Revenue agencies around the world are scrambling to figure out a way to tax cryptocurrency as governments are beginning to realize they are losing out on a vast source of revenue.
We’re now seeing how cryptocurrency would fit into our economy, and more people from institutions and the mainstream society starting to acknowledge them as a store of value and as a medium of exchange. Consequently, this would also mean tax obligations for miners, buyers, traders, merchants, and everyday users.
Here are things we need to know to prepare ourselves for the tax season. We’ll cover some important issues, fundamentals of taxation and how they would apply to our cryptocurrencies. But before we start, here at CryptMin and CryptEdu, we encourage you to always pay your taxes and report your capital gains to the government. It’s never fun having the taxman after you.
Tax Laws Are after It
Despite what people tell us in social media and cryptocurrency websites about privacy and anonymity, dealing with cryptocurrencies can leave behind footprints for the CRA or the IRS. Blockchain transactions are public records – everybody sees it, including your taxman.
The truth is blockchain transactions are more transparent than our traditional banking system. The key difference is the use of public keys instead of real names, which makes every transaction pseudonymous. However, since no two public keys are alike, once it gets tied to a real person’s name or company, authorities can easily track every transaction that was ever made with that public key. (Note: some “underground” cryptocurrencies encrypt their true addresses on the blockchain ledgers like Monero and Zcash, and thus more difficult to track.)
Some places where the CRA or the IRS can get a hold of your identity are cryptocurrency exchanges, online wallets, cloud mining sites, mining pools, and the social media. Although gateways are largely unregulated these days, it’s only a matter of time before governments and regulators will require each one of them to disclose information they have about their customers upon request.
Coinbase, for instance, are required to conduct KYC on their customers before they can start buying, selling, or trading on GDAX. Same is true with cloud mining sites when accepting payments from customers using their credit card or bank account. Genesis Mining does so whenever customers buy their mining contracts. They’ll have their customers’ public keys as well for payouts.
From the governments’ perspective, these are all treasure troves when looking for information about people who owes them money. Depending on the exchange, cloud mining company or the country they’re in, government agencies can have access to these customer data.
They could also set their sights on social media, particularly content creators in YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter who display their public keys for accepting donations, or even online stores who take cryptocurrency as payment for goods and services. And while customers and everyday users might get away with it by putting them in cold storage (mobile, hardware, or paper wallet), sooner or later, regulators will find a way to catch up on them as well.
Conflicting Views on Cryptocurrency
The IRA and CRA treats cryptocurrencies just like any asset. Their value may fluctuate from time to time, but until they go out and are sold in exchanges for fiat, holding these currencies is not a taxable event. A Capital gain tax will apply when selling cryptocurrencies in exchanges. However, determining the exact price on the date of acquisition is necessary to properly assess how much capital gain the seller is obliged to pay taxes for during the re-sell.
As you might expect, getting the numbers right on a person’s capital gain is going to take a lot of work and making sure every transaction in cryptocurrency exchanges are properly documented. It’s possible, for instance, that Coinbase would be asked to disclose their records for taxing purposes on each buy and sell and the dollar valuation on each individual transaction to see how much capital gain a customer has.
When using it to buy goods and services, or trading them with other cryptocurrencies, bartering laws will apply. This is where it gets a little tricky when you consider capital gains on your cryptocurrency for every purchase. For instance, you bought a thousand dollars’ worth of Bitcoin and decided to buy furniture with it when the value goes up by 50%. The next month, you buy your furniture with Bitcoin which is currently priced at 1,500 USD. According to law, you’ll also have to pay for the gain tax as it is with bartering goods. In essence, you’re paying tax twice for buying furniture with Bitcoin – gain tax on Bitcoin and GST/HST on the furniture. And since you’re exchanging your digital asset on a short-term gain, it will be taxed just like a regular income which is the highest for capital gain tax.
Businesses will have to deal with the same problem when accepting cryptocurrency payments. If clients chose to pay with Bitcoin, which by definition is property/digital asset, they’ll have to report it as income (see the confusion?). This carries a lot of risk for business owners due to the volatility of cryptocurrencies. They might end up paying taxes on the sale despite the fact that the value of cryptocurrencies have already gone down.
Tax Implications for Miners, Traders, and Buyers
Regulators are catching up on cryptocurrencies fast. There will probably come a time when every cloud mining company, exchange, and wallet service in every country will be required to keep records about their customers in order to run their business. In this case, we need to prepare ourselves to avoid getting burned when the tax bill arrives.
Cloud mining companies can take advantage of tax deductions by writing off electrical and maintenance expenses in running their cloud mining facilities. This is a lot better than dodging regulations and taking a lot of risk of being caught and paying huge penalties or even losing the whole business. Technically speaking, cloud mining companies don’t pay out their customers – it’s a rental service. Whatever payout their customer receives depends on the mining pools they choose to join in and the currencies they want to mine with the hash power they bought from the cloud mining service. They might also take a cut from the mining rewards as a service charge on top of the rental fee or contract price (all depends on the cloud mining company). This is considered a taxable event, and laws regarding cryptocurrency transactions will apply.
Mining pools also take their share of the mining rewards as their service fee, usually around 1-4%, and hence, it is a taxable event according to laws on bartering, i.e. cryptocurrency for mining service. Exchanges and traders will be hit the hardest, especially day traders and swing traders. Under existing tax laws, short-term capital gains (assets acquired below one year) will be taxed as regular income. This applies, not only when cashing out and locking in their profits with fiat, but when buying other cryptocurrencies with it, e.g. buying Bitcoin with Ethereum.
Everyday users might also have to deal with this when buying or using cryptocurrencies for everyday transactions. Some complications may arise for buyers and business owners as mentioned earlier in this article.
Tax laws regarding cryptocurrencies still needs a lot of refinement; implementing it at its current state can be problematic and cause a lot of confusion. Sooner or later, our governments might come up with better tax laws regarding cryptocurrencies and begin the process of pursuing anyone who gets their hands on them. When the time arrives, we would have already prepared for such eventuality.