $1,000, like a lawn tractor or boat rolled out onto the yard on the day of the garage sale, could possibly result in a capital gain or loss and trigger the need to report that income come tax time.

Collecting and reporting HST or income from a yard sale isn’t usually required – unless the so-called yard sale is really a second-hand goods store, said John Oakey, a tax partner with Collins Barrow.

And that’s the case whether things are sold on the front yard or online.

“There are people on Kijiji who will find something that’s good and undervalued, buy it and re-sell it for more money,” said Oakey. “Whether that’s considered inventory or personal use property is all based on intention.”

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