How Does Cryptocurrency Taxation Work?

Cryptocurrency transactions should be treated as property for income taxes and as currencies for value-added taxes (VAT). Every time you sell, trade, or spend crypto, a taxable event occurs that must be reported and reported accordingly.

Crypto that has increased in value must be recorded as a capital gain, similar to selling stocks, so be sure to record both this transaction and its cost basis.


Cryptocurrency is considered property by the IRS and as such is subject to standard capital gains tax rules. When selling or exchanging cryptocurrency for fiat currency, its fair market value determines your tax liability; similarly if receiving cryptocurrency as payment or interest income from mining/staking digital assets this income may also be taxed; their cost basis (original purchase price of assets acquired during trading/mining activity) must also be recorded and reported when selling or exchanging for fiat.

Your cost basis can be calculated in various ways, with the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method being the most popular choice. This approach keeps track of each coin purchased originally – making taxation much simpler – but which method you choose ultimately depends on your circumstances and plans for using your cryptocurrency assets.

Taxing cryptocurrency transactions is a complex issue, with many owners of cryptocurrency losing significant savings by inaccurate reporting. But with proper guidance you can avoid common errors and save money on your taxes.

When purchasing with cryptocurrency, you are effectively selling it back to the store or service provider – creating a taxable event and potentially incurring taxes should the value of goods or services purchased exceed its fair market value.

As when purchasing or exchanging cryptocurrency for other cryptocurrencies, both transactions must be reported to the IRS and reported using your cryptocurrency‘s fair market value on the date of sale or exchange – this value can be obtained from reputable cryptocurrency exchanges or market data providers.

The IRS recently provided new guidance regarding the tax treatment of airdrops and hard forks, providing useful advice. While this information can be beneficial, it’s still wise to consult with a qualified tax professional when calculating and filing crypto costs and returns, as failure to do so could result in costly penalties and fines.

Capital Gains

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money that uses blockchain technology to secure transactions. The blockchain acts as a constantly updated checkbook accessible by everyone; furthermore, all transactions on it cannot be changed or altered after taking place – making cryptocurrency popular as a medium of exchange, store of value, and investment vehicle – however its tax treatment can be quite complex as the IRS classifies cryptocurrencies as property, making them subject to capital gains taxes like stocks or real estate investments.

When you hold cryptocurrency for an extended period, its value may increase significantly. When selling, any gain or loss must be reported on your taxes according to its fair market value (FMV) at the time of receipt and can be calculated using its transaction ledger or blockchain timestamp. Tax rates depend on both its amount gained/lost as well as duration – short-term capital gains are taxed at a higher rate.

Utilizing cryptocurrency as payment for goods or services may incur tax liabilities with the IRS, who considers this a sale and require you to report both how much was spent as well as its cost basis for tax reporting purposes. As such, it’s imperative that you maintain detailed records of your cryptocurrency investments and purchases for taxation purposes.

One way to reduce cryptocurrency tax liability is to offset your taxable gains with losses, by subtracting them over the year from any taxable gains on crypto assets and subtracting losses over that same time period. This will decrease overall tax liability and may even lower federal and state income tax payments.

Cryptocurrency can be a complex topic, with many of its fundamentals remaining uncertain. One such issue involves tax considerations; there’s an ongoing debate regarding whether cryptocurrency should be treated as currency or property when filing tax returns; treating it as currency would trigger sales tax and value added tax (VAT), while capital gains and ordinary income rates apply when considered property instead. Such issues make it hard for tax professionals to accurately calculate and enforce crypto-related taxes accurately.


No matter if you use cryptocurrency on an exchange or to purchase goods and services, the IRS treats it like property – meaning any increase in value must be reported as capital gains tax.

When selling cryptocurrency, the IRS considers how long you have owned it to determine your capital gains tax rate. As holding periods increase, so will tax rates. Therefore, knowing your cost basis (original price paid for coin), is crucial when selling or trading. There are various ways of calculating cost basis; first-in, first-out is often chosen; this method ensures that coin you purchased first will be sold first when selling.

Some individuals use cryptocurrency as an investment vehicle, buying and selling coins in an attempt to increase their net worth. When doing this, it is crucial that you maintain accurate records of all your purchases – this will enable you to accurately determine your profit and pay any applicable tax amounts.

If you receive cryptocurrency as part of a referral bonus or through other incentive systems (learn to earn, play to earn), then its fair market value must be reported upon receiving it. You can get this information from an established cryptocurrency exchange or market data provider.

Staking rewards are subject to the same tax treatment as other forms of income and should be reported on a 1099 form. Staking rewards could potentially qualify as both income and capital gains depending on which cryptocurrency it belongs to and for how long.

One way to lower the amount of crypto taxes you owe is to offset any investment gains or losses with similar investments within a year – this may help prevent you from falling into higher tax brackets. But it would always be wise to consult a professional tax attorney regarding your specific circumstances and tax requirements.


Cryptocurrency trading and investing has generated real-life tax liabilities for traders and investors, even though virtual transactions do not fall under traditional cash taxation regulations. Therefore, it is crucial that traders properly report these virtual transactions to avoid getting in trouble with the IRS.

Example: If you purchase something using cryptocurrency and later sell back the cryptocurrency in order to cover your purchase price, that sale is considered a taxable event and its gain or loss can be calculated by subtracting your cost basis from the sale price; several methods exist for doing this calculations but first-in, first-out (FIFO) accounting is typically preferred.

Tax liabilities may arise when receiving cryptocurrency as payment for goods and services, mining cryptocurrency for income, staking it for returns, or earning it through mining/staking operations. Although in certain cases – for instance when receiving cryptocurrency payments as payments for work performed or interest earned on cryptocurrency savings accounts – you might not incur tax liability as the income may not trigger an obligation under tax code 8A1.

As with other gifts, crypto received as a present is generally exempt from taxes until sold or used in taxed activities like staking. For record keeping purposes however, it would be prudent to report such gifts on your tax return in order to maintain accountability and accountability for all your finances.

As the cryptocurrency market develops, tax professionals need to stay abreast of its developments and how they might impact their clients in order to provide accurate advice for these unique transactions.

With so many moving parts involved in cryptocurrency, there is no doubt that its tax landscape has created a new and complex one. But by adhering to core principles and best practices you can keep clients satisfied while adhering to all laws – protecting their investments and livelihoods in turn. Ty Gaines is an experienced tax professional with more than two decades of experience who has written numerous tax articles, two e-books on cryptocurrency taxation as well as an academic publication on this topic for National Income Tax Workbook.