Important: The information in this article applies to individual investors and LLCs that are taxed as pass-through entities. The rules are different for corporations and LLCs electing to be taxed as a corporation and are not addressed here. This article is for informational and promotional purposes only and, as always, you should consult with a professional about your specific tax situation before taking any action.
Despite its name, cryptocurrency or “crypto” is not really currency. For tax purposes, it is treated as “property,” which means it is taxed similar to stocks and bonds. As I previously wrote, buying and selling crypto is subject to capital gains tax. Paying for goods and services with crypto is likewise subject to capital gains tax. Exchanging one crypto asset for another is a taxable event as well.
“Crypto tax” has a nice ring to it, but it is nothing more than the application of ordinary capital gains tax to cryptocurrency transactions. The most important aspect of crypto investing – whether individually or as part of a business – is good record keeping. Exchange platforms like Coinbase can generate basic reports to use at tax time. But remember that you must also keep records when you pay for goods and services with crypto or receive payments in crypto. For tax purposes, when you pay someone in Bitcoin or Ethereum, the IRS considers that you have sold the cryptocurrency for cash (and realized a capital gain or loss). When you receive crypto as payment for goods and services, you acquired ordinary income in the amount equal to the market value of the crypto at the time of the transaction. In short, keep good records, you will need them.
What are some top strategies to minimize capital gains tax from cryptocurrency investing? As with any other investment, a little bit of planning can help you minimize your tax bill at the end of the year.
- HODL. The capital gains tax rate is different for short-term and long-term gains. Purchasing and selling crypto within a 365 day period is considered the short term, and any gains during that period are taxed like ordinary income (i.e. wages). Short-term crypto income will be taxed between 10% and 37%, depending on your tax bracket. On the other hand, selling crypto more than a year after buying it lets you take advantage of the lower long-term capital gains rate. Depending on your income level, long-term capital gains are taxed at either 0%, 15%, or 20%, with most people falling into the middle 15% bracket. For example, if you are paying a 22% rate on ordinary income, but are in the 15% bracket for long-term gains, you will end up with significant savings on your tax bill.
- Offset. Of course, not everyone buys crypto for long term investing. If you are trying to time the market and profit from crypto’s volatility, holding to gain favorable capital gains treatment may not be a feasible strategy. Tax law generally allows offsetting capital gains with losses, but the strategy does have limitations. Losses must first be used to offset gains of the same kind – for instance, short-term losses must be used to offset short-term gains, and only if you have excess short-term losses can you shift them over to reduce your long-term capital gains. If you still have remaining losses, you can take an ordinary income deduction of up to $3,000 for the tax year and retain the balance to offset next year’s gains and income.
- Decrease Taxable Income. Like with other “property,” you can time your sales to your specific income situation. You may want to sell appreciated crypto when you have less income than you anticipate in the future. Or, you may accelerate 401k/IRA contributions to take advantage of the up-front tax break. Health Savings Account contributions are another taxable income reduction alternative, especially if you are anticipating significant health care expenditures in the near future. For businesses, business expenses can be used to reduce taxable income, but be sure that the expense is both “ordinary” and “necessary.” For example, renting a building and paying electricity costs for your Bitcoin farm are probably ordinary and necessary expenses. Also, be careful to properly categorize any business start-up costs, assets, and improvements, which are treated as capital expenses (and therefore are different than your ordinary business expenses).
- Set up a self-directed IRA. Self-directed IRAs or SDIRAs are little-known but powerful investment tools for the sophisticated investor. They allow you to take full control of your retirement investments and direct the funds into non-traditional assets. Commonly used for holding real estate, private company stock, and precious metals, SDIRAs can certainly be used to buy and hold crypto. Most bank-managed retirement plans can be converted to the self-directed kind, but there are additional fees and special rules about what your SDIRA can and cannot do to retain the tax-favored treatment by the IRS. In essence, the SDIRA can be used to convert all or part of your retirement portfolio into an investment “checkbook” that you can then use to purchase and hold assets like crypto for the benefit of your retirement.
- Move, gift, donate, or leave it to your heirs. Depending on your situation, there are other options that may be used to optimize your tax situation. If you are in a state that imposes its own income tax, you may want to consider moving to a no income tax jurisdiction. Or potentially incorporating and locating your Bitcoin mining company there. Likewise, depending on your future goals, retirement situation, and estate planning, it may be advantageous to shift some of your crypto holdings (especially those where you are looking at a significant gain) towards those objectives. For example, if you leave your crypto portfolio as part of your estate, heirs would receive a “step up” in basis and receive the crypto at the fair market value at the time of death. This significantly reduces their tax bill and something to consider if a crypto portfolio is part of your estate planning.
There are other strategies that may be available based on your particular situation. Remember to keep good records, plan ahead, and get a professional to answer all your crypto tax questions.
Disclaimer: This guide is for general informational and promotional purposes only. Nothing herein constitutes legal, investment, or tax advice. Every situation is different and faces its own unique set of challenges. Do not take any action or sign any contract until you have obtained specific guidance from a qualified professional.
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