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IRS Provides Guidance on the Taxation of Bitcoins and Virtual Currency

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Recently, there has been a sharp rise in digital currency trading and if you are new to trading virtual digital currency you may be wondering what this means for your tax situation.

Bitcoin and other virtual digital currency that can be digitally traded through the internet and exchanged into US dollars have been around since 2009. However, prior to an IRS announcement in 2014, digital currency like Bitcoin was not regulated by the government, and it was up in the air about how income or losses generated from the exchange of this mysterious currency should be taxed.

The IRS answered this long-standing question about the taxation of virtual digital currency, announcing that virtual digital currency, like Bitcoin, should be taxed as property instead of currency for federal tax purposes. This means that the same rules that apply to property transactions like the sale of stocks apply to virtual currency. Additionally, how the virtual currency is used also has an impact on how the virtual currency is taxed.

Here are several top facts you need to know about tax implications of trading virtual currency like Bitcoin:

  • The law refers only to convertible virtual currency, like Bitcoin.
  • If your employer pays your wages as virtual currency, you will be taxed at the fair market value and subject to income and payroll tax withholding.
  • Independent contractors who receive virtual currency for performing services have to include the fair market value in self-employment income, and that income is subject to self-employment tax.
  • If you receive virtual currency as payment for goods and services, you have to include the fair market value of the currency in your taxable gross income.
  • The value or basis of virtual currency received as payment for goods and services is the fair market value of virtual currency in US dollars as of the date of receipt.
  • If you successfully “Mine” virtual currency, the fair market value of the virtual currency is included in gross income as of the date of receipt.
  • If you exchange virtual currency for other property, and have a gain or loss, then you should recognize the gain or loss on your taxes. The way the gain or loss is recognized depends on if the virtual currency is held as a capital asset like stocks, or held as property for sale to customers.
  • If you make a payment to an independent contractor using virtual currency, you are subject to the same information reporting requirements as any other payment made in property.
  • Per the IRS, if you trade virtual currency and don’t comply with the law, you may be subject to accuracy-related penalties and failure to timely correctly report any of these types of transactions.

Don’t worry about knowing tax laws. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and give you the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for based on your answers. If you have questions while you are doing your taxes, you can connect live to TurboTax Live, featuring an expansive network of credentialed CPAs, EAs, or Practicing Attorneys to get answers to your tax questions and even have your tax return reviewed, signed, and filed.

Lisa Greene-Lewis

Lisa has over 20 years of experience in tax preparation. Her success is attributed to being able to interpret tax laws and help clients better understand them. She has held positions as a public auditor, controller, and operations manager. Lisa has appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, the Ellen Show, and major news broadcast to break down tax laws and help taxpayers understand what tax laws mean to them. For Lisa, getting timely and accurate information out to taxpayers to help them keep more of their money is paramount. More from Lisa Greene-Lewis

5 responses to “IRS Provides Guidance on the Taxation of Bitcoins and Virtual Currency”

  1. Unfortunately only time will show as what will happen will cryptocurrencies. Now everything grow up and the future looks fine, but..

  2. It appears that the US Govt is using faith based taxation since there is no paper trail for virtual funds…
    Also, what if you convert to a different currency (like Swiss Francs, then Gold) but never convert to dollars?

  3. I guess the key word here is “convertible,” if it can’t be turned into USD it can’t be taxed. Seems like they really don’t know how to classify virtual currency because it does not fall under the definition of standard money. The barter industry had that and as far as I know still has the “definition” clarified as to how a barter transaction should be handled. Lot of gray area floating around.

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