Cryptoassets and underpinning them distributed ledger technology
have attracted significant attention globally. Spread of transactions
with cryptoassets caused countries to develop their own strategies in the legal regulation and tax treatment of cryptoassets and dealings with them.
This article provides an overview of cryptoassets and the underlying
technology, represents the main activities with cryptoassets focusing
on cryptocurrencies, i.e. Bitcoin, Litecoin and equivalents. Despite the absence of their support by central banks or other central bodies
cryptocurrencies are commonly used as means of exchange or for
The nature of cryptocurrencies and the types of transactions with
them determine their tax treatment. The article considers the
position of HMRC that denies the recognition of cryptocurrency as of
currency or money and highlights the intangible nature of
Cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity both as an investment asset and as a means to pay for goods and services. The growing ease with which a person can buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency has resulted in an explosion in crypto transactions – and, in turn, has left taxpayers needing to account to the IRS for their newfound cryptocurrency gains (and losses).
This powerful trend reached a new peak in 2020 when, as a result of COVID-19 disruption, related worldwide economic uncertainty and entry of companies such as PayPal into the consumer market (allowing more than 300 million users to easily buy cryptocurrencies), the crypto-market witnessed a dramatic run-up in the values of Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies.
Likely, most people think of bitcoin, now over 10 years old, when they hear “virtual currency.” If you look at CoinMarketCap, you’ll see over 2,000 cryptocurrencies listed with bitcoin at the top given its market value. Others at the top include Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, and Monero.
Well, what makes something a virtual currency in the eyes of the IRS? This is even a more important question for this current tax filing season due to a new question on Form 1040 Schedule 1 – At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?
Schedule 1 is used to report other income, such as business and rental income, as well as deductions for AGI. So a lot of people file it. According to page 81 of the 1040 instructions, if the answer to the question is “no” and you don’t otherwise need Schedule 1, you don’t need to attach it.
This question raises a lot of questions, such as:
Over the last several years, virtual currency has become increasingly popular. Bitcoin is the most widely recognized form of virtual currency, also commonly referred to as digital, electronic or crypto currency.
While most smaller businesses aren’t yet accepting bitcoin or other virtual currency payments from their customers, more and more larger businesses are. And the trend may trickle down to smaller businesses. Businesses also can pay employees or independent contractors with virtual currency. But what are the tax consequences of these transactions?
Bitcoin has an equivalent value in real currency and can be digitally traded between users. It also can be purchased with real currencies or exchanged for real currencies. Bitcoin is most commonly obtained through virtual currency ATMs or online exchanges.
Goods or services can be paid for using “bitcoin wallet” software. When a purchase is made, the software digitally posts the transaction to a global public ledger. This prevents the same unit of virtual currency from being used multiple times.
What is money? Money is a measurement unit for the purpose of exchange. Money is used for valuation of goods, settling debts, accounting for work performed, and standardizing the measurement of production. Money has to be divisible, portable, stable in value, easy to obtain, durable over time and must be trusted by all parties using it.
Imagine money that is too large to divide into pieces, heavy to carry, spoils after 2 days, gets damaged easily or can be eaten by animals? If these are the characteristics of the currency, it would not be that useful and many business deals would not happen.
The most important element of money is trust. If you work for someone and you are not sure if you will get paid, would you do the work? If you did the work, and you got paid for something that was not accepted in many places, is it a valid payment? The economy and money system are built on trust, and it can be broken by a lack of trust by the majority of people.
What is a reserve currency? This is the currency in which all other currencies are standardized against, and this measure is used for global trade, asset valuation, and account settlement. The current reserve currency is the U.S. dollar since it was the strongest currency after World War 2. The strength of the currency was based on its trade position, political influence, military might, resources available and liquidity/recognition in the investment world.
In the cryptocurrency world, Bitcoin serves this function as other cryptocurrencies are converted into Bitcoin to access most exchanges. Since Bitcoin has the brand recognition of being the first known cryptocurrency, it has the advantage of breaking milestones first.
Bitcoin was the largest cryptocurrency by market cap at the time of writing (January 2018), the first coin to be created in 2009 and the first currency to be utilized for futures trading around the world. Bitcoin is also the first decentralized currency in recent time, as there have been digital and electronic currencies created before and after Bitcoin that are not decentralized.
With exponential gains in value and thousands of new retailers now accepting it as payment, Bitcoin has suddenly become one of the hottest discussion topics around the country. Bitcoin (BTC) is currently the most circulated virtual currency (also referred to as cryptocurrency, or “crypto”) in the world and can be exchanged for U.S. dollars, Euros, and other real or virtual currencies like Ethereum (ETH) and Ripple (XRP).
You may spend virtual currency to pay for products or services, or you may treat it like an investment or commodity and hold onto it. But how is a virtual currency like Bitcoin taxed and treated by the IRS? Do you have to pay taxes on Bitcoin? Depends on what you do with it.
- How is virtual currency like Bitcoin handled for federal tax purposes?
With the price of Bitcoin hitting record highs in 2017, many Bitcoin holders cashed out not realizing the impact it could have on their tax bill. Many people, for example, did not understand that it was a reportable transaction and found themselves with a hefty tax bill–money they may have been hard-pressed to come up with at tax time. Others may have been unaware that they needed to report their transactions at all or failed to do so because it seemed too complicated.
With virtual currencies like Bitcoin becoming more mainstream in recent years, we often get asked if revenue from the sale or exchange of these digital dollars is taxable. The simple answer is, YES – income (or profit) from virtual currency transactions is reportable on your income tax return. However, because this is still a relatively new phenomenon, there are a few things you should be aware of to make sure you don’t get caught with a huge tax bill!
Virtual currency, as generally defined, is a digital representation of value that functions in the same manner as a country’s traditional currency. Bitcoin is one example of a convertible virtual currency which can be digitally traded between users and purchased for, or exchanged into, U.S. dollars, Euros and other real or virtual currencies. There are currently more than 1,500 known virtual currencies. Because transactions in virtual currencies can be difficult to trace and have an inherently anonymous aspect, some taxpayers could be tempted to hide taxable income from the IRS. Read More
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The cryptocurrency, or digital currently world is complex with a few core leaders and hundreds, if not thousands, of related active alternatives. All are predicated on the concept of the Blockchain or often referred to as the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). While the core history of Bitcoin and its related alternatives is fairly accessible via a simplified web search, popular media, and even “analog” books, I have determined that far too many do not understand the differences and similarities between and among these various alternative coins (Alt Coins). Read More
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are becoming more popular as a form of payment and as investment. However, there has been little attention paid to how this virtual currency will be treated by the IRS until now. In fact, the IRS is taking a much closer look and has established some tax guidelines.
According to an article published in accountingtoday.com, “For federal tax purposes, virtual currency is treated as property and not currency.” They add, “The fair market value of the virtual currency on the date of receipt determines the taxpayer’s basis.”
Some businesses are actually paying employee wages in virtual currency instead of U.S. dollars. Read More