You thought the price of video games in Australia was ridiculously high? Just wait until they start taxing in-game virtual currency!
You read that right. The Treasury Department is looking for new ways to make up for the region’s estimated $44.5 billion deficit, and imposing a tax on currencies within computer games appears to be the next step.
Treasury officials announced that they intend to make computer gamers declare any and all in-game currency they earn while playing. According to an article in the Whitsunday Times entitled ‘Government Plans to Tax In-Game Currency’:
“The latest move means people playing computer games will have to declare any kind of gold, rupees, credits or other forms of in-game currency their characters earn.”
We’re not talking about online gambling games. This isn’t about taxing pokies clubs or harvesting revenue from illegal moonshine manufacturers—something even government officials were quick to point out—we’re talking about taxing animated characters who earn credits that are meaningless in real life, from a fictitious video game.
As any avid computer games fan Down Under is already painfully aware, the ‘Australia Tax’ on video games is already exorbitantly high. Even with the exchange rate taken into consideration, Australians are paying anywhere from 40-90% more for the same video games sold in the United States. When downloaded over the internet via Steam, the prices jump to as high as 200-300% over US market price.
Richard Pennybags is a spokesperson for the government, and in his words, Australia’s economy is being “undermined by the ‘monopoly economy’.” He spoke of a “real concern among policy makers that players who pass go and land in Income Tax aren’t declaring that money to the ATO.
“We’re staring at a budgetary black hole and its time the Links, Marios, and Master Chiefs of Australia paid their fair share,” said (the ironically named) Mr. Pennybags.
A white paper published by a Brisbane Institute revealed the results of an in-depth study into the so-called monopoly economy that is computer gaming in Australia. According to the documented research, more than one-trillion AUD is generated each year in computer games currency.
The Whitsunday Times reported that the white paper indicates the majority of that virtual income is coming from “gang violence in GTA V [Grand Theft Auto 5] and sales of hunter gear in World of Warcraft.”
Also suggested in the white paper was a proposal to begin collecting metadata from computer games, particularly those that involve war simulations and other forms of organized violence. The report advised it would help the Australian Tax Office (ATO) investigate radicals that may be conducting terroristic acts inside computer games.
Del Usion, Deputy Director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), shed more light on that topic. “We’ve had intelligence that terrorist cells have been operating within popular games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” said Usion. “Having the tax office collecting the movements of these characters will allow us to act in the event they become real humans.”
It’s not certain yet what classification of computer games are set to be taxed. Certainly online multi-players will be number one on the list, but even then, the full extent and rate of impending taxation is unknown.
It would almost make sense to tax in-game purchases where a player is able to use virtual currency in place of the option to use real cash to buy something. Social gaming is based entirely on that concept, where a player can spend real money to unlock certain features, or save up credits earned in-game to unlock the same features. But to tax every dollar beaten out of an animated thug on the streets of GTA’s Los Santos?
Apparently that’s what the world of computer games in Australia has come to…