Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
 
The taxman cometh

My thought of the day from Monday about a scam in EVE lead to an interesting discussion whether ISK have a real-world value. And a request from a reader to discuss that further. So here is the issue:

On the one side it is against the terms of service to sell ISK for cash. If we consider the rules to be strict and impenetrable boundaries, we would need to conclude that ISK have no real-world value, because they are confined to inside the game. ISK are no real currency.

On the other side it is obvious that people attach real-world value to ISK: They buy ISK for real money, via PLEX. And then they exchange the ISK for something they want in the game. That turns ISK into some sort of alternative currency, Hagu compared it to a gift certificate, or we could say a ticket to an upcoming sports event. If you buy an expensive ticket to a sports event, you would consider that ticket to have value, in spite of there being rules that you can't sell it, and it spite of it ultimately being transformed only into entertainment value, and nothing physically real. Furthermore rules are NOT impenetrable barriers. Just like ticket scalpers are able to sell sports tickets against the rules of the event organizer, people are able to sell ISK on EBay or via other shady places on the internet.

In the EVE scam thread the discussion was whether stealing ISK was a crime. Obviously if you think ISK have no value, there is no crime. But if you think ISK have value, because somebody bought them for money, or because they can be exchanged back into money on a grey market, then acquiring ISK by fraud can be seen as a real-world crime. If somebody would organize an e-mail scam where he'd swindle you out of a gift certificate or sports ticket, a judge would probably consider the real-world value equivalent of these items, and not say that they are worthless because you can't legally change them back into cash, or because the scam happened on the internet and not face-to-face. I think most people would agree that if somebody hacks your WoW account and sells your gold, a crime has taken place.

Now as Oscar remarked, that is a slippery slope: Once you consider ISK (or EQ plat, or WoW gold, or whatever virtual currency) as having real-world value, what is there to prevent the taxman to come to the same conclusion, and tax you on your virtual earnings? Thus it is in the players best interest to keep that particular genie in his bottle, and demand a game design in which virtual currency is strictly confined in the game, with no means to either exchange real money for virtual currency, or virtual currency to real money.

The first half of that is easy, game companies need to stop selling virtual currency, whether that is directly or indirectly via PLEX. The second half is harder: You can't buy WoW gold from Blizzard, but Blizzard has been unable to stop third parties from selling WoW gold. To stop that sort of trade, the in-game economy would have to be completely rethought, and virtual currency would have to be transformed into something which is basically "bind on pickup", or at the very least "bind on account". That has enormous consequences on the virtual economy, not all of them pleasant. But if I had the choice between that and being taxed on my virtual earnings, I know what I would prefer.
Comments:
It's nonsense to state that 'if somebody steals something that isn't worth any cash there is no crime'.
 
to quote something you actually wrote (sorry) 'Obviously if you think ISK have no value, there is no crime.'
 
If an outright ban on exchanging virtual currency to real currency isn't enough, then why would bind-on-pickup virtual currency be? You could still trade entire accounts for real money.
 
The taxation of virtual world transactions has been discussed quite a bit in the past years (i.e. here, here, and here).

The most official statement I can find on the fly is this from the chairman of the (US) joint economic committee in 2006: "under current law, if a transaction takes place solely within a virtual world there is no “taxable event.”"

It seems that taxation would only apply once you "cash in". Note that I am by no means an expert on tax law in any country, so take this with a grain of salt ;)
 
That would be an idea!
A IRS of the Kingdom.
If you ever do transactions in one given territory (thinking WoW like here) paying your taxes would grant you some rep while not paying them would strip some rep from you!
If your rep felled below an given level you could even be attacked on sight by tax collectors which would be epic mobs.

I think Europeans would find it immersive. Americans would rage quit screaming socialism, communism or any other 'ism they don't have a clue of what really means.
 
First of all to tax income in any currency you need to make sure that is is really a currency.

Currencies are created by coutries and their national banking - EVE ISK (the InterStellar Kredits, as opposed to real Iceland ISK) are by no means a currency. There is no item in the game that would represent ISK, but you can get infinite number of ISK from any trade, as stations have unlimited amounts of the stuff, provided you have goods for sale.
And the goods for sale are constantly spawning all oved New Eden, be it in the cargo's of rats or the asteroid belts and gravimetric anomalies.

CCP has total control of how many ISK are created throughout New Eden and is not bound to keep this production of virtual money on a prefixed level. There would have to be a great deal of laws put over the production and control of the production of virtual money before the income made in that currency caould be taxed by real world taxes.

But the issue exists, as I don't think that we'll wait long for laws that will bind virtual property, as right now there is a large gray area there. It will either be a prohibition with restrictions to exchange virtual property with real property, which will cause a rise of a large black market, or someone in the goverment will sens the earning wibe and create laws that protect virtual property, limit creation of it by the owning companies, clarify the boundries between the game and the real world, describe the process of exchange between virtual and non virtual property and put taxes to all of those earning money this way. As far as governents go the latter is pretty possible.
 
Regardless, the taxing authority can tax anything. And things like video games are the sort of luxury goods that prime targets of some of the ism politicians. Europeans are already taxed on their ISK since they pay VAT on their purchases of EVE time cards.

One problem is I and many others like the option of being able to legitimately purchase ISK.

And why would not allowing ISK/gold to be sold effect anything? The concert/sporting event is a good example. For example, winning a contest free, non-resellable, no-cash-value, tickets to the advertiser's box seats at the World Cup/Olympics/Superbowl. I still think the tax man would think that is a taxable event. The CCP example is even more complicated; even if you were never allowed to buy or sell ISK, a plex allows you a one month subscription. Something that obviates your need to spend $15 is worth about $15, even if you stamp it not for resale
 
Lets clear up a misconception which is central to this issue regarding virtual items and microtransactions.

The GTC you buy has a real world value. This is the code you get emailed, or the piece of plasticized card upon which a one-use code is printed. Once that code is used, you have received goods/services (game time or in-game items/PLEX) and the code is then worthless.

Its the same in any of the F2P games. You cannot trade the points you buy in the Turbine store for example, neither can you trade the items bought using those points, neither can you 'cash out' said points once you've got them.

Once a GTC is used, whether to add game time to an account or converted to PLEX for trading in game, the goods/services you have paid for have been recieved. What you then do with them is your lookout, but they have no value beyond the game you're playing.

This issue was raised recently in EVE when PLEX were made transportable in the holds of ships recently. It was highlighted when one pilot lost over $1000 worth of PLEX (not converted from GTC but bought in game) when his ship was blown up.

The PLEX is not an item with a real world value, the only thing that has a real world value is the unused GTC which may be used to create PLEX. It is not transferable outside the game. AFAIK there are very few Virtual worlds which allow the exchange of in game currency to real world currency (Planet Calypso and Second Life most notably) No other games allow such an exchange to occur legally.

The value of in game items and currency is completely subjective and non-existent outside their sphere of use (the game itself). It could be argued that someone who buys their in-game currency/items (legally or otherwise) will value them less due to the ease with which they were obtained.

The question of taxing virtual items and currency is a tricky one. If a government decides to start taxing virtual income then it is basically endorsing the sale of such currency on real world markets. The economic turmoil this could engender is not something I think we want to consider at this point in time. Not only that such an endorsement will lend legitimacy to the illegal gold sellers, and I'm sure we don't want that. Best to keep the two separate for now and keep in the forefront of our minds the idea that nothing in the games we play is real, or has any real world value.
 
I just Googled, and it turns out I can buy a thousand WoW gold for a pound.

Even on a good week, I don't make much more than £5k gold - that's £250 value per year assuming I do that every week, and also assuming that none of my expenses can be counted as business-related*. And the taxman doesn't chase tiny hobby incomes.

For most people, at least where WoW is concerned, this isn't going to be a huge problem.

(On the other hand, if you're unemployed, theoretically the government could decide to deduct that income from your living allowance, at least in the UK. And of course a few people make much, much more.)

* "Dear HM Customs. I would like to submit the following business expenses for this year: 452 Flasks of the Frost Wyrm, 1225 Fish Feasts, 54 Great Feasts (yeah, I know, noob), 1,384,134,234 Iceblade Arrows..."
 
Lets clear up a misconception which is central to this issue regarding virtual items and microtransactions.

The GTC you buy has a real world value. This is the code you get emailed, or the piece of plasticized card upon which a one-use code is printed. Once that code is used, you have received goods/services (game time or in-game items/PLEX) and the code is then worthless.

Its the same in any of the F2P games. You cannot trade the points you buy in the Turbine store for example, neither can you trade the items bought using those points, neither can you 'cash out' said points once you've got them.

Once a GTC is used, whether to add game time to an account or converted to PLEX for trading in game, the goods/services you have paid for have been recieved. What you then do with them is your lookout, but they have no value beyond the game you're playing.

This issue was raised recently in EVE when PLEX were made transportable in the holds of ships recently. It was highlighted when one pilot lost over $1000 worth of PLEX (not converted from GTC but bought in game) when his ship was blown up.

The PLEX is not an item with a real world value, the only thing that has a real world value is the unused GTC which may be used to create PLEX. It is not transferable outside the game. AFAIK there are very few Virtual worlds which allow the exchange of in game currency to real world currency (Planet Calypso and Second Life most notably) No other games allow such an exchange to occur legally.

The value of in game items and currency is completely subjective and non-existent outside their sphere of use (the game itself). It could be argued that someone who buys their in-game currency/items (legally or otherwise) will value them less due to the ease with which they were obtained.

The question of taxing virtual items and currency is a tricky one. If a government decides to start taxing virtual income then it is basically endorsing the sale of such currency on real world markets. The economic turmoil this could engender is not something I think we want to consider at this point in time. Not only that such an endorsement will lend legitimacy to the illegal gold sellers, and I'm sure we don't want that. Best to keep the two separate for now and keep in the forefront of our minds the idea that nothing in the games we play is real, or has any real world value.
 
I think we're a lot further from being taxed on virtual income than Tobold's piece suggests.

There are all sorts of problems

First, if I can be taxed on WoW gold, then can I pay those taxes in gold? There's a certain natural justice that suggests you should be able to.

Next do the tax people really want to have to administer this? It would require going through server logs and maybe playing in game. Can you imagine a manager telling an office full of people I need you to log into WoW this afternoon. What if they just play and don't do their work?

The currencies fluctuate wildly. Is the gold:euro rate to be assessed on gold earned now or at the end of the tax year when the level cap will be higher and the economy mudflated?

What if I stop subscribing? I have 2000 gold on my priest but it's value is zero because I can't access it since I don't subscribe any more? Yet if not subscribing were a work around people could set their accounts to expire on March 20th then re-sub on April 2nd so that at the end of the tax year they would have zero accessible virtual funds.

The taxman doesn't cometh. Not any time soon. Such tax would cost more to collect than it would generate as revenue.
 
PS Introducing World of Stabs.

There are two rules in WoS.

1) One stabloon = one euro

2) Anyone who does the /happydance gets one million stabloons.

WoS will launch the day the tax people decide online gold is legal tender.
 
Wyrm: Wouldn't that just be a pay to play structure? Although using in-game money? Instead of questing for rep, you'd just buy it. People would definitely start buying gold online then!

As for whether what happened in EVE is a "crime" or not? I don't view it as a crime, but basically because it's not WoW or LotRO. In EVE, it seems like this is how the game is played. Looting other players. This time someone looted a whole guild. And from what I gather from message boards and blogs, the guild wasn't exactly the nicest group either. That's why the player wanted revenge. It's like two rival gangs fighting it out, do you really pick a side??

I'm not saying you condone the actions of any of the players involved in this. For their to be a crime, there has to be a victim. When the victim is another criminal, it feels more like karma than a crime.
 
I'm willing to pay "tax" on my in game earnings if an appropriate and finite exchange rate between the virtual currency and "real" currency is established. If and only if there are laws established to prevent/grossly over-punish piracy/virtual currency theft and/or to further attempt to protect us from our own stupidity. At which point, I'd be willing to accept any and all "government tax rebates (hand outs/welfare if you prefer)" for making a less than average amount of virtual currency in any and all virtual worlds and exchange them for real currency to fund an uncurable gaming addiction and its associated real costs.
 
It's nonsense to state that 'if somebody steals something that isn't worth any cash there is no crime'.

What if you and me play Monopoly for play money and I scam you in a deal we make in game? What if we meet in a MMORPG in which thieves can actually pickpocket other players, and I steal a gold piece from your pocket? What if I "kill" and loot you in Darkfall?

Many of the comments on Monday's EVE scam thread argued that there was no crime, because the actions performed were part of the game. We need at least to consider that as a possibility, that inside of a game an action which would be a crime in the real world is not a crime, because it is part of the rules of the game. The problem with that is when it is possible to exchange the scammed or stolen virtual currency into real currency, because then suddenly a criminal motive of self-enrichment in the real world might be the cause of what happened in the game.
 
As Tobold said, unless CCP states that stealing is a crime, I don't see how this goes any further in terms of being a crime or not. Blizzard very clearly states you can't hack WoW accounts or sell gold (and they more or less have said you can't steal from players in-game either), so that is a crime (one that is not very likely to be legally pursued).

The funny thing is, we get all up in arms about theft in an MMO, but don't blink twice after we have murdered 100s after a siege in DF, or thousands in an EVE fleet battle. Hell even in DF itself some people got upset over a repeat clan bank scammer, in the very same game you can dry loot people...
 
regarding collection: such a tax would not cost so much to collect: If i were a government, I'd withhold it from the source, meaning your monthly card would cost X% more if you own Y gold, and i'd collect from blizz/CCP, not from you :)

also, regarding the argument above, the fact that in-game currency is limitless and real-world is not... look around at what govts do these days (bailouts): real-world currency IS limitless as well, we just don't realise it so easily because it is more controlled, but really they have the same power as blizz/turbine, to create currency at virtually no cost. Ingame ISK is currency alright (it is redeemable de facto, even if "illegal by the company rules"), even if we dont like one of the consequences, namely taxation.

If something is stolen, indeed I think it doesnt matter whether it has value, I'd argue that what matters more was the evil intention (mens rea). Not necessarily the value of the thing stolen.

There is the option that ingame currency would be taxed, but I would be protected against scams like the one described.

And there is the option to not be taxed and not be protected (leave things as they are now).

Given the current state of affairs in the real world, I think more people would prefer the second, if only for the simple reason that protection can be so inefficient.

So yea, the guy did steal, and we as a community (of players) prefer to close our eyes to this or discard it using whatever arguments, because the consequences would not benefit us. And it wouldn't benefit companies either, so everyone prefers to discard this event and pretend it was not theft. But yes it was, because the intention was evil.
 
Taxing illegal goods, wasn't that how we caught Capone? Ah Chicago, murder, bootlegging, and extortion are just fine, but pay your taxes!
 
Except that EvE is designed with this in mind. The football ticket analogy is critically flawed because at the ticket stand there is no sign "when purchasing football tickets be careful of highwaymen that might legally ambush you on your way to the game, nuke your car and take the tickets from your charred corpse".

It can't be a real world crime or any other crime for that matter because YOU SIGNED UP FOR IT. I'll refer you to the new EvE trailer which promotes exactly that:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGplrpWvz0I

It would be like participating in an MMA fight and then suing the opposing fighter for assault.

As for tax, as long as you don't exchange ISK/gold etc for real world currency, it can't be taxed. That would be like paying income tax for everything you own simply because you have an option to sell it.
 
A further problem with shutting down plex for isk is that you can still essentially mimic the process, either in EVE or in another game. What keeps me from paying my poor friends account subscription of $15 a month in exchange for say 1000 gold. He hands me 1000g every month or so and I keep paying is $15. Aside from the possibility of getting caught, assuming we were very subtle about it and I gave him other things back.

What if it wasn't my friend. What if it was my kid. Say my kid is a teenager and I normally expect him to pay for his own entertainment from money he gets from doing chores. Of course he doesn't have a credit card so I actually pay his monthly fee and then deduct $3.75 from his chores money. Now what if he comes up with the grand idea to farm 250g for me each week and I am dumb enough to say yes. Can Blizzard even bust me down for transferring gold between two characters on separate accounts, both of which I own and pay the subscription for?

In both cases, $15 real world dollars gets turned into an amount of in game currency based on exchanging game time. The buyer pays for all the game time. The player then uses a portion of the game time to pay for the account indirectly and then uses the rest of the game time for whatever he chooses. How then is this different from what EVE does with PLEX? A random player with more cash than ISK buys game time that is then sold within the game to a player with lots of ISK but not enough cash to pay for his sub. Presumably the PLEX buyer makes much more than the 300 mill isk each month that it takes to pay for his sub. But he is willing to loose that portion of his monthly earnings which may still be significant for the sake of not having to pay real cash for the sub.

My point with all this is, does it really matter if CCP stops selling PLEX and making these transactions secure when they same thing can be done other ways within various shades of legality?
 
Well, the taxman would probably wait until you liquidated your virtual holdings. If you buy a cow, and the cow grows and becomes worth more, you don't pay taxes on it until you sell the cow. Same thing with virtual cows.
 
hmmm, interesting thought there nije. If we were to consider the value of things that could be potentially sold then I wonder how much my now ex wife would have been hit for given how much of my stuff she pilfered when our marriage ended after 3 short years. She took all kinds of things that I had bought before we got together.

TVs, computers, books, all my dvds, washer, dryer, fridge, freezer, tools, not to mention $10grand in savings.

Now looking back on all of it, it is amazing how similar my situation was to what happens in EVE all the time. She was a pirate lacking only the eye patch, but what she did was perfectly legal and even encouraged by our legal system and divorce culture. But the same thing ends up happening in both games. People stop playing.
 
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(sorry for the deleted posts... clear sign that I should write more tersely!)

Thanks for bringing this up, Tobold. And Scrusi, those were some very helpful links you gave there!

Personally, I think that it is very important to maintain the distinction between real-world currencies and virtual world ones.

It would clearly be absurd to tax income (or capital gains, which as some above correctly pointed out, is slightly different) in any MMOG currency unless that income could actually be used to put food on your table. Unfortunately, perhaps, it now appears to be relatively straightforward to convert your virtual income into food on the table.

Thinking about this, there appears to be two aspects to this: on the one hand the virtual wealth creation and on the other the conversion of the amassed wealth into... food on the table.

It seems inevitable that this must be tied to the terms of service and the game's design. If a game's TOS provides that any virtual currency amassed in-game must stay in the game then that must be a complete answer: you have entered a closed system, and every transaction (whether with NPCs or other players, whether related to mining, farming, trading or scamming) is an in-game event whose validity only the proprietor of the system, i.e. the game maker, can rule over. Now, if someone decides to sell his or her toon, gold, ISK, epic gear or whatever else in a manner that is outside the control of the game provider, then that *must* be a separate issue.

Conversely, if the game provided that all trades happen in a real-world currency (or in a virtual currency with a specific exchange rate, like Xbox points), then it's equally inescapable that the transactions are "real" even if they happen in a game. Otherwise stock markets all over the world would immediately declare that they from now on are only a "game" and that any gains from trading in shares would no longer be taxable. Not likely to happen.

This is already plenty long. The short version: Bad Bobby might be an asshole, but he's not a criminal, regardless of whether he sells his credits or not. The taxman will have to wait.

On the other hand, I wonder whether CCP might have a good claim against Bad Bobby if he actually does sell his gains. I haven't read the EVE TOS, but if the terms of the agreement prohibit real-world selling of virtual assets, then it's quite possible that they also provide that any gains from such disallowed activities should be paid to CCP. That would be fun!
 
Julian Dibbell wrote a book about this titled "Play Money: or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot". In the epilogue, he actually talks about trying to file MMORPG income on his tax returns, to the befuddlement of one poor IRS agent.
 
Again. you give to much credit (percieved power) to the company.
I'm pretty sure EvE's tos says that you can't sell ISK (or items or ships or accounts) to other people for cash. It also probably says (i'm assuming it's similar to other MMOs)
that if you break the ToS they get to ban you. That's it. I mean if someone actually put stuff like "if you break the rules we sue you for cash" instead of the current "if you break the rules we ban you" no one would play the game. The ToS probably says the same thing that every other ToS ever written for any mmo says - that they get to do whatever the hell they want, you only own your account which they get to ban at their discretion. That's it. CCP has no claim to anything. They can take your virtual stuff along with your account because they own it all, and that's it. To compare it with WoW it would be like if I sold my account to someone, blizzard found out and banned that account and then sued for the money since I gained it from selling their property (the gold/items/characters on my account). A real world example would be, if I loaned my cow to person A, and they sold it to person B, I found out and got it back from person B and then proceeded to sue person A for the money he got from selling my cow. And then bringing the cow to court for additional lulz.
 
Nije,

The terms of service is part of the contract between you and the provider. It can contain anything that a contract may legally contain. As you probably noticed, I didn't assume that that was the case, with EVE or otherwise, I simply ventured to say that it'd be fun if they did. I'm pretty sure Mr. Bobby wouldn't have seen that coming ;)

And you'd probably be surprised at how restricted your rights are as a user of these games. From EVE:s EULA:

quote
You have no interest in the value of your time spent playing the Game, for example, by the building up of the experience level of your character and the items your character accumulates during your time playing the Game. Your Account, and all attributes of your Account, including all corporations, actions, groups, titles and characters, and all objects, currency and items acquired, developed or delivered by or to characters as a result of play through your Accounts, are the sole and exclusive property of CCP...
unquote

This is the sort of thing I was talking about. It may even open for the possibility I raised (I'm not saying it does, just that it allows for the possibility, mind you). In other words, CCP owns Bad Bobby's ISK. If he sells it, he's selling stuff that belongs to CCP.

If I'm not misinformed, this kind of provision is very common, by which I mean found in every EULA in every MMO you're ever likely to play.
 
The problem with that is when it is possible to exchange the scammed or stolen virtual currency into real currency, because then suddenly a criminal motive of self-enrichment in the real world might be the cause of what happened in the game.

That is exactly the source of the problem.
Game money. like every game item is a part of gameplay scenography, to complete the vision of the author. What is in the game stays in the game and that shouls include player motivation as well.

PLEX on the other hand set a very stable exchange rate between the game and real world. Even while illegal the exchange works both ways and so the motive to steal is not part of the game, but comes from outside of it.

As for the taxes - F2P games actually sell items for real money, and are taxed for this type of income.

If a person's bank account suddenly receives trasfers that will sum up to 45.000$ for no (visible to the tax collectors) reason it is hard to say that this was not income. I am not sure how is the tax collector suppose to detect this transfer (it probably won't - that when the 'tax event' definition comes in handy), but if it does, the account owner will probably have to pay the tax asociated with that income no matter the reason.

To my knowledge, it is illegal in the CCP ToS to sell virtual property, but there is no mention of virtual property anywhere in the law, therefore virtual items do not exist. Or do they - remember the F2P game owners selling i.e. Mandrake Root or Station Money - virtual goods they are taxed for.
 
If the EULA fragment was a part of the constitution, it would mean that:

F2P owners can sell virtual property they own, because they own it while a player owns nothin so cannot sell it legally.

Hence, in the light of that last sentence, the 45.000$ scam was actually an in-game scam - what is in the game stays in the game - once the poor guys used up their timecodes they already got rid of their money, and the scam was partially what they paid for, because that scam was just the entertainment that EVE offers.

Unfortunately the EULA is not a part of the constitution - formally the term 'virtual property' does not exist in law, and if it does not exist it cannot be owned by neither CCP nor the player. The EULA, even though quite clear for the players, presents a huge field for interpretation in the court.
 
There are two themes getting intermingled: Is this a crime? Almost certainly not assuming he used EVE mechanics not hacking. In first world democracies. Although EVE is sold in over 100 countries; If he were to ever visit a country with billionaires and much less developed rule of law, and some of them were defrauded, then I do not think that you could say the chance of conviction if the scammer visited there is absolutely zero; "It is not illegal in my country" is not the same as "it is not illegal"

The second theme is that the virtual currency has no real value because it can not be directly converted to cash.

@Bezier - the laws have already started . A year ago China made it illegal to pay RL with virtual currency (anti-money laundering IIRC)

@Bezier - Why does there have to be a currency to be taxed? If my employer IRL paid me in Gold Bars do you think my government would say I do not owe income tax?

@nijae "paying income tax for everything you own simply because you have an option to sell it." - happens all the time. Most US public education is funded by taxing the value of your house. The more it is worth, the more you pay even if you never sell it. State of Georgia had an intangible tax on the money in your checking account at the end of the year.
@Toxic - the value of you asset increases, some taxes do go up, see intangible and real estate ^^ The government can tax about anything.

An interesting new development: You can now use your ISK to buy a PLEX on the EVE market, give it to CCP and they will make a donation to a charity. In US law if I make a donation to a proper charity, I get an income tax deduction. If my ISK results in CCP giving $35 to a charity, do I get an IRS tax deduction? If my ISK can generate RL cash that might even save someone's life, how can you say it is worthless?

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2006/11/second_lifes_first_millionaire.html

http://www.neoseeker.com/news/10214-mmo-game-bank-certified-as-real-legitimate-bank-in-sweden/

http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2010/08/taxing-blogs-and-hurting-google.html
 
Bloglines is back to misbehaving. Three tries to submit and then a truncated URI.

Sorry

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2006/11/second_lifes_first_millionaire.html

is

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/
techbeat/archives/
2006/11/second_lifes_first_millionaire.html
 
Bezier,

A person's user account, credits, epic mount etc is no more "virtual" than any other intangibles. Property is a state of mind, if you will.

If someone is prepared to pay for it and it can be defined and identified in any meaningful sense, then under most legal systems it constitutes property, regardless of what "it" is. The problem, for us users, is that so far "it" belongs to your MMO provider of choice.

The fact that the Constitution (just for the sake of completeness, not that the CCP EULA is subject to Icelandic law, and I don't believe Iceland has a constitution similar to the US one) doesn't mention this doesn't change anything. However, it's entirely possible that we will see changes in law (though not necessarily at the the constitutional level) that actually gives users some proprietary rights to in-game items. That would be an interesting development.
 
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Obviously if a society decides there is no such thing as property, then there is no theft.

If the rules of a game permit theft, or when it even is the purpose of the game. Then anybody who plays the game should understand that they could get robbed when they are playing that game.

This has nothing to do with what you think is the value of something. (or even someone)
 
if there is no "law" or "rules" in EVE, then there is no crime despite the theft. You can't say that just because these items "could" be converted into real-world money that it's therefore illegal. Otherwise every non-consensual wealth transfer (like looting someone's corpse-ship or whatever) in that entire game is illegal. You can't arrest someone just because they play poker better than you.
 
I can't imagine the difficulties in trying to tax someone for virtual assets held by a company operating in a foreign country. It would make more sense to only tax people when they cash-out than have every MMORPG operate in the Cayman Islands.

PLEXes are like free-plays at a pinball machine. They're not redeemable for a quarter. The PLEX is made through a microtransaction. And then the PLEX, like every other virtual item in EVE Online is owned by CCP. Certainly the lawyers can prove that that means there is no value to the EVE ISK. And that's all that matters when the taxman cometh.

The Titans4U swindle was definitely theft, but it wasn't a crime because the law of EVE doesn't say it's criminal. Morally and ethically wrong, but not illegal. Vows for vengeance and gnashing of teeth? Sure! Bad for CCP's business? Probably! But it's their business to operate.

In the event that the taxman goes crazy-batshit and does decide to tax virtual property itself, making coin bind on pickup would never work to remove perceived value from a game. So long as something can be traded (and ultimately your account itself can be traded) there will be a primary unit of trade agreed upon by the community that the tax man can decide has a value, if he so insists.
 
tax man stuff would suck for people like us who have real jobs. However anything that more than 1 person values has a "real world" value.
 
Let's just say if they start taxing our pixels, we are going to yank the plug out and start playing real life.

And I guarantee you, they really don't want that. Without bread and circuses, Project Mayhem brings a 500-man raid to the Hamptons.
 
About the las post:
Yeah, I also thought about that.

There's my pal, who I got into playing EVE by giving him an invite from the buddy program and a PLEX, so he had 51 free days of play. I pay my sub because I have only 5 to 8 hours per weeks to spend on the game and I keep my games quite casual. My pal has maybe 10 hrs/week, but he started to read through the rules since day one and for a year he has not paid a dime for the game, earning for PLEXes to run two accounts and create and maintain corp in a wormhole.

I know quite well, that there are guys like him playing everywhere, and I was wondering what would have happened if instead of gaming they've started reading through the rules of RL. Raiding is not exactly what I have i mid - I'm more interested in all the business guys like that could open and run instead of playing.
 
I believe that technically, when you trade isk for plex and use that plex to receive game time, you then have a taxable event and should be paying tax on it.

You are being taxed on the receipt of an unpaid for month of a game though, not for the isk or the plex.
 
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