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Crypto Compensation: Is Bitcoin the Paycheck of the Future?


Photo Courtesy: AndreyPopov/iStock

Today, Bitcoin is a household name. And while you can’t use it as broadly as you can traditional currency, this cryptocurrency is enjoying much wider acceptance as a form of payment in more and more places each day. In some cases, paying your mortgage with Bitcoin is even an option. But does this mean employers might begin using it to pay workers?

While the idea of getting paid wages in Bitcoin might seem a bit too far-fetched to become reality for many people, others have already decided to make the leap. If you’re curious about this emerging world of crypto compensation, take a look at what it could mean to get your paycheck in Bitcoin.

First, it’s important to note that receiving a paycheck in Bitcoin is still a rare occurrence in the grand scheme of things. However, it’s growing in popularity, particularly in tech and payroll processing circles where the concept of digital currency doesn’t feel as nebulous.

For example, Deel, a payroll and compliance company based in California, made crypto salaries an option in the hopes of attracting a global workforce. However, companies in those tech-adjacent spaces aren’t the only ones getting into the crypto-paycheck game.

In November 2021, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez — a vocal supporter of cryptocurrency — declared he’d be the first politician to take his paychecks entirely in Bitcoin. New York City Mayor Eric Adams also committed to the idea in November of 2021, saying he would take his first three paychecks as mayor in Bitcoin. After taking office, it was confirmed that his first paycheck, which he received on January 21, 2022, was comprised of Bitcoin and Ethereum.

In the world of football, NFL star Aaron Rodgers planned to take part of his salary in Bitcoin, while Odell Beckham Jr. asked to receive his total annual salary in the quintessential crypto. Others openly stated their plans to obtain endorsement-related pay in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies and even to convert part or all of their earnings into crypto.

How Bitcoin Paychecks Are Handled

In many ways, receiving a paycheck in Bitcoin isn’t wholly unlike getting paid in traditional currency. However, exactly what these enterprising payees receive is value-based, not a set amount.

Most Bitcoin paychecks are based on a dollar amount, not a specific number of Bitcoins. This means that, when a salary payment is due, the employer acquires or allocates the right amount of Bitcoin to align with the paycheck the person would receive if they were taking it in dollars.

Here’s how that looks. Say a person has a monthly salary of $5,000. A Bitcoin paycheck from February 2022 that was equivalent to this amount would be around 0.12 BTC, based on one Bitcoin sitting near a value of $41,500 early in that month. However, the paycheck they’d received in early December 2021 would’ve brought in closer to 0.10 BTC. In early November of that year, the paycheck would’ve been closer to 0.08 BTC. And in July 2021, $5,000 would’ve earned them closer to 0.14 BTC.

The odds of companies offering salaries in a certain number of Bitcoins is unlikely. The currency’s value shifts far too often, making overpayments and underpayments a potential issue. Instead, most employers that are open to the idea will likely stick with a value-based approach, as outlined above, to ensure someone’s salary has the right value when paid out.

The Financial Implications of Getting Paid in Bitcoin

While Bitcoin paychecks are appealing for a number of reasons — the fact that they eliminate the need for a bank account is a big one — there are some important things to consider about accepting this cryptocurrency as a form of wages.

Volatility

In most cases, the biggest financial implications of getting paid in Bitcoin revolve around the ever-fluctuating value of cryptocurrency. While even fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar see value shifts over time, crypto is far more volatile, meaning it can change drastically and quickly.

Bitcoin’s value has plummeted several times in its relatively short history. Between December 2017 and December 2018, Bitcoin lost approximately 84% of its value, shifting from $19,497 to as low as $3,191 during those 12 months.

In March 2020, near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bitcoin lost around half of its value in just two days. In May 2021 there was a similar tumble, pushing Bitcoin down by around 53% in just one week. And on December 4, 2021, the Bitcoin price fell 21% in just hours. Though it recovered, this shows just how tumultuous the cryptocurrency’s value can really be.

While it’s true that the price can go up almost just as quickly, predicting Bitcoin’s movements is challenging. Some may argue that the stock market is similarly difficult to anticipate. However, Bitcoin has no intrinsic value, as nothing fundamentally backs the currency. That doesn’t mean Bitcoin doesn’t have value at all, though. Instead, the core challenge is that the value is based almost solely on public perception. As a result, finding ways to invest in cryptocurrency safely is a vital objective.

Tax Challenges

It’s crucial to understand that there are tax implications when it comes to Bitcoin paychecks. In a legal sense, cryptocurrency is considered property, not currency. That complicates the matter.

When people receive Bitcoin as a form of payment, their taxes are based on its value at that moment. Even if the value of Bitcoin later dips, this doesn’t matter to that element of the tax equation. When you spend or cash out Bitcoin, you’ll also owe taxes on the difference between the acquisition value and the value of the cryptocurrency at the time you use it or cash it out. If Bitcoin loses value, there aren’t additional taxes. However, if it’s climbed in value, you’ll owe more.

Regulation

Another issue anyone interested in a Bitcoin paycheck has to consider is the impact of future regulation. Ultimately, the future of cryptocurrency isn’t entirely clear. Governments may move forward with legislation that alters the crypto landscape, potentially in unexpected ways. Technically speaking, outright bans are possible — although that doesn’t mean they’re likely.

Regulations might not just impact individuals who opt to receive their salaries in Bitcoin; they could also affect companies that accept them as payment, crypto wallet providers, cryptocurrency trading platforms, and others. Because a change in any of those areas could dramatically hinder the market, the impact on crypto values could be severe.

What Does the Future Hold for Bitcoin Paychecks?

Interest in Bitcoin paychecks is certainly growing, and not just among the avid fans that make cryptocurrency podcasts part of their daily routine. Many younger professionals view crypto as a way to circumvent inflation and prepare for tomorrow’s financial landscape. Transfers are essentially instantaneous and are low-cost. And on a wider scope, Bitcoin holds the potential to become a global-style universal currency.

An increasing number of companies also view Bitcoin as a viable payment option. If this trend continues, requesting paychecks in cryptocurrency may make more sense. When spending crypto becomes even more widespread and practical, receiving it as compensation won’t seem outlandish.

However, as a paycheck, Bitcoin could remain challenging to manage. It requires employers and employees to embrace new payment mechanisms. The volatility could complicate the process of ensuring employees are properly compensated. Plus, the tax situation is messy.

Additionally, there’s always the possibility of new regulations coming into play. Depending on how cryptocurrency is treated, legally speaking, the viability of all crypto coins could shift overnight. Because it isn’t clear what the future holds, some companies might limit paychecks to fiat currency — it’s far less risky for employers and employees alike.

Ultimately, only time will tell if Bitcoin becomes the paycheck of the future. For now, it’s simply an option in a limited number of places. But tomorrow, that could change, giving more people the freedom of choice when it comes to their wages and financial futures.

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