Do you know how crypto is taxed? In most countries, crypto is subject to Capital Gains Tax. You'll pay Capital Gains Tax on any profits you make from selling, trading, spending or (sometimes) gifting crypto. Let's dive in to what you need to know.
While most of us understand crypto to be a currency in its own right, this is not the way our governments have decided to view things. Cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tender in most of the world. The exception is El Salvador which became the first country to accept Bitcoin specifically as legal tender in June 2021.
Instead, crypto is classified as property in most countries, and property is an ‘asset’ for tax purposes.
Now that we know that cryptocurrencies are assets and not currencies, let’s look at what defines an asset.
An asset is anything - tangible or intangible - of value that can be converted into cash. An asset is typically acquired as some sort of investment, with the intention to cash out one day in the future. Assets can be owned by individuals, and these are called personal assets. Assets can also be owned by a business, as fixed or current assets, for example.
Either way, an asset can be tangible or intangible:
Examples of intangible assets include goodwill, copyrights, trademarks, intellectual property, savings accounts, insurance policies… and cryptocurrency.
Examples of tangible assets include investment property, personal property like a boat or jewelry, collectibles such as art, antiques, wine, shares, and office equipment.
We know that your crypto investment is viewed as an asset by most tax authorities around the world.
When that asset changes hands - this event is what's known as a disposal. If there is a profit at the point of disposal, the profit can be taxed as a capital gain. When it comes to crypto, disposals include:
How do you calculate your capital gain or loss on crypto? It all comes down to cost basis.
Your cost basis is simply how much your crypto cost you plus any fee involved in buying it. For example, you buy 1 BTC for $40,000 and you pay a $200 transaction fee. Your cost basis is $40,200.
You calculate your capital gain or loss by subtracting your cost basis from the price of your crypto at the point you disposed of it.
A capital gain is the profit or loss you make from trading or selling any asset, including crypto:
Let's take the example above where our cost basis for 1 BTC was $40,200. You sold that BTC for $42,000 and you realize a capital gain of $1,800. You will have to pay a capital gains tax on this amount - we will go deeper into how much tax you will have to pay in the next section.
In order to pay Capital Gains Tax on crypto you need to realize a gain, which typically happens when you sell your crypto asset and make a profit. But a sale is not the only way that you might realize a gain. Each time an asset changes ownership it triggers a taxable event called a disposal. CGT kicks in at the point of disposal - when there's a profit.
In most, but not all countries, you could pay CGT on your crypto disposals in these situations:
Gifting crypto is taxed in Australia, Ireland and the UK, unless the crypto gift is given to a spouse or civil partner. Gifting is tax free in the US.
In most countries, the amount of Capital Gains Tax owed on crypto depends on how long you’ve held your assets, and in which income tax bracket you are. Typically, the higher your income, the greater the percentage of tax you'll pay on capital gains. But if you've held your crypto for more than a year, you might benefit from a lower long-term Capital Gains Tax rate.
Some countries will allow a certain amount of capital gains to be tax-free. For example, in the UK, all taxpayers get a £12,300 tax free allowance on capital gains, so they only pay tax on gains over this amount. Meanwhile, in Australia, you'll get a 50% Capital Gains Tax discount on crypto held for a year or more.
Typically, any gain made from the disposal of a crypto asset - held less than a year - is taxed at the same rate as your personal Income Tax rate.
Many countries allow special treatment for gains made on assets that were held for at least one year for example.
Just as your crypto disposals can raise a profit, they can also introduce a loss. Most countries allow investors to carry their capital loss forward, to offset against capital gains in later years. Koinly can track this for you, potentially saving you on future tax bills.
In the United States, how much capital gains tax you owe for your crypto activity depends on how long you’ve held your assets and in which income tax bracket you are.
In the US, CGT is paid on these crypto disposals:
In Australia, the amount of capital gains tax owed on crypto depends on how long you’ve held your assets and in which income tax bracket you are.
In Australia, CGT is paid on these crypto disposals:
In the United Kingdom, the amount of capital gains tax owed on crypto depends on how long you’ve held your assets and on your individual Income Tax Rate.
In the UK, CGT is paid on these crypto disposals:
A crypto tax calculator like Koinly will show you gains from coins that were sold after 1 year of purchase as long-term capital gains in your tax report. This makes it easy to apply a reduced capital gains tax rate or discount on such assets.