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The Tax Treatment of Cryptocurrency (Hint – its Property, not Currency)


Embarking on the investment journey with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum can be exciting. However, it also comes with its unique set of challenges, particularly in the realm of income taxes. In this blog post, we aim to demystify how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), under the guidelines provided in their “Frequently Asked Questions on Virtual Currency Transactions | Internal Revenue Service” classifies cryptocurrencies as property for tax purposes. As an investor, you’ll discover that comprehending the tax rules associated with cryptocurrency is as crucial as understanding your investment itself.

It’s noteworthy that much of the IRS’s guidance is just that, “guidance”. To date, Congress hasn’t fully established tax laws that are specific to digital assets, nor has the IRS issued formal regulations. Hence, a lot of it is open to interpretation. Tax professionals often rely on their understanding of how crypto transactions could be treated under existing tax rules that govern similar traditional situations. Consequently, many tax situations tend to fall into various shades of gray. The ultimate decision regarding what constitutes (mostly) black or white will rest with lawmakers, regulators, and the US Tax Court. In the interim, we endeavor to traverse this intricate terrain with the resources at our disposal, carefully considering the risks and rewards associated with adopting a particular tax position.

Cryptocurrency as Property:

Just like your house or stocks, the IRS officially classifies cryptocurrency as property. What this means for you is that when you buy, sell, or use your cryptocurrency, it will likely have tax consequences. Any changes in the market value of your cryptocurrency could result in a capital gain or loss when you sell or use it, and these must be reported on your tax return. These rules are similar to those when you sell stocks or other types of property.

The Complexity of Crypto:

Cryptocurrencies are versatile. You might buy them as an investment, receive them as income, or use them to purchase goods or services. This versatility adds a layer of complexity to determining your taxes. For example, if you receive cryptocurrency as income (such as W-2 wages), it will be taxed as income, but you will also have capital gains when those crypto assets are disposed of. 

Understanding Transactions:

To understand the tax implications of using cryptocurrency, it’s important to look at the nature of each transaction rather than its form. For instance, swapping one type of cryptocurrency for another will trigger a taxable event. This section, after changes in 2017, now only allows “like-kind exchanges” for real estate transactions, making most crypto swaps subject to tax.

Conservative Approach:

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the IRS, it’s that it’s usually better to be safe than sorry. When it comes to taxes, it’s often best to take a conservative approach and assume that a transaction might be taxable, rather than assuming it’s not and potentially facing penalties down the line. Remember, as the taxpayer, the ultimate responsibility for correctly reporting income and transactions rests with you.

Compliance is Key:

Whenever there is a possibility of a misunderstanding with the IRS, it’s crucial to disclose as much as possible. This might involve providing additional explanations or forms with your tax return, such as IRS Form 8275, to clarify your position. It’s also important to keep in mind that large cash transactions (over $10,000) need to be reported to the IRS under IRC Section 6050I, which could potentially apply to large cryptocurrency transactions.


While investing in cryptocurrency can be a thrilling venture, understanding the tax rules associated with it is crucial. Just like any investment, knowledge is power, and staying informed about the latest developments in cryptocurrency taxation, including the relevant sections of the IRC, can help you avoid surprises at tax time. It’s always wise to consult with a tax professional experienced in cryptocurrency to make sure you’re in compliance with the rules and minimizing your tax liability where possible.

2022 Publication 544

Virtual Currency Virtual currency is treated as property for federal income tax purposes. The general tax principles that apply to property transactions apply to transactions using virtual currency. A transaction involving virtual currency includes, but is not limited to: •The receipt of virtual currency as payment for goods or services provided; •The receipt or transfer of virtual currency for free (without providing any consideration) that does not qualify as a bona fide gift; •The receipt of new virtual currency as a result of mining and staking activities; •The receipt of virtual currency as a result of a hard fork; •An exchange of virtual currency for property, goods, or services; •An exchange/trade of virtual currency for another virtual currency; •A sale of virtual currency; and •Any other disposition of a financial interest in virtual currency. If, in 2022, you engaged in any transaction involving virtual currency, check the “Yes” box next to the question on virtual currency on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. See the instructions for Form 1040. Also, if you disposed of any virtual currency in 2022 that was held as a capital asset through a sale, exchange, or transfer, use Form 8949 to figure your capital gain or loss and report it on Schedule D (Form 1040). See the Instructions for Form 8949. If you received any virtual currency as compensation for services or disposed of any virtual currency that you held for sale to customers in a trade or business, you must report the income as you would report other income of the same type (for example, W-2 wages on Form 1040 or 1040-SR, line 1, or inventory or services from Schedule C (Form 1040) on Schedule 1). For additional information on virtual currency, see the Instructions for Form 1040. Also, visit

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