IRS Confirms Pre 2018 Crypto Exchanges Do Not Qualify For Section 1031 Exchange Treatment

IRS Confirms Pre 2018 Crypto Exchanges Do Not Qualify For Section 1031 Exchange Treatment

New IRS guidance has confirmed that pre-2018 exchanges of Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin do not qualify for Section 1031 exchange treatment.  Prior to 2018, taxpayers were permitted to defer capital gains taxes under Section 1031 for certain exchanges of personal property (1031 is now limited only to exchanges of real property).  The IRS’s rationale is that these were not exchanges of like-kind property and so were taxable even prior to tax reform. The IRS found that Bitcoin and Ether each had special roles in cryptocurrency trading because if taxpayers wanted to trade in other types of virtual currency, they had to first exchange the other currency into or from Bitcoin or Ether.  Therefore, exchanges between Litecoin and Bitcoin/Ether did not qualify as “like kind”.

Further, the IRS identified differences in design, intended use and actual use of Bitcoin and Ether.  While this guidance currently only extends to exchanges involving Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin, it is possible that the IRS could extend the rationale to other types of cryptocurrency.  Taxpayers who trade in cryptocurrency under current tax rules should remember that these trades are taxable events.

Have a question? Contact William Byrnes.

William H. Byrnes has achieved authoritative prominence with more than 20 books, treatise chapters and book supplements, 1,000 media articles, and the monthly subscriber Tax Facts Intelligence. Titles include: Lexis® Guide to FATCA Compliance, Foreign Tax and Trade Briefs, Practical Guide to U.S. Transfer Pricing, and Money Laundering, Asset Forfeiture; Recovery, and Compliance (a Global Guide). He is a principal author of the Tax Facts series. He was a Senior Manager, then Associate Director of international tax for Coopers and Lybrand, and practiced in Southern Africa, Western Europe, South East Asia, the Indian sub-continent, and the Caribbean. He has been commissioned by a number of governments on tax policy. Obtained the title of tenured law professor in 2005 at St. Thomas in Miami, and in 2008 the level of Associate Dean at Thomas Jefferson. William Byrnes pioneered online legal education in 1995, thereafter creating the first online LL.M. offered by an ABA accredited law school (International Taxation and Financial Services graduate program).

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