Tax Treatment for Cryptocurrencies

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The term cryptocurrency is generally used to describe a digital asset in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of additional units and verify transactions on the blockchain. Cryptocurrency generally operates independently of a central bank, central authority or government.

The creation, trade and use of cryptocurrency is rapidly evolving. This information represents our current view of the income tax implications of common transactions involving cryptocurrency. Any reference to ‘cryptocurrency’ in this guidance refers to Bitcoin, or other crypto or digital currencies that have the same characteristics as Bitcoin.

If you are involved in acquiring or disposing of cryptocurrency, you need to be aware of the tax consequences. These vary depending on the nature of your circumstances. Everybody involved in acquiring or disposing of cryptocurrency needs to keep records in relation to their cryptocurrency transactions.

One example of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. Our view is that Bitcoin is neither money nor Australian or foreign currency. Rather, it is property and is an asset for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes. Other cryptocurrencies that have the same characteristics as Bitcoin will also be assets for CGT purposes and will be treated similarly for tax purposes.

The guidance below is general in nature and focusses on the tax consequences for taxpayers transacting with cryptocurrencies. For example, statements about deductibility assume the ordinary conditions for a deduction are satisfied.

Transacting with cryptocurrency

A CGT event occurs when you dispose of your cryptocurrency. Examples include when you sell, trade or exchange your cryptocurrency, convert it to a fiat currency like Australian dollars, or use it to obtain goods or services. If you make a capital gain on the disposal of a cryptocurrency, some or all of the gain may be taxed. Certain capital gains or losses that arise from the disposal of cryptocurrency that is a personal use asset may be disregarded.

If the disposal is part of a business you carry on, the profits you make on disposal will be assessable as ordinary income and not as a capital gain.

Personal use asset

Some capital gains or losses that arise from the disposal of cryptocurrency that is a personal use asset may be disregarded. Cryptocurrency may be a personal use asset if it is acquired and kept or used mainly to purchase items for personal use or consumption.

Cryptocurrency is not a personal use asset if it is acquired, kept or used:

  • as an investment
  • in a profit-making scheme
  • in the course of carrying on a business.

Only capital gains you make from personal use assets acquired for less than $10,000 are disregarded for CGT purposes. However, all capital losses you make on personal use assets are disregarded.

Example: a personal use asset

Michael wants to attend a concert. The concert provider offers discounted ticket prices for payments made in cryptocurrency. Michael pays $270 to acquire cryptocurrency and uses the cryptocurrency to pay for the tickets on the same day. Having regard to the circumstances in which Michael acquired and used the cryptocurrency, the cryptocurrency is a personal use asset.

Example: not a personal use asset

Peter has been regularly acquiring cryptocurrency for over six months with the intention of selling at a favourable exchange rate. He has decided to buy some goods and services directly with some of his cryptocurrency. Because Peter acquired the cryptocurrency as an investment, the cryptocurrency is not a personal use asset.

Record keeping

You need to keep the following records in relation to your cryptocurrency transactions:

  • the date of the transactions
  • the value of the cryptocurrency in Australian dollars at the time of the transaction (which can be taken from a reputable online exchange)
  • what the transaction was for and who the other party was (even if it’s just their cryptocurrency address).

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