Reporting and enforcement regarding the taxation for cryptocurrencies presents many challenges for the IRS and taxpayers. The IRS requires that taxpayers report the fair-market value of their coins on the date that the currency is received. Taxpayers must determine fair-market value in a “reasonable manner which is consistently applied”.

Generally, the fair-market value reported by a taxpayer disposing of cryptocurrencies should serve as the additional cost basis for the new taxpayer acquiring the currency. This is a classic example of “easier said than done” since there is no way to ensure consistent reporting, and many taxpayers may report conflicting cost basis that maximize personal tax advantages. Often it may not be possible to accurately determine a fair cost basis especially for newly created currencies.

In early IRS rulings, the agency provided guidance separating traded “convertible” virtual currencies such as Bitcoin from other virtual currencies, noting that only convertible virtual currencies that have an “equivalent value in real currency, or that acts as a substitute for real currency” will be considered taxable.

There are generally two tests to determine a virtual currency’s convertibility. First taxpayer’s should determine whether a currency is “listed on an exchange and the exchange rate is established by market supply and demand,” which would make it convertible to another “real currency” like the U.S. dollar.

This presents a gray area for virtual currencies that are thinly traded on exchanges and only trade with respect to other convertible virtual currencies. Be aware the IRS has made it clear it plans to tax gains on successful convertible virtual currencies retroactively.

The second test is to determine whether taxpayers can buy anything tangible with the currency, or if its value is instead driven by speculation. The IRS outlined, “The sale or exchange of convertible virtual currency, or the use of convertible virtual currency to pay for goods or services in a real-world economy transaction, has tax consequences that may result in a tax liability.” If a currency isn’t valuable in commerce there is a true question as to whether this will be treated by the IRS as convertible.

Traders are permitted to calculate their cost bases using different methodologies. Since currencies are considered private property from a tax perspective, investors have the option to sell their assets on a first-in-first-out (FIFO) basis, a last-in-first-out (LIFO) basis, or to sell those specific tax lots that are most efficient under the “specific share identification” method used for stocks. The choice of cost basis directly impacts long-term and short-term capital gains tax liabilities.

Trading platforms may automatically incorporate FIFO or LIFO tracking methods but neither of these options may present the most tax efficient method for a taxpayer. Generally specific share identification offers the greatest tax planning opportunities and benefits.

This is most likely the tax advantaged approach to tracking a taxpayers cost basis but it currently costly to do and often times not possible. Even the top exchanges and hosted wallets currently lack the accounting software needed to ensure trades are executed in on a share by share basis. Individuals must track their own sales which creates a high level of complexity and time commitment.

Camuso is one of the pioneering CPA firms offering tax services for cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Etherium . Our services can help you get ahead of the game, and save you money where other firms may not have the knowledge or capital to do so.

Camuso CPA PLLC offers comprehensive services to develop and tailor a first-rate tax plan for your business needs.  Reach out to our team regarding any questions about Cryptocurrencies or establishing a comprehensive tax plan, and one of our Charlotte CPAs will assist you.

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