Skip links

Understanding the Tax Treatment of Cryptocurrency: Currency or Property?


Cryptocurrency, a digital asset that has gained significant popularity in recent years, poses unique challenges when it comes to tax and accounting. In this blog post, we will explore how the IRS classifies cryptocurrencies as property and discuss the various tax regulations that apply, akin to stocks or real estate. Understanding the tax treatment of cryptocurrency is essential for tax and accounting professionals working with clients in the crypto space. So let’s delve into this intriguing and complex asset class.

Cryptocurrency as Property:

The IRS has officially classified cryptocurrency as property, more specifically, as long-lived intangible personal property. This classification means that tax regulations applicable to property transactions, such as those related to stocks or real estate, are also extended to cryptocurrency. As tax and accounting professionals, it is crucial to recognize this categorization and apply the corresponding tax treatments accordingly.

Versatility and Complexity:

What makes cryptocurrency a fascinating asset class is its versatility. Crypto assets can be held as capital assets, received as W-2 wages, self-employment income, or even royalty income. Furthermore, traders and brokers may treat cryptocurrencies as inventory in certain situations. This versatility introduces a layer of complexity in determining the appropriate tax and accounting treatments for different crypto-related transactions.

Substance over Form:

To navigate the intricacies of cryptocurrency taxation, we need to rely on the substance of each transaction rather than its form. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) considers cryptocurrencies as commodities falling under the property asset classification. Consequently, we leverage our knowledge of accounting theory and draw parallels to transactions of a similar nature when new decentralized applications (dApps) and protocols emerge without official guidance.

Conservative Approach:

When faced with ambiguous situations lacking clear guidance, we tend to adopt a more conservative approach to protect our clients and ourselves. By exercising caution and adhering to conservative accounting and tax treatments, we mitigate potential risks and uncertainties. It’s important to note that while we take conservative measures, the ultimate responsibility for tax filings rests with the client.

Disclosures and Compliance:

In instances where we opt for a more aggressive tax position, we ensure that adequate disclosures are made to the taxing authority. This may involve filing an IRS Form 8275 to transparently communicate any deviations from conservative treatments. By maintaining compliance and transparency, we uphold professional integrity while minimizing potential audit risks for our clients.


Navigating the tax treatment of cryptocurrency requires a comprehensive understanding of its classification as property and the application of relevant tax regulations. As tax and accounting professionals serving clients in the crypto space, we must consider the versatile nature of cryptocurrencies and the complexity they introduce. By focusing on the substance of each transaction and adopting a conservative approach, we can provide reliable guidance while safeguarding our clients’ interests. Remember, it’s our responsibility to stay informed and adapt to the evolving landscape of cryptocurrency taxation.

We use cookies to provide the best web experience possible.