Data from Uphold, a digital money platform which allows users to purchase, hold, convert, transact currencies and cryptocurrencies, reveals that large corporations such as Starbucks, Netflix, and Airbnb, pay their employees in digital currencies via Bitwage – a payroll processing firm. Similarly, GMO Internet Group, a provider of internet services in Japan, announced in 2017 its plan to pay its workers 100,000 yen per month (approximately US $900) via Bitcoin. GMO has sixty companies spread in ten countries. The adoption of cryptocurrency when giving out salaries is a way to boost digital currency payments’ adoption into the mainstream.
GMO sees cryptocurrencies’ potential to be “new universal currencies” that will be readily available to anyone, regardless of region or country – akin to the creation of “a new borderless economic zone”. Starting March 2018, only one GMO Company will release salaries via digital currency. Eventually, more than 4,000 workers of GMO companies in Japan will also receive their salary in cryptocurrency. The minimum payment set in bitcoin is 10,000 yen while the maximum payment is 100,000 yen.
According to University of Minnesota’s Saif Benjaafar, the director of the Initiative on the Sharing Economy, paying employees in cryptocurrency will result to positive gains for all parties. Benjaafar declared, “This could be a win-win for workers and the platforms.”
Cryptocurrency payments are specially attractive to those operating in the gig economy mainly due to the speed of how digital payments are done as well as the transparency brought on by blockchain-based tech. The ability and ease of peer-to-peer payments is also a plus. Currently, the roadblock seen in paying via cryptocurrency is on administrative responsibilities. CPA and lawyer Selva Ozelli explained: “Payments using cryptocurrency made to independent contractors are taxable.” Employers are also required to issue a form 1099 to independent contractors. Also, a few companies charge a large fee when converting fiat to cryptocurrency for specific employers.