How is Virtual Currency Taxed?
For some years, a good bit of ambiguity has surrounded the world of virtual currency. Bitcoin, the most common type of this currency, was used by many in the beginning stages to avoid tax obligations. And even rule-abiding citizens have long wondered if the virtual currency is considered reportable.
Whether you like it or not…yes, indeed it is. The IRS has now issued guidance on the tax treatment of transactions using virtual currencies. It is considered convertible virtual currency, meaning it has an equivalent value in real currency. This, by default, places certain tax implications on any transaction with bitcoin or other virtual currency.
However, to be clear, the IRS considers bitcoin property not currency for tax purposes. This allows the IRS to decide whether and when individuals owe taxes on the possession, mining, usage or sale of bitcoin. Tax consequences are incurred when there is a “realization event” according to the IRS. This generally falls into two actions – mining bitcoin or transferring (using or disposing of) bitcoin.
Understanding Virtual Currency
Let’s look at a few tangible examples to help us understand.
Tax liabilities for mining bitcoin – By mining, we mean “acquiring” through the complex computer programs as they solve computational math problems. The concept is very similar to actual mining. When a bitcoin miner “strikes gold” – or solves a math computation resulting in a bitcoin – an asset is created. That asset (just as gold would be an asset) must be taxed appropriately. Acquiring a bitcoin through mining makes that value taxable immediately.
Tax liabilities for transferring bitcoin – Here, we’re actually referring to either the use or disposal of bitcoin, whether by exchanging it or paying for goods or services. If the actual value of the bitcoin at the time of use is greater than the value of the bitcoin when you first acquired it, you will owe taxes on the gain you experienced – in other words, capital gains tax.
Since virtual currency is considered “property” you can think of it in terms of actual property. If you were to buy a house and sell it later for more than you purchased it (aside from the Section 121 exclusion), you would owe taxes on the capital gains you incurred from the sale.
Other Important Facts about Taxes on Virtual Currency:
- You can deduct capital losses on bitcoin just as you would deduct losses on stocks or bonds.
- Impeccable records are a must when dealing in cryptocurrency. Make sure you carefully track every transaction with your virtual currency, including the value when mined or bought and the value when sold or used.
- If you’ve received bitcoin from your employer for wages, that currency is taxed as income and subject to all normal withholding taxes.
- Remember that mining a bitcoin must be included in gross earnings for tax purposes.
As always, if you need help reviewing your current tax situation, including your virtual currency holdings, reach out to our experienced accountants. We look forward to helping you navigate the complex tax issues that virtual currency delivers while looking to decrease your tax liability as much as legally possible.
Call us today to set up your free consultation – 740.373.0056.