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Paying by crypto: Should organisations accept digital currencies?

Gateley Legal

With the value of cryptoassets roughly quadrupling in 20211 and nearly 80% of businesses surveyed by Deloitte2 stating that they thought digital assets would be very or somewhat important to their respective industries in the coming two years, it is no surprise that some clients are now asking about paying invoices with digital currencies.

In a survey we carried out on LinkedIn, where people were asked whether organisations should be starting to accept payment in digital currencies, there was a clear divide with 36% of respondents saying organisations should start to accept these payments while 55% said no. The remaining 9%, perhaps wisely, remained on the fence.

Paying with crypto – it’s not a question of trust

There is still a stigma that digital currencies are the purveyance of drug traffickers and other nefarious, dark web activities. In 2021, it was estimated that cryptocurrencies accounted for $8.6bn of money laundering activities3. However, the UN estimates that global money laundering in the same period was between $800bn and $2tn meaning that cryptocurrencies at best (worst?) accounted for 1% of all money laundering activities. While impossible to estimate with certainty, it is likely that a significant amount of this money laundering takes place in USD, yet no-one suggests declining payments in USD so why should cryptocurrencies be different?

It’s not a question of tracing

One of the core principles of digital currencies is the ability to trace the ownership of each currency back to the moment it was minted. While sceptics will say that a lot of the tracing is just anonymous wallets, this is far more transparent than with traditional, fiat currencies where no centralised records exist. If Bob pays an invoice for £10,000, before the money came to Bob there is little or no ability to trace where that £10,000 had been and for what purposes it may have been used.

It doesn’t have to be a question of volatility

Perhaps the most common concern with digital currencies is their volatility. At the time of writing this article in July 2022, Bitcoin’s value has decreased by nearly 60% year to date while gold’s value has dropped approximately 19% in the same period. However, there are digital currencies out there that have little or no volatility such as stablecoins. USDC is pegged 1:1 with USD meaning a payment in USDC has little or no risk to the recipient.

Is it because cryptoassets might be a flash in the pan?

New practices have been met with scepticism since the invention of the wheel. In 1995 American magazine Newsweek predicted that, “no computer network will change the way government works”. Not to be outdone, at the same time Infoworld predicted that the internet would, “in 1996 catastrophically collapse”. As Chesterton wrote, “The sceptics, like bees, give their one sting and die”.

HMRC recently released data on the uptake and understanding of cryptoassets4. This data showed that 68% of respondents were either very or somewhat likely to acquire further crypotassets in the future. The data also showed that 26% of respondents in the ‘high income’ group had already started receiving payment for goods and services in cryptoassets.

HM Treasury announced in April 2022 that they intended to bring stablecoins within regulation in order to allow them to be used as a recognised form of payment in the UK. Irrespective of our personal views on digital currencies, it is hard to deny that, like credit cards and cheques, they will become a recognised form of payment within the near future. For those who can’t wait for the future, El Salvador already accepts Bitcoin as legal tender.

How could it help?

The phrase ‘land rich, cash poor’ could easily be converted to ‘crypto rich, cash poor’ for a number of the new generation of investors. Particularly where one is considering start-up businesses, there might be a substantial holding in digital assets but limited cash reserves, which the owner would rather not expend on professional services. By accepting digital assets for services, the service provider shows not only an understanding of the client’s business sector but also, potentially, prevents the client incurring unnecessary tax and transfer costs in converting assets to fiat before settling an invoice.

Summary

As with any topic of this nature, opinion will be divided and there are numerous arguments and counterarguments that could be raised. Hopefully, though, this piece debunks a number of myths that surround cryptoassets and, perhaps, allays some fears about the possibility of receiving payment in digital currencies. The current trend suggests that digital currencies will become more and more prevalent and accepted by authorities.

Joanna Ossinger, “The world’s cryptocurrency is now worth more than $3 trillion,” Time, 8 November 2021.
Linda Pawczuk, Richard Walker, and Claudina Castro Tanco, Deloitte’s 2021 Global Blockchain Survey, Deloitte Insights, 2021. 
DeFi Takes on Bigger Role in Money Laundering – Chainaylsis, 26 January 2022.
Individuals holding cryptoassets: uptake and understanding – published July 2022
 

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