How Are Cryptocurrencies Taxed & Legal Implications
02 December 2022taxes
Summary: Cryptocurrency is becoming an increasingly popular economic force in recent times, both in the United States, India, and worldwide. It converts complex digital data into real-world currency by using the blockchain technology; no third-party validation is needed to use this, for e.g. a bank. Therefore, it is referred to as a peer-to-peer monetary or decentralized system. Since the data or information is encrypted, it safeguards its use and ownership from any unauthorized person(s) or external force(s). That said, any thing that is monetary, be it virtual or otherwise, is taxable. And this is definitely not the most exciting part of investing but it is essential. The IRS has been working on enforcing cryptocurrency tax compliance to keep the house in order. Let’s dive deeper.
In this blog:
- 2021: The ‘Big Year’ For Cryptocurrencies
- Understanding Crypto Taxes
- Challenges of Tax Authorities on Digital Assets
- Reporting Cryptocurrency Trades on Tax Return
- State, International, and Federal Crypto Laws
- 2022: Crypto Tax Rates
- 2023: Crypto Tax Rates
- How to know if you owe taxes on crypto?
- How is crypto income taxed?
- Paying tax on crypto capital gains
- Tracking Capital Gains And Losses From Virtual Currencies
- Writing off Crypto Losses
- Paying Taxes On Stolen/Lost Cryptos
- Tax-free Crypto Transactions
- Does the IRS track your crypto activities?
- How to report crypto taxes?
- Crypto Taxes in the US
- Crypto Taxes in India
- Disclosing Crypto Assets in “Schedule of Assets and Liabilities”
- Final Thoughts
An awakening in taxation this year for those who have invested in cryptocurrency last year (2021). This is not to scare you but to educate you on the new tax regulations and help you with answers to your crypto taxation woes.
It is no secret that cryptocurrencies are taxable. Since the IRS puts any cryptocurrency holding into the “property” bracket, it is taxable like any other asset you own such as silver, gold or stocks.
The last day to file your crypto taxes or request for extension was 17th October 2022. If you haven’t yet, 15th Oct' 2023 is your last date to file.
2021: The ‘Big Year’ For Cryptocurrencies
2021 was a fantastic year for crypto, which witnessed new investors trading for the first time. As per Grayscale Investments, more than 50% of the present Crypto investors started investing in the last twelve months. The crypto market hit an all-time high and several lows alike throughout the year, which resulted in huge gains and even losses.
The crypto market experienced an eventful 2021, with many newbie investors joining the bandwagon, who’d be paying their crypto taxes for the very first time. But for seasoned ones who use online exchanges for trading, it is relatively easy to account for it in their tax return. But with digital currency much like any other digital assets, things can get a bit complicated for active investors.
You should be aware of the activities you might need to report to the IRS, and how to start planning ahead for your 2022 taxes.
Understanding Crypto Taxes
There are many ways to end up paying taxes on cryptos. Trading even one cryptocurrency for another one is taxable. If you are not keeping track and proper records of this, it’d be hard to stitch up every piece of your gains and losses together at tax time. And, if you forgot to pay your crypto taxes, because it slipped your mind, or was an honest mistake, you could suffer dire and costly penalties.
Investment in digital assets has grown leaps and bounds with the crypto economy hitting a market capitalization of over USD 3 trillion in over less than thirteen years.
It is how we effectively side-step the existing financial system that has become a primary factor in driving the growth of digital assets such as cryptocurrencies- it is because they exist on distributed digital ledgers in a blockchain rather than in banks and similar physical intermediaries.
The decentralization of crypto reduces transactional costs by eliminating administrative layers and also accelerates transaction speed significantly. The outcome of this is a parallel investment system that unlocks great opportunities to innovate. These attributes make it difficult for investors, financial institutions, and entrepreneurs to ignore it.
Challenges That Tax Authorities Face With Digital Assets
It has become increasingly challenging for tax authorities to come to terms with digital assets’ exponential growth. This has resulted in a lack of balance and middle-ground among tax authorities around how cryptos are to be treated.
Tax implications of ownership, sale, and purchase, vary between jurisdictions, which leads to unnerving ambiguity, risk, complexity and challenges that tax teams and individuals need to navigate. However, tax administrations may come up with more obligations on tax reporting globally.
A major challenge of most governments is that digital assets not only bypass physical intermediaries but also have no similar tax-reporting obligations as traditional investments do. This creates a blind spot for tax authorities, which is most striking in the United States, where third parties are responsible for reporting taxes to the government.
Third parties report all types of income to the government which hasn’t happened with digital assets yet. Hence, a substantial gain may go under-reported or unreported.
The US Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act attempts to resolve this problem, making brokers responsible for reporting crypto transactions. That said, with many crypto transactions going unnoticed by brokers, the effectiveness of this new law is yet to be seen.
The non-inclusion of digital assets in the traditional financial system may have led to ambiguity among investors on whether their crypto trading activities are taxable at all. This uncertainty is mislaid. In fact most jurisdictions are responding to the challenges of tax on digital assets by trying to include their digital assets into their current tax framework.
Reporting Cryptocurrency Trades on Tax Return
Using USD To Buy Cryptos: Just using the US dollars to buy a virtual currency and storing it within the exchange or transferring it to your wallet does not imply that you owe taxes on it at year-end. If this was your only crypto-related trading activity this year, you are not obligated to report it to the IRS, which is based on the guidance mentioned on instructions of Form 1040 tax return.
Trading Cryptocurrencies When you start using crypto as an exchange method, it gets taxable. This includes trading off your crypto for USD, exchanging a cryptocurrency for another one- e.g. buying ETH using Bitcoin or paying for services/ products using crypto.
Whenever you sell, or exchange an investment for another investment, it is then that a taxable transaction occurs. You need to be careful if you are actively trading. If you transact between different cryptocurrencies, each time that you make that trade, it becomes a taxable event.
The IRS is more vigilant this year with respect to crypto transactions, and is pulling up anyone who is dodging taxes. If you are one of those who haven’t reported your crypto transactions or dodged it, this year may not be a good year for you. More audits are underway with the IRS demanding for more tax reporting.
Minting or Trading NFTs: Just like crypto, NFTs are also taxed. We have a separate blog on this. You can read it up here
The IRS has not come up with any proper tax guidelines on NFTs so it can be a bit confusing to understand and navigate taxes on them. The implications of tax NFT are dependent on two factors: a) are you an NFT investor or creator? b) how much are you interacting with NFTs (such as a business, or hobby.)
If you’re minting/creating NFTs, it’s important to know the events that will be taxable and how they will be taxed. For instance, paying the gas fee to create an NFT is considered as a taxable event. Let’s say, you bought an ETH worth $200, and at the time you minted the NFT, it’s worth became $400, then this transaction would generate a capital gain of $200. You would have to pay a long-term or short-term tax rate on your capital gains, depending on how long you’ve held the ETH before you used it to mint the NFT. That said, let’s say you are a professional creator who mints NFTs frequently for your business, the $200 would be treated as normal income.
As a hobbyist, you can report income but you will not be able to deduct any business-related expenses. However, if you are creating NFTs as a business, you can deduct business-related expenses.
Once you trade the NFT for a crypto or exchange it for another NFT, it becomes another taxable event. The trade would be taxed as income since you are gaining (earning) or losing money for selling the NFT you had created. Royalties you earn for an NFT you had created would be taxed as income.
Taxes work alike for crypto traders as they do for NFT investors. Since most art-related NFTs are termed as collectibles, they are taxed and subjected to capital gain taxes like any other cryptocurrency. If you buy or sell an NFT using a cryptocurrency like ETH, you will be subjected to taxes on capital gains. What you owe will depend on how long you’ve held the NFT and if you’d made a profit. Much like capital gains, losses can also be claimed on NFTs. For e.g. at the time that you bought the NFT, the ETH value depreciates, this would trigger a loss that you could claim.
|Crypto Taxable Events||Crypto Non-Taxable Events|
|Selling crypto for fiat currency (EUR, USD, etc.)||Buying crypto with fiat currency|
|Trading crypto for another crypto (ETH for BTC)||Donating crypto to an organization that is exempted from tax|
|Buying services/goods using crypto||Gifting crypto|
|Selling, buying, trading NFTs||Transferring crypto between wallets that you own, Using fiat currency to buy NFTs|
State, International, and Federal Crypto Laws
Virtual currency is termed as “property” under the federal law, and hence, it is taxed.
Sales tax under state-level law is what cryptocurrency taxation brings with it. So the question is, would a virtual currency sale be subjected to local sales taxation?
Most states are still awaiting proper legislation or guidance on this subject. A few states, for e.g. Kentucky and California treat crypto as cash transactions. They tax it as per the same regulatory guidelines. In a few other states, for e.g. Kansas and Arkansas, virtual currencies are not taxable.
There is little to no guidance on whether crypto owners are required to fulfill tax reporting needs at international level. What is often noticed is that the US citizens, residents, and others staying in the US, who are subject to the United States tax regulations, need to file a FINCEN 114 & Foreign Bank Account Report for financial accounts outside the US. This is for those with maximum value that exceeds $10,000 at any point during the previous calendar year. That said, it is still unclear if these financial interests are inclusive of digital assets or currencies.
2022: Crypto Tax Rates
The tax bracket was adjusted by the IRS for 2022 to make it tangent with inflation. Following are the long-term crypto tax rates that will apply when you file your tax return in 2023.
|TAX RATES||SINGLE||MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY||MARRIED FILING JOINTLY||HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD|
Taxes on crypto assets that you held for 1 year or less than a year will be taxed as ordinary income according to the IRS, with the following 2022 tax rates applying.
|TAX RATES||SINGLE||MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY||MARRIED FILING JOINTLY||HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD|
2023: Crypto Tax Rates
The tax bracket was adjusted by the IRS for 2023 to make it tangent with inflation. Following are the long-term crypto tax rates that will apply when you file your tax return in 2024.
|TAX RATES||SINGLE||MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY||MARRIED FILING JOINTLY||HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD|
Taxes on crypto assets that you held for 1 year or less than a year will be taxed as ordinary income according to the IRS, with the following 2023 tax rates applying.
|TAX RATES||SINGLE||MARRIED FILING SEPARATELY||MARRIED FILING JOINTLY||HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD|
How to know if you owe taxes on crypto?
When you spend a crypto and its value increases from when you first purchased it, then you own tax on that crypto. Following are the various crypto taxable events:
- Selling crypto for a fiat currency
- Buying services/goods using cryptocurrency
- Trading different types of cryptos
If your crypto value goes up, these would be your only taxable events. You’d need the cost basis to know if you owe taxes on crypto- cost basis is the sum you paid to buy your crypto. You compare it to the sales price or proceeds at the time you used your crypto.
Let's say you bought Bitcoin for $10,000. Following would be your taxable events:
|Sold Bitcoin for $30,000||Report $20,000 in gains|
|Used Bitcoin to buy a car worth $55,000||Report $45,000 in gains|
|Traded a Bitcoin for $60,000 of another crypto||Report $50,000 in gains|
It is the trade between coins where taxes on crypto get complicated. A crypto trade is considered a taxable event.
If you trade a crypto for another, you would be required to report gains in US dollars when filing your tax return. Every time you trade cryptos, you have to keep track of your gains and losses in US dollars. That way, you can report your crypto gains or losses accurately. If you want to keep it simple, crypto stocks could ease tracking of gains and losses compared to selling and buying specific coins.
How is crypto income taxed?
It is taxed as ordinary income, on the date the taxpayer receives it, at its fair market value. Following are few of what is considered as crypto income:
- When you receive crypto as payment for service provided
- When you mine or stake crypto and earn rewards.
- When you lend crypto, and receive interest payment on it
Paying tax on crypto capital gains
Much like bonds and stocks, crypto is taxed as property. When you realize gains after disposing of or selling crypto, you need to pay taxes on the amount you have earned/gained. The crypto tax rates for gains are the same as taxes on capital gains on stocks.
When investing in crypto, part of it is tracking and maintaining a record of gains and losses, reporting them accurately, and paying taxes on time. Much like any investor, you would want to keep the burden of tax to a bare minimum.
Let’s look at ways you can minimize crypto taxes.
- If you have successful crypto investments, hold it for over a year before you sell or use them. Long-term gain taxes are always lower than short-term gain taxes.
- Tax loss harvesting. Use the losses to offset gains by selling different cryptos on which you’ve had both, gains and losses.
- You can Open a crypto IRA (Individual Retirement Account). Much like any other IRAs, you can make tax-deductible contributions and pay taxes only when you withdraw the funds. (Consult with a tax professional or financial advisor)
Tracking Capital Gains And Losses From Virtual Currencies
If the property’s fair market value received by trading it with a virtual currency is more than the basis of the virtual currency of a taxpayer, the taxpayer gets a taxable gain. In the same way, if the value of what is received in comparison to what was originally spent falls below expectations, then the taxpayer experiences loss.
The IRS is yet to address ways to track how capital gains and losses is calculated in the context of “convertible” digital currencies. It has been recommended to simplify the record-keeping, which is important when calculating gains and losses from virtual currency by applying the Section 1012 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) tracking methods under the LIFO, FIFO, or specific identification methods just the way stocks are sold through an exchange.
In addition, there have been suggestions for the IRS to put in place a de-minimis rule to taxpayers who may have a small amount of cryptos or transactions (e.g., buying coffee).
Writing off Crypto Losses
Taxes on crypto can be daunting, but it does allow you to deduct losses on digital assets, just as you would deduct on bonds and stocks. You can offset the losses from other Capital gains on sale of other capital goods. Further, if you have capital losses more than your capital gains, you can also offset up to $3000 of capital losses against your normal income to reduce your overall tax liability.
Crypto prices do fluctuate all the time, hence many will see losses. If you experience losses, make sure to declare them when filing your tax return. Also see if you could minimize your tax liability.
Paying Taxes On Stolen/Lost Cryptos
Generally, losses cannot be deducted on stolen or lost cryptos on your tax return. There are no concrete guidelines from IRS to claim Investment lost as capital loss. Broadly the losses are categorised as:
- Casualty lost: this means your crypto is destroyed, damaged, or lost from unexpected, sudden, unusual events. E.g. you sent your crypto to a wrong wallet or similar events.
- Theft lost: it happens when your exchange or wallet is hacked. etc.
In either case, you cannot deduct losses to offset your capital gains.
Tax reforms with effect from 2018 to 2025 so losses will not be deductible between 2018 and 2025. Taxpayers may benefit from this deduction in the future if they itemize their deductions rather than claiming the standard deduction.
Tax-free Crypto Transactions
There are certain conditions under which you can make tax-free crypto transactions. It depends entirely on the type of transaction you make, your income, which account you use to transact in, and your filing status.
A taxable event is not created when buying crypto even if its value appreciates over time. Tax events occur only when you sell or exchange your crypto.
If you made crypto transactions in a tax-free or tax-deferred account, much like any Roth or traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account), these transactions are not taxed like they would be in a brokerage account. These types of trades are not taxed.
Taxes on long-term capital gains could be little to none depending on your annual income.
Does the IRS track your crypto activities?
Despite cryptos’ anonymous nature, the IRS might find ways to track your crypto activities.
If you use a crypto exchange that reports trades using 1099-B Form (Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions) they'll provide the IRS with information about those transactions.
The IRS also utilizes blockchain-based analytics tools to identify crypto activities on digital wallets and links them with individuals when they suspect tax evasion and/or money laundering.
Therefore, make sure you report all your annual crypto activities when filing your tax return.
How To Report Crypto Taxes?
It is important to record the details of your crypto sales, including when and the rate at which you bought them for. Reason being, when you use virtual currencies as payment or put them through a brokerage, it constitutes an exchange or sale. Such transactions are reported on Schedule D, Form 1040 and Form 8949.
1099-B: Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions Proceeds
If you’ve traded crypto on an exchange, in an investment account, or used it as a payment to buy goods/services, you can receive Form 1099-B that reports these transactions. This information in several other investment accounts just like those held with a stock broker, will be given on 1099 Form. But, every platform may not give out these forms. In such cases, they do provide information even if it is not on a 1099-B Form.
If you received or mined crypto as an award, you may receive the Miscellaneous Income 1099-MISC Form or the Non-Employee Compensation 1099-NEC. The forms are utilized to report the income paid for various work and activities. The information you get from these forms can help you in preparing the Business Profit/Loss (Schedule C) and Self-employment Tax (Schedule SE).
If you are issued any of the 1099 forms, they will be sent to the IRS for matching the information on these forms with the report you submitted on your tax return.
CRPTM Tip: Crypto exchanges need not send the 1099-B forms till the 2022 tax year. If the form is not received from your crypto exchange, you should still report your taxes on your crypto exchanges and sales.
There have been recent amendments to crypto tax regulations, but it is your responsibility to maintain a record of your gains and losses. To ensure you are always on the right side with respect to tax rules and regulations, maintain an accurate record of your crypto transactions as well as gains and losses.
Please do note that a 1099-K Form may be issued for transactions that are over $20,000 in payments and over 200 transactions in a year. These two conditions need to be met, and most individuals may not be utilizing cryptos over 200 times in a year. Irrespective of whether you cross the 200 or $20,000 mark or not, you still need to pay taxes on your capital gains.
The IRS will not take pity if you end up making an honest mistake of not paying taxes on your capital gains. The IRS is watching closely and adding questions to tax return forms as to whether you sold, received, exchanged, or disposed of financial interest in any of the virtual currencies.
Those who evade taxes or break tax laws will be subjected to penalties, audits and prosecution alike.
Paying Crypto Taxes in the USA
Since crypto is categorized as property, all crypto transactions are taxable by law.
You owe taxes on cryptos that you sell, buy, trade and even dispose of in a way that is recognized as gains. Let’s say you purchase cryptos worth $2,000 and then sell them for $2,600 at a later point; you would have to report this and will be taxed on the profit (gain) of $600. If you dispose of crypto and it is recognized as a loss, you can deduct that and show it as a loss when filing your tax report.
Purchase of a crypto in itself is not a taxable event. You can purchase and hold cryptos without being taxed, even if their value appreciates. There needs to be a taxable event first before it can be taxed, let’s say a sale of that crypto.
The IRS has been ensuring that necessary steps are in place so that crypto investors pay taxes on time. Those who file tax need to respond to a question in Form 1040, which asks if they have had any transactions related to a virtual/digital currency during the year. Crypto exchanges need to file a 1099-K for clients with over 200 crypto transactions and over $20,000 in crypto trading during the year.
Paying Crypto Taxes in India
The government of India has implemented a new tax regime that aims at taxing gains and/or income received from virtual digital assets or VDAs– Cryptocurrencies, Similar Tokens, NFTs and similar other assets, as specified by the Government. Therefore resulting in a tax of 30% in addition to a surcharge and cess amount on transfers of any VDA such as Bitcoin or ETH, as per the Income Tax Act, 1961 (Income Tax Act) guidelines. That said, it is still unclear as to what is the legal position of cryptocurrencies in India.
The Government of India is yet to grant cryptocurrencies a status of legal tender.
The RBI tried to restrict banking facilities to crypto exchanges in 2018. However, the Supreme Court ruled out this ban/restriction on fundamental virtual exchange rights and constitutional grounds.
Clarity is yet to be offered by the Indian tax department with respect to tax implications on crypto transaction gains.
Crypto: an ‘asset’ or a ‘currency’?
There has been a debate on whether crypto needs to be classified as an ‘asset’ or a ‘currency’ or an ‘asset’. However, Crypto assets and Cryptocurrency are being interchangeably used.
However, to classify crypto as a ‘currency’ requires the government’s legal backing, without which it is safe to classify crypto as a ‘property’ or an ‘‘asset.’
Tax implications would arise irrespective of the legalities, therefore classifying crypto as an ‘asset’ might be a better approach than a clarification by the government.
Moreover, the US government had issued a notification that classifies crypto as a ‘property,’ thereby imposing capital gain taxes on any gains upon sale of cryptocurrencies.
Taxation On Gains From Crypto Sale
Since cryptocurrency is yet to be legalized by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India), it still falls under the taxation purview. Any individual who earns profits from the sale of a cryptocurrency needs to pay income tax on the gains.
All types of incomes, except those that have been explicitly exempted under the Income Tax Act, are taxable. Until there is clarity from the income tax department, investors will have to pay income tax on crypto transactions based on the nature of transactions.
According to the standard income tax regulations, any gains on crypto transactions will be taxable as, (a) Capital Gains, or (b) Business Income. This categorization is highly dependent on the intention of investors and the nature of the crypto transactions.
Business Income Taxes: Gains from crypto transactions due to frequent high volumes and trades.
Capital Gain Taxes: The purpose of owning crypto is to primarily benefit from the investment’s longer-term value appreciation with fewer trades.
If classified as capital gains:
Crypto transactions that are classified as ‘investments’ will be treated as capital gains or losses under the ‘capital gain’ banner.
- Short term capital gain tax will be levied if crypto-assets are held for less than 1 year or 1 year are treated as short term investments.
- Crypto-assets sold after holding them for more than 1 year are treated as long-term investments. They will be taxed at 20% with indexation benefits.
If classifies as capital losses:
If your crypto transaction results in a loss, we recommend that you consult a tax expert.
If classified as business income:
- Goods and Services Tax (GST) implications need to be examined for crypto transactions reported as business income.
- All direct and indirect expenses are allowed as ‘deductions’ from profits on crypto-asset sale.
- Profits will be added to the other type of income and will be taxed as per the rates in the income tax slab.
The GST angle, if classifies as business income:
GST implications are considered for a taxable event that involves the supply of goods or services, or both. This concept covers numerous transactions.
Understanding Services: They are anything other than securities, money, and goods. It comprises activities related to monetary transactions/ its conversion by cash/ any other mode for which a separate consideration is charged.
Taking the aforementioned into account, GST could be applicable when you sell or buy cryptos as supply of goods/ services.
The CEIB (Central Economic Intelligence Bureau) has proposed the categorization of cryptos as intangible assets, and hence, GST is applicable on all crypto transactions. Since taxability laws are undefined on cryptos, and proposals are still under discussion, an 18% general tax rate might most likely be applicable on crypto transactions going forward.
You might have to pay GST on a turnover that exceeds INR 20 lakhs. We still suggest that you speak with a tax expert on this matter.
If classified as “other income sources”:
When filing ITR, you can report crypto-assets as ‘income from other sources.’ This type of income is added to your total income and is taxable as per applicable income tax slab rates.
Also, income from crypto assets may be treated as ‘speculation business income’ and is taxed as per the highest tax slab rate. That said, with no clarification from the income tax department on this matter, taxpayers can benefit by classifying it as ordinary/normal ‘business income’ or ‘capital gains.’
Even if there is no clarification from the income tax department, you need to report your crypto capital gains in the ITR and pay taxes on your gains.
Disclosing Crypto Assets in “Schedule of Assets and Liabilities”
The MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) has put forth mandatory compliance when disclosing virtual currency gains and losses. The crypto value, as mentioned on the balance sheet date, has to be reported. There may have been amendments in Schedule-III of the Companies Act, effective from 1st April 2021. However, one can consider this mandate as the first move that the Indian government has made towards regulating cryptocurrencies.
Do note that the mandate is applicable only for companies. Individual taxpayers need not comply with this mandate. However, reporting taxes and paying taxes on crypto capital gains are a must for all.
If you are not conducting complex crypto activities, and may have questions related to specific tax obligations, or you are unsure if your tax report is correct and accurate, you could work this out with a tax professional with experience in cryptocurrencies.
It is not possible for the IRS to issue guidance on every situation that you might face or run into, and with gaps in the current guidance, tax filing and reporting can be a daunting process. Which is why, the guidance of a tax professional who is familiar with the IRS guidelines and knows how to report cryptocurrency gains and losses, is highly recommended. It is important that the tax professional acknowledges all uncertainties in the tax code to be able to give you an accurate tax report.
To file accurate crypto tax reports and generate them with ease, CRPTM is your go-to platform- it simplifies your tax filing and report generation.
If you have any other suggestions related to taxes on cryptocurrencies, please do drop in a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
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