Bitcoin investors may want to forget 2018. First, they should file their taxes.
“[Last year] was essentially a blood bath for most crypto investors,” said Tyson Cross, a tax attorney in Reno, Nevada.
The digital coin began last year trading at around $15,000, compared with $3,400 today.
Still, only around half of bitcoin investors plan to report their losses to the IRS, according to a survey of some 1,000 people conducted in November by personal finance company Credit Karma.
Their reasons for staying quiet? Not knowing if they can deduct their losses, or believing they don’t have to.
“Taxpayers didn’t [used to] report their Swiss bank accounts,” Ozelli said. “These crypto traders could be following the same logic.”
Or, some could be trying to save time, Cross said. “Crypto investors probably think it’s easier to file their tax return without the crypto losses,” he said.
The bottom line, however: “Taxpayers must report any and all asset sales, including sales of crypto,” Cross said.
That’s because the IRS has no way of knowing whether your sale resulted in a gain or a loss “unless you specifically report it that way on your tax return,” Cross said.
Failing to report your losses and gains could have big consequences, said Kevin F. Sweeney, a former federal tax prosecutor and an attorney at Chamberlain Hrdlicka in Philadelphia.
“The IRS has been unequivocal in its intent to crackdown on unreported crypto and is beginning to acquire the records and resources to go after non-compliant taxpayers,” Sweeney said.
Indeed, there’s now a virtual currency team at the IRS. And the agency hired a cryptocurrency software company called Chainalysis to “trace the movement of money through the bitcoin economy,” according to a contract obtained by the Daily Beast.
Cryptocurrencies, just like bonds or stocks, are taxed at your capital gains rate, which is calculated by subtracting the cost of the asset at time of purchase from the amount at which it was sold. That difference is typically levied at between 15 percent and 20 percent, depending on your overall income. (If you’ve held the cryptocurrencies less than a year, gains are taxed at your normal income rate).
This transaction report goes on Form 8949 of your tax return, which then becomes part of Schedule D. Cross recommends that investors use one of the cryptocurrency software services that help people calculate their losses and gains, such as Bitcoin.tax or Cointracking.info.
Losses, on the other hand, can be used to offset capital gains from other types of assets, such as stocks or real estate. Up to $3,000 of the investor’s net loss can be deducted against ordinary income, Cross said.
Lost more than that? You can continue to write off your losses in the following years.
“It would take 166 years to recoup a capital loss of $500,000 if the investor never had any other capital gains and ended up only taking the annual $3,000 deduction against ordinary income,” Cross said.