IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

January 12, 2009 -

If you're running a virtual goods business in, say, Second Life, you may soon find yourself on the radar of the Internal Revenue Service.

The Washington Post reports that Nina Olson, who serves as the U.S. Taxpayer Advocate, has recommended to the IRS that it take a closer look at the exchange of virtual goods in online worlds, which she estimates at $1 billion annually. From the WaPo:

[Olson] told the agency that it should "proactively address emerging issues such as those arising from virtual worlds." Her report said that about $1 billion in real dollars changed hands in computer-based environments during 2005. Additionally, more than 16 million people are said to have active subscriptions in these worlds, "many of which have their own virtual economies and currencies."

But Olson said the IRS hasn't effectively been able to respond to taxpayer inquiries about how to report transactions associated with them. "Economic activities in virtual worlds may present an emerging area of tax noncompliance, in part because the IRS has not provided guidance about whether and how taxpayers should report such activities," said Olson's report. She suggests that to improve voluntary tax compliance, the IRS issue guidance addressing how taxpayers should report economic activities in virtual worlds.

GP: It's not entirely clear what Olson expects the IRS to gain from this line of inquiry. Anyone doing substantial business in a virtual world is already obligated by law to report their earnings, just like anyone running a real-world business. If a virtual goods vendor chooses to run his or her business "under the table," it would seem that they place themselves in legal peril.

UPDATE: New World Notes has a thoughtful analysis of how the IRS might look at the tax implications of Second Life transactions.

Via: Kotaku


Comments

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

Or the IRS could stop looking at taxing consumers and individuals ( 306 million based on the latest survey I could find) and levy all taxes onto businesses that employ a large number of individuals at the payroll level, and not tax consumers directly one bit, thus dropping the number of people they have to keep up with from 306 million to ~6 million (businesses that employ others) (20 million including small businesses)

It would save us annually at least a billion, and the IRS wouldn't have to chase after as many people. Right now businesses have to pay so many different taxes on so many different things, too, holding it at the payroll level (flat federal tax of x%, then a state tax that the states decide).

Of course, we'd have to keep import/export fees, but that's handled at the business level too.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

The simple fact is that the IRS wouldn't have jurisdiction.  Second Life (or anything else) may have servers in the US, but it exists on the internet.  A place that is, and I quote, "No where, and Everywhere."  As such, something of this nature, would require a world wide tax organization.

Also, I have to agree with Cavalier, the calls from WoW players would be quite interesting.  IRS could sell the tapes of conversations for profit.

"If you really want to enslave people, tell them you are going to give them Total Freedom." - L. Ron Hubbard

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

 They could claim jurisdiction over US servers, ala the DRM enforcement methodology. And WoW players wouldn't be all that stranger than what they get now. Just off the top of my head, I'm sure legalized prostitution needs to declare all sex toys as business assets... and to use the former as a pun, other "assets" as well.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

"Tax Advocate"? That is similar to "Root canal advocate" or possibly "Cancer advocate"?

I'm sure she gets all the boys.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

 From the looks of that picture, she is a lesbian. A lonely, single tax-advocate lesbian.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

Wait a minute: she's the TAXPAYERS' ADVOCATE, and she wants to find new ways to tax the payers? Shouldn't her job be to, I don't know, ADVOCATE on their behalf?

I can get behind making it clearer how and when people should report earnings so that they don't get caught with an audit, but finding new ways to tax people seems contrary to her title.

Saying that Jack Thompson is impotent is an insult to impotent men everywhere. They've got a whole assortment of drugs that can cure their condition; Jack, however...

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

Can I pay my taxes in virtual money as well? If so that would great cause its easy to make virtual money in Second Life.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

This sounds like another case of 'rather then enforce existing laws, let's make new ones and take credit for solving the problem!'.

New laws get the new people credit, enforcing old laws gives credit to the earlier lawmakers.  Guess which is more advantagous to a politition?

 

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

Wow, this idiot doesn't understand current tax laws...  Granted, I only know a little bit due to still being in the first year of running a business, but how to run a business for dumbasses 101 says if you make any kind of money period, you are to report it.  No matter if it is a good or service, even though you can not donate services to non-profits, which I think is BS, but hey.  I understand that there are some dirty bastards that would take advantage of that, just like many big businesses take advantage of tax deductions, which is also BS when those deductions are to help a company grow, not pay the CEO and other execs more.

I think everyone has a couple laws that they think are stupid or unfair, but that is life.  No government is perfect because no person is perfect, especially in a government so heavily based off of religion...

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Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

Or...how's this for an idea. This is pretty fucking radical, too.

How about using tax money, on stuff that isn't bullshit. More money to go around then. I'd go even further, but I don't feel like getting into it. Cause apparently, there's some bullshit excuse that Socialism always means Communism.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

They may be obligated to report their taxes, but assuming that what she said in the block you quoted is true, it sounds like the problem (or at least part of it) is that many people don't know how to report the money they earn from virtual-world transactions, and the IRS hasn't provided effective guidance on that point.
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I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.


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I'm not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I'm not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don't know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

maybe she wants a tax on WoW gold (silver and copper) and MS messo. Or wants the irs to attempt calling all virtual worlds part of the united states.

but im with you gp i actually have no clue why she's driveing at

Re: IRS Should Look Into Taxing Virtual Goods, Says Tax Advocate

If the IRS seriously wants to start taxing raid loot, they're going to get some very interesting calls about the quality of leadership and co-workers.

Seriously though, this looks a lot more like it's aimed at say, Second Life merchants, that kind of thing.

 
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NeenekoI have met some real jerks and slimeballs in gender activism, but when I hear the idea that there are many 'not nice' people it comes across as code for 'uppity people who do not know their place'.09/19/2014 - 12:10pm
Andrew EisenKrono - Many of the people pushing gender issues aren't nice people? I'm sure not everyone's a sweatheart but so far, everyone I've seen with such a critique had absolutely nothing to back them up.09/19/2014 - 10:46am
InfophileI think there's a qualitative difference between a site and a hashtag though. GP can ban anyone from commenting, so they can have the image they want. But anyone can use any hashtag and try to poison it. Granted, that hasn't happened to the other one yet09/19/2014 - 10:13am
E. Zachary KnightKrono, your comparison to GP does not work. We do not need to get rid of GP, because no one associates GP with trolls and abuse. The same can't be said for gamergate.09/19/2014 - 10:09am
Krono@Michael You don't remember the "other hashtag" because no one actually uses it. We're talking 836,983 uses of #gamergate over it's lifetime, and 8,119 for the "alternative". 47,129 uses on the 18th vs 41. With #notyourshield at 140,133 uses & 5,209 uses09/19/2014 - 9:48am
Kronoresearch it. Changing tags to get away from trolls would be like wiping GamePolitics and restarting under a new name to get away from people calling Jack Thompson a filthy names in the comments section.09/19/2014 - 9:35am
Sleaker@quiknkold - seems like all that page is is a bunch of random developer opinions and rumors that we're supposedto do what with?09/19/2014 - 9:31am
Kronoas an opportunity to push back against them. It's one of the things muddling the issue. @conster A new hashtag would do nothing to improve anything. Trolls will simply follow to the new hashtag, and it will confuse the issue for anyone attempting to09/19/2014 - 9:25am
Krono@Andrew aaah. Yes, I'm sure there's some of that. Part of the problem is many of the people pushing gender issues are not very nice people. Basically the latest incarnation of moralists we've seen in the past couple decades. Naturually some will take this09/19/2014 - 9:23am
quiknkoldhttp://www.nichegamer.net/2014/09/real-gamedevs-sound-off-regarding-the-gamergate-controversy/09/19/2014 - 8:35am
MaskedPixelanteMeanwhile, in news that actually DOES matter, Scotland voted "NO" to Scottish independance.09/19/2014 - 8:20am
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quiknkold2 to 3 or more09/19/2014 - 6:53am
quiknkoldMichael Chandra : I'll say this. The only reason they havent used another hashtag is because it would look like a form of dividing the arguement. Using another Hashtag has come up, and they feel like if they made a new hashtag, it'll split the debate from09/19/2014 - 6:53am
Michael ChandraYou want a debate? Build a wall between you and the poisoned well. Make clear you despise it, despise the behaviour. Then get into the other issues you are troubled with, and don't say a single word again about the poisoned well.09/19/2014 - 3:46am
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Michael ChandraBut people arguing this is horrible and just about ethics, even though there's very little support that journalistic integrity was actually violated here, while they never spoke up when a journalist was09/19/2014 - 3:43am
Michael ChandraIf people start with condemning the way GamersGate was used as a misdirection, then use a better hashtag, that would work in convincing me they mean it.09/19/2014 - 3:43am
 

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