Your Crypto Tax Questions, Answered

Apr 01, 2021

Our free, on-demand cryptocurrency tax webinar explains how to complete your tax return step-by-step. You’ll also get a free download with reporting instructions!

How should I answer the IRS crypto question?

In 2020, the IRS asked a question about cryptocurrency at the top of Schedule 1. For 2021, the IRS crypto question has received front-and-center placement on Form 1040, right beneath name and address.

The question asks: “At any time during [year], did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?”

If the answer is yes, you must answer truthfully or risk criminal tax charges, and you must attach a full crypto tax report to your return.

Do I need to file crypto taxes?

Short answer: Yes, you need to report cryptocurrency on your tax returns. This was true even before the IRS began asking about cryptocurrency with a yes-or-no question.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll owe any tax. If all you did was hold, you won’t owe any taxes on your crypto—but the IRS still wants to know, and it doesn’t hurt to make sure the agency has accurate information about your holdings.

Failing to report capital gains or income from cryptocurrency could lead to tax debt, fines and interest, and even criminal prosecution in extreme cases.

How do cryptocurrency taxes work?

Cryptocurrency is treated as property, not currency, for tax purposes. Unfortunately, this means that most crypto transactions—including selling, exchanging, and spending your crypto—are considered taxable events. For each transaction, you need to show your cost basis, proceeds (or sales price), and your capital gain (or loss). Only capital gains will be taxed, though all transactions need to be reported.

What does that mean, exactly? In the simplest terms, if you purchased Bitcoin for $500, and then sold it for $10,000, you’re required to report a $9,500 capital gain. In certain circumstances, such as the payment of fees, there are ways to deduct from the taxable value.

How Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Taxes Work - Infographic - Crypto Tax Basics

For a more detailed breakdown of how cryptocurrency taxes work, read Cryptocurrency & Bitcoin Taxes: 6 Things You Need to Know.

How do I report cryptocurrency on my tax return?

To report cryptocurrency on your tax return, you first need to check “yes” to the question: “At any time in [year], did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?” 

Then, create a cryptocurrency tax report by completing IRS Form 8949 (Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets). The 8949 is used to track the cost basis for each virtual coin and the sale price—aka the USD value you received from selling it.

How to Report Cryptocurrency on Your Tax Return - Form 8949 - Crypto Capital Gains

Sale Price – Cost Basis = Capital Gain or Loss. (And remember, selling a coin for USD, exchanging one type of coin for another, or using a coin to purchase goods and services are all considered a “sale” from the IRS’s perspective.)

To make the process even more fun, you must also separate your transactions into short-term gains and long-term gains. It’s a long-term gain if you held the coin for more than one year. Long-term gains are taxed at a lower rate than short-term gains. Form 8949 asks for the date coins were acquired and sold for each transaction, which determines your holding period.

As of 2020, crypto exchanges are not issuing Form 1099-B, which would identify all the necessary information for Form 8949. If you use a service that does issue a Form 1099-B, such as Robinhood, then you can transpose this information onto your Form 8949.

Next, you must fill out Schedule D of Form 1040 using the totals from Form 8949. This will calculate the amount of tax you owe on your crypto gains.

That sounds super complicated. Can you make it easy?

Yep! Gordon Law Group is here to make your crypto tax reporting simple. All you have to do is send your transaction history through a secure API or file transfer. We work our crypto tax magic, and you get a bulletproof report for your tax return!

Whether you’re filing for this year or fixing past years’ reports, we can help. Have lost or missing transactions? Don’t worry; we’ve helped countless clients rebuild their history to properly report.

I received a CP2000 letter for crypto. What should I do?

If you’re a cryptocurrency investor who received IRS letter CP2000 claiming that you owe tax, the bill you received is probably higher than what you actually owe.

Learn all about the CP2000 crypto letter and how to respond here.

When is cryptocurrency considered taxable income?

Cryptocurrency is taxed as income if it’s received through mining, in an airdrop, or as payment for goods and services. Proof-of-stake rewards are also considered income.

In this case, you need to find the fair market value of the coins (in USD) when you received them and count that amount toward your gross income.

If you then sell, exchange, or spend the coins, those transactions are taxable based on the capital gain or loss. The fair market value at time of receipt—the same amount you reported as income—would be your cost basis for any future transactions.

How and When to Report Cryptocurrency as Income on Your Tax Return - Infographic

I haven’t reported crypto taxes in the past. What should I do?

If you haven’t reported your crypto for prior years and want to avoid a cryptocurrency audit (or worse), you should call a tax attorney who understands virtual currency. We’ve helped countless clients rebuild their crypto trading history and stay out of trouble with the IRS.

You may be able to use the Voluntary Disclosure Program, or you may be able to simply file amended tax returns. We’ll walk you through your options and help you choose the best course for your unique situation.

Do I have to report cryptocurrency losses to the IRS?

Yes, you need to report your crypto losses to the IRS—and doing so could actually save you a pretty penny, for two reasons.

One: Your exchange may be sending information about your transactions to the IRS, but that information is often incomplete and doesn’t include any losses. This can make the IRS think you owe much more than you actually do. Correcting that mistake can be more expensive and troublesome than reporting properly to begin with.

Two: Capital losses offset capital gains, lowering the amount of tax owed. They can also be used to offset regular income and other capital gains (such as gains from stocks or real estate), and can even be carried forward to offset future gains! Give us a call to learn more. 

How are forks and airdrops taxed?

In 2019, the IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2019-24, which provides guidance on the taxation of hard forks and airdrops of cryptocurrency. Airdrops (whether resulting from a fork or not) are taxed as income and must be reported on your Schedule 1 tax form. The fair market value of the airdrop on the day it was received is the amount you should report on your Schedule 1. This is also considered your cost basis if and when you sell the airdropped coins. If a fork does not result in an airdrop, it’s not considered a taxable event.

Are crypto to crypto exchanges taxable?

Crypto to crypto exchanges (for example, selling Bitcoin to purchase Ethereum) are taxable events. The IRS has definitively stated that like-kind exchange does not apply to crypto for tax years 2018 onward. However, even for years before 2018, it’s nearly impossible to argue that crypto-to-crypto is not taxable (we’ve never seen it successfully argued!). Watch a detailed breakdown in the video below.

Virtual currency received as payment for goods or services should be treated as income on your tax return. Just like an airdrop, you would report the fair market value of the deposit (as of the time you received it). Whether you were paid wages or paid as an independent contractor will determine where on your tax return the income is reported, such as on Schedule 1 or Schedule C for self-employed taxpayers. If you sell the coins, the amount of income that you originally reported is also your cost basis.

How do I report crypto mining on my taxes?

The coins awarded for crypto mining count as income and should be reported as such. Typically, mining is considered a business, in which case the income must be reported on Schedule C of your tax return. You must include the fair market value of any mined coins at the time you received them.

Do I owe crypto tax if I use an overseas exchange or wallet?

In almost every case, offshore cryptocurrency holdings by US persons are still subject to stateside reporting and taxation. In fact, the IRS has a history of filing—and winning—John Doe warrants that compel foreign banks to hand over identifying information about accounts tethered to US citizens. Officials have relied on the process for decades. Now, the IRS is using it to unearth Bitcoin and altcoin holdings stashed overseas.

Is moving my crypto from one exchange or wallet to another a taxable event?

No, moving your crypto between wallets or exchanges that you own is not taxable. As long as the virtual currency remains in your possession, this is simply a transfer and not a transaction.

Has the IRS released any guidelines about cryptocurrency tax?

Yes, the IRS maintains a Virtual Currency Issues Team; and yes, said team has produced some guidelines about cryptocurrency tax issues.

If you don’t have time to wade through IRS legalese, never fear, we’ve already done it for you. Get in touch to schedule a confidential consultation with a cryptocurrency tax attorney.

Do Coinbase and other exchanges report to the IRS?

Most US exchanges, including Coinbase, now report trading activity to the IRS. Some foreign exchanges now report to the IRS, as well, and we expect this trend will only increase over time.

In late 2017, a federal court compelled Coinbase—a well-trafficked token exchange and wallet service—to fork over information to the IRS. Coinbase was forced to provide the trade history of about 14,000 accounts that exceeded $20,000 worth of trades between 2013 and 2015.

Since then, Coinbase and most other US exchanges have been issuing tax forms to customers each year (along with sending copies to the IRS). In 2021, the IRS was authorized to seek records from Kraken and Poloniex, as well.

I got a 1099-K from my crypto exchange. Do I need anything else?

If you received a 1099-K from your crypto exchange, this does not mean your crypto reporting is complete! In fact, the 1099-K form is very misleading: It only reports your proceeds and does not calculate your gain/loss. You’ll still need to report your cost basis and proceeds for each transaction; otherwise, the IRS will think you owe much more in crypto taxes than you actually do.

Reporting Crypto Taxes - Why Form 1099-K Isn't Enough

If you use only one exchange and you receive Form 1099-B, you can simply add the information from this form to the 8949 when filing your tax return. If you use multiple exchanges, however, you may not have the cost basis for all coins and additional reporting may be required.

Why is the IRS laser-focused on cryptocurrency?

The Internal Revenue Service cares about one thing and one thing only: collecting as much tax as possible. Since cryptocurrencies are on the rise, the IRS wants its take.

In addition to tax revenue, the government seems concerned about the money laundering potential of virtual currency. Since digital tokens don’t have material backing, authorities feel it is ripe for white collar crime activity. However, evidence to this end has yet to bear fruit.

Why are some Bitcoin holders looking for offshore “crypto havens”?

Bitcoin’s value is on a sky-bound trajectory, many a millionaire has been made, and some are looking to extract as much fiat currency as possible without incurring colossal tax penalties. As a result, “crypto havens” are popping up, seemingly constructed with Bitcoin Billionaires in mind. Small island tax shelters like Vanuatu have developed Bitcoin-for-citizenship programs. Moreover, some individuals with crypto-heavy portfolios are using Bitcoin loan agreements that have beneficial tax implications.

In addition, for US persons, Puerto Rico is a popular crypto tax haven that doesn’t require a passport, let alone a change of citizenship. Taking advantage of an offshore crypto haven is complicated, but certainly possible. Get in touch with us to learn more.

Connect with a cryptocurrency tax lawyer

Cryptocurrencies are quickly becoming part of the mainstream marketplace. If you’re concerned about adequately reporting virtual currency gains (as an individual or for a business), give our skilled cryptocurrency tax lawyers a call.

As experienced tax attorneys who’ve been dealing with crypto since 2014, we understand every angle of the cryptocurrency tax puzzle. Get in touch today!

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