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Kushal Agarwal recently wrote an interesting article on Investopedia about the Tax implications on Bitcoins. Here are a few snippets for our readers.

Around the world, tax authorities have tried to bring forth regulations on bitcoins. The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its counterparts from other countries are mostly on the same page when it comes to treatment of bitcoins. The IRS said that the bitcoin should be treated as an asset or an intangible property and not a currency, as it is not issued by central bankof a country. Bitcoin’s treatment as an asset makes the tax implication clear.

The IRS has made it mandatory to report bitcoin transactions of all kinds, no matter how small in value. Thus, every US taxpayer is required to keep a record of all buying, selling of, investing in, or using bitcoins to pay for goods or services (which the IRS considers bartering). Because bitcoins are being treated as assets, if you use bitcoins for simple transactions such as buying groceries at a supermarket you will incur a capital gains tax (either long-term or short-term depending on how long you have been holding the bitcoins). When it comes to bitcoins the following are different transactions that will lead to taxes:

  • Selling bitcoins, mined personally, to a third party.
  • Selling bitcoins, bought from someone, to a third party.
  • Using bitcoins, which one may have mined, to buy goods or services.
  • Using bitcoins, bought from someone, to buy goods or services.

Scenarios one and three entail mining bitcoins, using personal resources, and selling them to someone for cash or equivalent value in goods and services. The value received from giving up the bitcoins is taxed as personal or business income after deducting any expenses incurred in the process of mining. Such expenses may include the cost electricity or the computer hardware used in the mining of bitcoins. Thus, if one is able to mine 10 bitcoins and sell them for $250 each. You have to report the $2500 as taxable income before any deductible expenses.

Scenarios two and four are more like investments in an asset. Let’s say bitcoins were bought for $200 each, and one bitcoin was given up in exchange of $300 or equivalent value in goods. The investor has gained $100 on one bitcoin over the holding period and will attract capital gains tax (long-term if held for more than one year, otherwise short-term) on $100 earned by selling/exchanging the bitcoin.

If bitcoins are held for a period of less than a year before selling or exchanging, a short-term capital gains tax is applied, which is equal to the ordinary income tax rate for the individual. However, if the bitcoins were held for more than a year, long-term capital gains tax rates are applied. In the US, long-term capital gains tax rates are 0% for people in 10%-15% ordinary income tax rate bracket, 15% for people in the 25%-35% tax bracket, and 20% for those in the 39.6% tax bracket. Thus, individuals pay taxes at a rate lower than the ordinary income tax rate if they have held the bitcoins for more than a year. However, this also limits the tax deductions on long-term capital losses one can claim. Capital losses are limited to total capital gains made in the year plus up to $3000 of ordinary income.

(Read more on Investopedia)

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