Crypto Salaries Now Legal in New Zealand

New Zealand’s tax department, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), has officially made it legal for local workers to receive salaries in cryptocurrency. The ruling will go into effect on September 1, 2019 and will apply for a period of three years.

The tax collection agency’s modified Income Tax Act states that employees can be paid in digital assets for any work done under an employment contract. The recipients will have to pay taxes, the IRD’s August bulletin notes.

“This Ruling applies only to salary and wage earners, not self-employed taxpayers; and where the crypto-assets being paid:

• are not subject to a ‘lock-up’ period;
• can be converted directly into a fiat currency (on an exchange); and either:
– a significant purpose of the crypto-asset is to function like a currency; or
– the value of the crypto-asset is pegged to one or more fiat currencies.”

The crypto-asset payments are “PAYE income payments” and subject to the PAYE (pay as you earn) rules, which allow workers to be taxed directly from their wages or salary. Employers make the appropriate deductions from workers’ paychecks and then report the amounts directly to the local tax authority.

The IRD stipulates that conversion rates should be denominated in New Zealand dollars.

“However, where a crypto-asset payment is not denominated in NZD (for example, if an employee is paid 0.001 bitcoin per fortnight), it is necessary to calculate the NZD value of the crypto-assets on the date it is paid to the employee. Conversion rates may be obtained from any centralised data repository site that may be listed from time-to-time on the Inland Revenue website.”

The following example is included to help explain the application of the law.

Example: Employee paid part of salary in bitcoin

63. Ken is employed by Cryptowonderland Ltd. His salary is NZ$10,000 per month before tax. Half Ken’s salary is payable in NZD direct credited to his bank account. The other half is payable in bitcoin transferred to Ken’s bitcoin wallet.

64. PAYE should be calculated on the $10,000 gross payment and withheld and paid to the Commissioner (in New Zealand dollars). The net amount is payable to Ken.

65. If Ken is a Kiwisaver member or is subject to, for example, child support or student loan deductions, the Employer’s Guide (IR335) and the PAYE calculator (both available on the Inland Revenue website www.ird.govt.nz) can be used to assist with calculating these.”

As the demand grows for wages in Bitcoin and other leading cryptocurrencies, blockchain developers are building applications.

For example, Bitwage, a San Francisco-based startup, allows companies to make direct deposits in Bitcoin to their employees. In June, Bitwage’s management added Ether as a payroll option. The company currently provides services to more than 30,000 workers throughout the world, including freelancers and independent contractors.

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