Virtual currency transactions are taxable by law just like transactions in any other property. Taxpayers transacting in virtual currency may have to report those transactions on their tax returns.
What Is Virtual Currency?
Virtual currency is a digital representation of value that functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and/or a store of value. In some environments, it operates like “real” currency (i.e., the coin and paper money of the United States or of any other country that is designated as legal tender, circulates, and is customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in the country of issuance), but it does not have legal tender status in the U.S. Cryptocurrency is a type of virtual currency that utilizes cryptography to validate and secure transactions that are digitally recorded on a distributed ledger, such as a blockchain.
Virtual currency that has an equivalent value in real currency, or that acts as a substitute for real currency, is referred to as “convertible” virtual currency. Bitcoin is one example of a convertible virtual currency. Bitcoin can be digitally traded between users and can be purchased for, or exchanged into, U.S. dollars, Euros, and other real or virtual currencies.
The sale or other exchange of virtual currencies, or the use of virtual currencies to pay for goods or services, or holding virtual currencies as an investment, generally has tax consequences that could result in tax liability.
The IRS issued IRS Notice 2014-21, IRB 2014-16, as guidance for individuals and businesses on the tax treatment of transactions using virtual currencies.
The IRS also published Frequently Asked Questions on Virtual Currency Transactions for individuals who hold cryptocurrency as a capital asset and are not engaged in the trade or business of selling cryptocurrency.
For more information regarding the general tax principles that apply to virtual currencies, you can also refer to the following IRS Publications:
- Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, for more information on miscellaneous income from exchanges involving property or services,
- Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for more information on charitable contribution deductions,
- Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets, for more information about capital assets and the character of gain or loss,
- Publication 551, Basis of Assets, for more information on computation of basis, and
- Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property, for more information on the appraisal of donated property worth more than $5,000.