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Employee Compensation Paid in Cryptocurrency Is Subject to Income Tax Withholding in New Zealand

cryptocurrency
Nic Gonzales | 09 Sep 2019
The New Zealand Commissioner of Inland Revenue has issued a pair of binding rulings (BR) under Section 91D of the Tax Administration Act of 1994 stating that the payment of remuneration to an employee in crypto-assets (e.g., Bitcoin) will be treated as part of the employee's salary or wages and is therefore subject to Pay as You Earn (PAYE) withholding.

BR Pub 19/01 provides that the payment of remuneration to an employee in crypto-assets as part of the employee's regular remuneration will be treated as part of the employee's salary or wages and is subject to PAYE. In BR Pub 19/02, the Commissioner ruled that the payment of incentives or bonuses in crypto-assets to an employee arising from employment is also subject to PAYE.

The rulings apply only 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. Commentary to the rulings explains that a Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) applies where it is determined that the payment is not assessable income subject to PAYE withholding. Payments of crypto-assets not subject to PAYE are fringe benefits subject to FBT.

BR Pubs 19/01 and 19/02 appear in the Inland Revenue Department’s Tax Information Bulletin for August (Issue 7, Vol. 31, August 2019).