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I've lately been using a 3rd party tool to automatically farm Steam Trading Cards. I then sell these cards on the Steam Marketplace for tiny numbers, to the tune of receiving 1-5 cents for most of the cards (with Steam taking a commission), with occasional cards worth 50 cents or more depending on the card's rarity. According to what the tool told me, I have over 800 more cards to farm, and I'm getting them at a rate of about 20-30 per day, roughly 1 every 20 minutes for 8 hours per day, so I'll have to do another 2 months or so of farming them to get all the cards.

This money I receive in this way can ONLY be used legitimately to buy goods on Steam, generally games and DLC. I cannot turn them into, say, grocery money or change for vending machines, or withdraw them from my Steam Balance in any way. Assuming the average value of a card is about 5 cents, I estimate all my cards I'll farm put together will be around 60 EUR in value in total (I think my original card total I could farm was about 1200 cards over 240 games).

My question is: I live in Belgium (NOTE: if someone could edit this in as a tag, that would be great). Would I have to pay income taxes on this money?

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  • don't worry, you are likely to loose your steam account (and all the virtual funds associated with it) before you can collect enough to be taxed.
    – Jasen
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 3:55
  • @Jasen Could you clarify this? the makers of the tool I use (ArchiSteamFarm) are in direct contact with Valve about this and ensure their tool does nothing that violates the Steam ToS. The only people using the tool that have been reported as getting banned are those that farm cards on hundreds of accounts at the same time as a form of money laundering.
    – Nzall
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 6:54
  • have steam confirmed these claims?
    – Jasen
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 7:57
  • @Jasen more or less. The ASF FAQ at github.com/JustArchiNET/ArchiSteamFarm/wiki/… mentions 3 people that got banned: 1 had over a thousand accounts and was essentially DDOSing Valve; 1 of them was doing illegal grey market trading; the third was using an outdated version of ASF which was spamming Steam servers. In addition, Steam has mentioned in a different FAQ(support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=2117-ilzv-2837) that Steam Idlers just shouldn't be used while playing games on anti-cheat servers, not that they shouldn't be used at all.
    – Nzall
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 8:27
  • How is this "Steam money" any different than the money you get when you play Monopoly with your kids?
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 8, 2021 at 16:57

1 Answer 1

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Disclaimer, I am a US Citizen, but this question's sat for a bit so I'll offer you insight as a Public Policy PhD.

Generally speaking, when it comes 'store credit' which is what this Steam money basically is, the reason the store gave you credit matters. If you received the store credit because you returned merchandise then no, that is not income for the purposes of taxation because it's not being used as payment to settle a debt - it's being used as an intermediate step in the remediation of a contract dispute.

If, however, the store issued you such credit in payment for a service you provided then yes, that is taxable income. It becomes taxable income in order for tax law to have any meaning, and it is 'income tax' because it is a flow of value from a buyer of your product (service) to you, as a vendor. Otherwise, your employer could avoid paying taxes by granting you "store credit" in exchange for your labor, instead of money.

Even though you cannot turn them into 'grocery money' there is a concept in laws pertaining to money: fungibility. A resources is fungible if any given instance of that resource can be used in place of any other given instance of that resource. Example: Any 5 Euro note can be used in place of any other 5 Euro note - Euros are fungible to each other. A 5 Euro available credit balance on a credit card can be used in place of a 5 Euro note in most cases - available credit, in Euros, is fungible to Euros.

A 5 Euro balance on a Steam account is fungible to Euros if you buy video games on Steam valued at or more than 5 Euros.

Basically, the argument in a court of law would be that since you likely would have bought video games anyway, the 5 Euros of Steam credit would have been covered by 5 of the Euros you spent on groceries, and therefore it is equivalent.

The bottom line is that yes, you are selling things on the internet, people are paying you for those things, and you are receiving something fungible to cash. This is basically the textbook definition of income, congratulations on your small business!

HOWEVER:

  1. You are probably not making enough money by this route to break out of a likely 'hobby income' provision in the tax laws. I am not a tax professional, let alone a Belgian tax professional, this is not legal advice, but any sensible system of income tax is going to have escape clauses for kids running lemonade stands, or knitters selling the occasional scarf to a friend. In the United States, income from a hobby is taxable, but as personal income - you needn't file business taxes over it.

  2. You are probably not worth auditing. Audits are expensive, so the trouble you're likely to get in for not - or mis-reporting this income is very, very small. A government's tax agency is a rational economic actor. They will only audit you if they think there is a reasonable chance of discovering that you owe more in taxes than it will cost them to perform the audit. Your Steam trading card farming would have to be pretty insanely lucrative indeed. Don't kill yourself trying to keep books on this, just glance at your Steam balance history, make a good faith effort to arrive at a reasonable estimate, and report it as some miscellaneous income category (in the US, it'd be 'hobby income.').

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  • Regarding profitability: I've done some rough math on this. I spend 40 hours per week grinding cards and they're a finite resource (My current collection gets me about 1200 cards). I get about 3-4/hour depending on the game (20-25/day). A card is on average worth about 2-10 eurocents. My rough estimate was I could make about 60-120 EUR off all my cards together. according to a (Dutch language) site on internet trade, if you make less than 25,000 EUR per year in online trading, you're exempt from paying taxes.
    – Nzall
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 19:00
  • "online trading" is very likely to mean investments rather than collectables. Also, the rest of your income profile will make a difference. Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 19:02
  • sorry, with "online trading" I used the wrong term. I actually meant Internet Commerce. The 2 rules are "you need to earn more than 25,000 EUR per year with this eCommerce" and "you need to do it as a regular activity", which is implied to be multiple times per year for multiple years. Like, selling one car for 30K is considered incidental, but selling 20 cars per year for 2K each is something you need to pay taxes on. However, I assume that given that I'm unlikely to earn much more than about 100 EUR (maybe 2-4 games worth depending on price) I don't need to file anything.
    – Nzall
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 19:19
  • That sounds like business rules, but yeah if you're not going much past 100 EUR there's a point where it's not worth it to spend the effort worrying. ;) Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 20:01
  • Honestly, that's why I asked. It's such a small number that there is a good chance that getting a tax consult from a professional would probably cost more than I'd make from all of my cards together, even if I managed to sell all of them at 10 cents or more. The total number it would increase my income taxes by would be something like at most 50 EUR, it would probably cost the tax collector more than that to correct it.
    – Nzall
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 20:34

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