One of the most disruptive industries to take on both tech and finance in recent years has been crypto. VC’s are pouring billions of dollars into new crypto startups and talking about it on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Major tech companies are researching and launching crypto products. Financial service institutions like Fidelity have even started including Bitcoin as an option for their 401k plans. As crypto becomes more omnipresent, companies need to create plans for crypto payroll, or how to pay employees in cryptocurrencies.
Crypto payroll is the process of paying employees in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Tether, Ethereum, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and other digital assets. More and more companies are beginning to integrate cryptocurrencies with payroll solutions and employment compensation packages for freelancers and full-time employees, usually as a bonus.
International employees are tired of delays and fees related to wire transfers and the SWIFT banking system. Gen Z and younger millennials have grown weary of established institutions, such as big banks, and want to receive part of their wages in cryptocurrencies. The number of people researching crypto is growing each month.
Many companies, especially crypto startups, are already offering crypto as part of their employee compensation packages. For companies, the opportunity to attract talent both at home and abroad by offering crypto payments as an option will continue to grow, especially as more people learn about how to get paid by crypto solutions.
Today, politicians and celebrities, including New York City mayor Eric Adams and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, are accepting part of their salaries in cryptocurrencies. Employees in cryptocurrency companies like Coinbase also receive cryptocurrency as part of their compensation packages, through payroll.
The short answer is yes. The longer answer–it depends on the country.
As cryptocurrency has gained traction worldwide, more countries have begun to regulate the currencies. The IRS in the US, for example, treats cryptocurrencies as an asset, which means that they are treated as property, like gold and stocks.
In general, Latin America and European countries are more friendly towards cryptocurrencies.
In El Salvador, Bitcoin is the country’s official currency, the world’s first to select a cryptocurrency.
In the EU, Bitcoin is treated as a “supply of services,” which means you don’t pay value-added taxes (VAT) on crypto payments.
In Switzerland, Bitcoin is treated as a foreign currency, as one would treat the Colombian peso or the US dollar.
In some countries, including Argentina and Spain, cryptocurrencies are subject to income taxes.
In Portugal, crypto is not taxed at all.
For crypto in the UK, the roles are much more complex. Corporations and unincorporated businesses are responsible for paying taxes on crypto currencies, while individual holders need to pay capital gains taxes on any profit they make from the currency.
Dealing in cryptocurrencies is banned in the following countries:
The two most common cryptocurrencies are Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETC), though other currencies are becoming more popular as well.
Some popular crypto currencies include:
Binance Coin (BNB)
Cryptocurrency has a number of advantages, which has made the form of payment appealing to digital natives, startup employees, and tech workers all around the world.
Crypto payments are faster and cheaper, especially for international employees. With crypto, there are fewer hurdles to sending money, since you don’t need to worry about banks or other financial institutions. Near-instant transfers and low fees make crypto especially appealing for international employees.
Cryptocurrencies are decentralized. Because crypto is a peer-to-peer payment system, you can send funds directly to the person. Payments on the blockchain or permanent, visible, and secure. You don’t need to worry about getting caught in certain regulatory hurdles.
Cryptocurrency value is independent of government or financial institutions. For countries like Argentina, where inflation has been notoriously high for decades, cryptocurrency offers workers a chance to earn in a currency that holds its value in the international market.
You don't need to worry about currency conversions. Bitcoin is worth the same in the US as it is worth in Colombia or France.
Cryptocurrency is like buying stocks. Cryptocurrency acts like stock or equity in a company or business, which means that you have the potential to earn more money by getting paid in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or another currency.
Unable to rescind payments. If you send payment to the wrong person, or need to get a refund, you will need to depend on the individual holder to return the money to you. Since the system is decentralized, no bank or financial institution can intervene when issues arise.
Risks related to value fluctuations. Like stocks, crypto currencies are volatile, which means they can go down in value as well. This means that keeping cryptocurrencies on your business’s balance sheet can lead to risks, especially during tax reasons. If the value of cryptocurrency drops below a certain threshold, businesses risk non-compliance (e.g., not paying at or above minimum wage).
Misclassification risk. If the value fluctuation goes against contractors, they might argue that they should be classified as a full-time employee.
Legal requirements to pay in local fiat currency. With the exception of El Salvador, Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are not considered legal tender. Payments of employee wages must be done in the local currency.
Fraud risk. Since you don’t have a bank or financial institution confirming identity, there are fewer ways to confirm one’s identity and safeguard your money and your business.
Cryptocurrency has a bad reputation. Cryptocurrency has become associated with certain illegal activities, which has made some companies weary of getting involved.
Crypto is not integrated with the current banking system. You won’t be able to store your cryptocurrency with a bank, which means you will need to invest in crypto brokerage services like Robinhood, Coinbase, or Blockchain.com. Consequently, human resources departments might be weary of paying employees with crypto.
With non-custodial wallets, you are responsible for maintaining the key to your wallet address, or account. This approach takes a deep understanding of how blockchain works and consumes a significant amount of power.
Unfortunately, losing your private key has severe consequences: you won’t be able to access your money without it.
To avoid losing private keys, many people keep their currencies in an exchange or a custodial wallet, like Blockchain.com or Coinbase. With this approach, the custodial wallet manages your private key for you and usually offers customer support in case something happens. You can usually get started right away.
In certain circumstances, employers can pay their employees or contractors in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. However, since the value of cryptocurrencies vary widely, companies risk paying employees below minimum wage if the value plummets. This can lead to regulatory issues regarding minimum wage and overtime. In general, it’s best if employees receive one part of their compensation in crypto currency, not the whole salary.
Yes. However, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are considered property, which means they are valued and taxed like other assets, such as stocks.
Tax regulations regarding cryptocurrency are always changing, so it’s best to research all local and federal laws that impact your taxes.
You can ask your employer to pay your bonus in crypto, but technically speaking, you must receive your wages in a currency that has been issued by a government, otherwise known as fiat currencies.
Companies including Coinbase, for instance, pay their employees a weekly crypto bonus.
Bitcoin (BTC) and Etherum (ETH) are the most common crypto currencies, but many people are starting to use Tether (USDT), whose value corresponds exactly to the US dollar. The main challenge with Bitcoin and Ethereum is that they depend on a decentralized, peer-to-peer transaction system, which means volatility is exceptionally high.