Taxation of Virtual World Economies: A Review of the Current Status

Jamie S. Switzer, Ralph V. Switzer

Abstract


The taxation of virtual world economies is uncharted terrain, one that both researchers and government officials are just beginning to scrutinize. Taxes are inevitable in any economy, but what about the increasingly lucrative virtual world economies? The market for virtual goods and services is estimated to be in the millions of dollars, so it is no wonder that governments are beginning to take notice. Experts are divided as to the feasibility of taxation of virtual economies. Most experts agree however that there is significant ambiguity in the current U.S. Internal Revenue Code with respect to virtual worlds. It is unclear if transactions occurring in a virtual world are taxable in the U.S., and the Internal Revenue Service has to date not offered any strong guidance regarding the issue.

In this article, we argue that virtual transactions are already subject to taxation under current U.S. law, at any point in time that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service should decide to enforce the current law, whether taking place in game worlds or unscripted worlds. This would include virtual-to-virtual transactions as well as virtual-to-real transactions, as the issue at hand is whether or not virtual activity is taxable, regardless of realization, because all goods and services have a fair market value.


Keywords


Real Money Trading; Taxation; Virtual Worlds; Virtual World Economies

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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org