Cryptocurrency and other digital assets such as nonfungible tokens often feel like an unexplored universe, where the laws of nature haven’t yet been discovered. Where the system that is being developed, and the rules that will govern, have the potential to upend the current economic structure. As that monumental shift continues to grow, and current rules, such as existing tax law, are being applied to digital assets, certified public accountants, tax attorneys, and enrolled agents are acquiring the skills and experience necessary to assist cryptocurrency holders with their tax compliance requirements. Some advisors are even navigating the sparse but developing IRS rules and notices to provide planning advice and tax management strategies. While it is key to have knowledgeable advisors helping you manage your tax responsibility, it is also helpful for the cryptocurrency owners and investors themselves to have a basic understanding of the following ways in which their cryptocurrency transactions may generate a tax bill.
The federal government currently considers cryptocurrency to be a form of property, rather than currency. As a result, certain transactions, such as making a payment using cryptocurrency or exchanging one type of cryptocurrency for another, might actually generate an income tax liability. Some potential income recognition events include the following:
Receiving cryptocurrency as payment for goods or services: A recipient is taxed on the value of the crypto that such recipient receives as payment for selling goods or performing services. The taxable amount is based on the value of the coin at the time it is received. Cryptocurrency values continue to fluctuate dramatically, so it’s possible that by the time the recipient’s tax payment is due, the coin has decreased in value to where it’s worth less than the tax that’s due on it. It is therefore important to set aside sufficient cash in US dollars to pay income tax on cryptocurrency that is received as payment for goods or services. In addition to being subject to income tax, the value of the coin received as payment may be subject to self-employment tax if the payment is connected to a trade or business.