Updated: Jun 12
The best talent for your company may be located in regions that have no access to the IBAN system. Paying these employees from a European bank account is challenging, and sending a payment through 3rd party apps can be expensive and time-consuming. The alternative is to integrate digital tokens into your company’s payroll to send USD in seconds for almost zero costs. This article will give you a step-by-step guide on how I did it.
Author: Oliver Schantin
Foremost, if you are impatiently waiting to get the step-by-step instructions, scroll down to find the guide. I will lay down my personal story for those curious to find out why you would want to pay your employees in digital tokens. This article describes my personal experience and should not be mistaken for professional tax or investment advice. Always do your own research.
Demand for digital payments is surging
Our world is becoming more and more digital and decentralized, which has been reflected in the way we work since the start of the internet age. Currently, more than one billion people around the globe are working independently in freelance positions. Frequently, they work remotely and are not bound to work in a specific country or jurisdiction.
This also means it becomes impractical for freelancers to open a bank account in the country they currently work in and convert their income to the local fiat currency whenever they get paid. Even worse: Fiat currencies of emerging countries often suffer from two-digit inflation rates and capital restrictions, as we have recently seen in the Turkish Lira. As Bitcoin advocate Michael Saylor recently stated in one of his interviews: “Everyone prefers the US-Dollar over their local fiat currency”.
Asian countries like Singapore are attractive to freelancers, but setting up a bank account as a foreigner can be a hurdle.
Sending money outside the IBAN system is challenging
In the case of my start-up, which is a GmbH (limited liability company) located in Berlin, Germany, we can only send money to IBAN bank accounts. We are working with talented developers from all over the world. One of our developers is located in Nigeria and has no access to the IBAN system. Even solutions like PayPal or Wise are no option in this case.
My first attempt was to use a local payment system called “payoneer” in Nigeria. The onboarding process for a German company was painful: It was the equivalent to opening another bank account for my company, and I stopped the onboarding process, when they asked me to scan and upload several documents from the notary to prove that my company exists.
The solution is obvious but not easy to use
The problem I described above is a perfect use case for cryptocurrencies: Global, censor resistant money, that people need no permission for. Especially when using US-Dollar stable coins that bear almost no volatility risk, this is a viable way of sending money across countries. In reality, it is not that easy to set up a company wallet and pay your employees in US-Dollar on a blockchain in highly regulated European jurisdictions. At least that's what I thought.
Regulatory challenges to overcome
After my experience with just opening a regular bank account as a German blockchain start-up, I expected buying cryptocurrencies would be an insurmountable regulatory challenge. Last month, we had to apply to three different banks before finally being accepted by a German start-up bank. Other banks would send us survey after survey, wanting to know every detail about our crypto-related business and making us wait.
Setting up a company account with a regulated crypto exchange would be much more complex and probably take a couple of days. In addition, I wanted my company to hold the coins in self custody, so holding them on an exchange was out of the question. Not your keys - not your coins. But there is an easy way to get crypto exposure as a GmbH without going through all the hustle.
Here is what you need to do as a German company to pay your employees in crypto the easy way:
Buy crypto as a private individual at your favorite exchange. I usually use Relai.ch or PocketBitcoin.com (Bitcoin only) because they require no KYC for customers in the European Union.
Sell the crypto to your company at market price. You can use a standard template for purchase agreements to document the acquisition in your books.
You can use a self custody wallet like Meta Mask to hold the coins for your company for smaller amounts. For larger sums, I recommend using a hardware wallet like BitBox (about EUR 100). Please be careful: Always buy hardware wallets directly from the manufacturers' website, not from resellers like Amazon.
Pay your employee in the digital token they desire. Typically, stablecoins like USDC are an excellent option.
Document the value at the time of payment in your local fiat currency and keep it for later tax reporting.
Things to keep an eye on
If your wallet does not track the data, you should keep a record of all your crypto holdings, purchases and sales and the respective fiat value at the time of the transaction (you can take the average price from big exchanges that you find on Coinmarketcap.com).
The invoice that your employee sends you should be denominated in the correct token, i.e. USDC on Ethereum. It is important to specify not just the token you want to pay in, but also the Network it is transacted on. At basenode.io, we use the information from ITSA, which does a great job of providing clarity in this matter.
If your payment invoice is denominated in US-Dollar and you pay with a stable coin like USDC, there might be a slight price difference, and this can become a problem in your books later. Make sure to track the exact price at the time of the transaction.
Last but not least, you should store the coins of your company safely. Think about setting up a multi-signature wallet with your co-founders if you intend to hold more considerable sums.
If you want to offer your freelance employees to get paid in crypto, check out app.basenode.io. We take care of the bookkeeping and the invoicing process, and our service is completely free.
At basenode.io, our mission is to eliminate the gap between traditional accounting and blockchain-based accounting. Basenode.io is the first token-based accounting solution that offers seamless fiat-to-crypto invoicing. We provide a self-explanatory user interface with a clean and modern look, that naturally supports your workflow. Furthermore, we will integrate support for the most popular networks like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Lightning, Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Polygon, and more. Find out more on our website: www.basenode.io
Oliver Schantin has been deeply involved in the blockchain and entrepreneurial space for several years. He founded his first blockchain startup in 2019 and is a frequent speaker and guest in various crypto-related podcasts, conferences and summits. You can contact him via LinkedIn or Email.