It’s getting harder to ignore the rising popularity and ubiquity of Bitcoin, the most widely recognized open source, peer-to-peer payment system and digital currency in the world. As the digital “cryptocurrency” continues to generate serious attention, a lot of major companies and organizations have been taking notice.
Currently, there are thousands of businesses- online and off– around the world that accept Bitcoins as a valid payment for products and services. There are also countless supporting platforms that assist in the purchase and storage of Bitcoins as well as payment processing in the digital currency. Some of the big names in this space include Bitpay, Coinbase, and Bitstamp.
If you are enthusiastic about the Bitcoin movement and you are running a small business, you may have played with the idea of accepting it as a form of payment. But, on the logistical and legal side, such a move brings up a few, big important questions:
- What is the right way to accept and account for Bitcoin transactions?
- Is it legal? Will you get in trouble with the government?
- How should you pay taxes on income received through Bitcoin?
- How do you account for the currency’s volatility?
If you are going to accept Bitcoin, then you will need to use a third party platform to process the transactions in a safe and convenient way. If you are selling goods and services online, then you’ll want to use an online Bitcoin merchant solution. Some of these services allow you to automatically convert the Bitcoin to USD or any other major foreign currency. If you are running an off-line business, customers can pay using hardware terminals, touch screen apps, or they can use their wallet addresses through QR Codes.
In terms of the legality of Bitcoin and how you record your income for tax purposes, so far there is nothing illegal about processing Bitcoin transactions in your business. Most governments it seems are taking a “wait and see” approach to the digital currency and some of it’s major competitors, such as Litecoin.
For now, Bitcoin could be treated like a cash-based transaction. Consider how you normally record your cash transactions and then this process could be applied to your Bitcoin sales, and in order to decide what a Bitcoin transaction is worth, you could follow the IRS guidelines on how to value transactions made in a foreign currency.
Lastly, regarding Bitcoin’s volatility, the biggest factors to consider is what proportion of your sales you think will be processed in Bitcoins, and if your business can afford to sustain fluctuations in the value of those sales. Supporting the principles and ideals behind Bitcoin is worthy, but you don’t want to sacrifice your business for them.
In short, there are already thousands of businesses processing payments in Bitcoin. If you are considering joining their ranks, then make sure you have all the checks in place to do so responsibly.