Cryptocurrencies, also known as virtual currencies, have gone mainstream. That’s for sure. For example, you can use bitcoin BTCUSD, -0.35% to buy a Tesla TSLA, +1.75% and to buy or pay for lots of other things. However, using cryptocurrencies has federal income tax implications. Here’s what you need to know at 2021 tax return time if you made crypto transactions last year.
Understand this: the IRS wants to know about your crypto transactions
The 2021 version of IRS Form 1040 asks if at any time during the year you received, sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of any financial interest in any virtual currency. If you did, you are supposed to check the “Yes” box. The fact that this question appears on page 1 of Form 1040, right below the lines for supplying basic information like your name and address, indicates that the IRS is serious about enforcing compliance with the applicable tax rules. Fair warning.
When to check the ‘Yes’ box on crypto transactions
The 2021 Form 1040 instructions clarify that virtual currency transactions for which you should check the “Yes” box include but are not limited to: (1) the receipt of virtual currency as payment for goods or services that you provided; (2) the receipt or transfer of virtual currency for free that does not qualify as a bona fide gift under the federal tax rules; (3) the receipt of new virtual currency as a result of mining and staking activities; (4) the receipt of virtual currency as a result of a hard fork; (5) an exchange of virtual currency for property, goods, or services; (6) an exchange/trade of virtual currency for another virtual currency; (7) a sale of virtual currency; and (8) any other disposition of a financial interest in virtual currency.
If in 2021 you disposed of any virtual currency that was held as a capital asset through a sale, exchange, or transfer, check the “Yes” box and use familiar IRS Form 8949 and Schedule D of Form 1040 to figure your capital gain or loss. See Examples 1 and 4 below.
If in 2021 you received any virtual currency as compensation for services, check the “Yes” box and report the income the same way as you would report other income of the same nature. See Example 3 below.
When to check the ‘No’ box on crypto transactions
You cannot leave the virtual currency transaction question unanswered. You must check either the “Yes” box or the “No” box.
A transaction involving virtual currency does not include holding virtual currency in a wallet or account, or the transfer of virtual currency from one wallet or account that you own or control to another that you own or control. If that’s all that happened last year, check the “No” box.
Also check the “No” box if your only virtual currency transactions in 2021 were purchases of virtual currency for real currency, including the use of real currency electronic platforms such as PayPal PYPL, -1.43%.