There has been a significant increase in the number of internet business and e-commerce transactions being entered into over the last couple of years. More recently, the development of virtual worlds on the internet has become a more important feature of the environment businesses operate in. Although the tax consequences of income earned in virtual worlds have been researched in the United States of America before, no research of this kind exists within South Africa. This study extends prior research by performing a critical analysis of the tax treatment from a South African tax perspective. The study’s specific aim was to determine whether income earned by South African residents from structured and unstructured virtual worlds respectively, would qualify as gross income according to the South African Income Tax Act 58 of 1962. The study builds on previous international research performed, but provides a new perspective from a South African point of view. From a theoretical perspective, the study will make a valuable contribution to the application of basic principles of gross income but on a brand new concept which did not exist when the principles were laid down. The study was limited to determine whether the income earned in virtual worlds by South African residents who are taxed on their world wide income, will be included in gross income as defined by the South African Income Tax Act. Capital gains tax consequences were not considered for any transaction where the income was classified to be of a capital nature. The study did not consider which deductions might be available to taxpayers in terms of the income being included in gross income and no detailed discussion were included to determine when a taxpayer would only be considered to engage in virtual worlds as a hobby versus when the taxpayer’s action would constitute a business. Future research can be extended to this very area. This research concluded that most transactions in virtual worlds resulting in income will qualify as gross income under the South African Income Tax Act. At this stage the only possible disqualification in terms of the South African gross income definition appears to be the qualification of income received as, “of a capital nature”. Copyright
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2009.