We highlight tech trends and developments that impact the world of work

Agency focuses on human cloud workers’ taxes

More needs to be done to fix tax noncompliance among workers operating through human cloud platforms and other sharing economy firms. That is according to a report by the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called, “Expansion of the Gig Economy Warrants Focus on Improving Self-Employment Tax Compliance,” that was released Feb. 14.

Gig economy platforms often do not withhold money from payments for tax purposes, according to the report. “This creates a more complicated tax situation for individuals who, in many cases, may not understand the tax obligations of their activities, such as the possible obligation to pay self-employment tax.”

The report also noted self-employment income is frequently underreported, and this will likely increase as workers use human cloud firms such as Uber, Lyft and Handy to earn income, as well as sharing economy firms such as Etsy.

It came up with several recommendations, including the development of a strategic plan to address noncompliance by human cloud workers.

Difficulties with regulations on tax Form 1099-K, which some gig economy workers may or may not receive, were also noted.

“Treasury Regulations do not require certain gig economy businesses to issue Form 1099-K unless workers earn at least $20,000 and engage in at least 200 transactions annually,” according to the report. “Consequently, many taxpayers who earn income in the gig economy do not receive a Form 1099-K; therefore, their income is not reported to the IRS. When income is not reported to the IRS, taxpayers are more likely to be noncompliant.”

Firms using virtual reality to train workers

Walmart announced last year it would use virtual reality to help train workers. In fact, the retail giant said it was providing Oculus VR headsets to all its stores in the US.

“The great thing about VR is its ability to make learning experiential,” said Andy Trainor, Walmart’s senior director of Walmart US Academies, according to a post by the company. “When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation.”

Use of VR training is also coming to the staffing industry. Hamilton-Ryker, a Franklin, Tenn.-based staffing firm, announced it was using VR to help train workers on forklift driving.

“Utilizing this technology enables us to assess candidates’ forklift-driving skill level, which allows us to determine if they can pass our clients’ driving tests,” Hamilton- Ryker COO Shari Franey said in a statement. “Through the training feature, others were able to gain or improve their skills, allowing them to pass our clients’ tests and get the job.”

Franey said the technology has resulted in a 40% increase in the successful placement of forklift drivers.

Recruit starts blockchain investment fund

Recruit Holding Co. Ltd. announced in February it had established a fund to invest in blockchain startups. It’s an interesting move for Recruit, which ranks as one of the world’s largest staffing firms. The company’s US brands include Advantage Resourcing and Staffmark. Recruit also owns Indeed and Glassdoor.

Already, the fund has invested in Beam Development, an Israel-based company operating in the blockchain space, Recruit also said in February. Beam Development’s Beam coin cryptocurrency is aimed at helping keep blockchain transactions private.

“While securing auditability of transactions by allowing transaction data to be verified by a specified third party, Beam token provides a blockchain with a function that prevents the divulgation of transaction data to third parties and protects the user’s transaction information,” according to Recruit.

The size of Recruit’s blockchain fund is $25 million in US dollars.

Recruit has also previously invested in other blockchain firms, such as New York-based BlockFi Inc., which lends money based on the security of virtual currency, and San Francisco-based Loyyal, which provides blockchain solutions for products such as loyalty programs. One example of Loyyal’s use includes enabling airlines to more quickly track frequent flier miles that were earned by customers through airline partners such as ride-sharing firms.