It’s not every day that a Supreme Court speaks kindly about cryptocurrencies, but this week, on June 21st to be precise, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States, a court case involving a dispute over whether stock options given to workers can be taxed as a form of “compensation” in the same way that money is.
Why is this important? Well, in previous cases stock options have been considered liable for tax. However, the ruling of 21st June by the Supreme Court has confirmed stocks do not count as “money remuneration” and the case should be “remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
This was the opinion of the majority of the judges, however, there were some dissenters who argued that “money” has a less rigid definition now than it did in the past. It is this thinking that set the stage for Judge Stephen Breyer’s opinion that mentions Bitcoin for the first time in a Supreme Court ruling. He said: “What we view as money has changed over time. Cowrie shells once were such a medium but no longer are … our currency originally included gold coins and bullion, but, after 1934, gold could not be used as a medium of exchange…Perhaps one day employees will be paid in bitcoin or some other type of cryptocurrency.”
This passing reference suggests that at least some of those that make up the top U.S. court are sympathetic to the idea that a cryptocurrency is a kind of money, as opposed to a form of property as the IRS believes. If the highest court in the U.S. takes the view that cryptocurrency IS money, perhaps this will be the arena where the question is settled once and for all.