It has been 31 years since the United States addressed its labyrinthine tax structure. The 115th Congress passed a bill slicing seven income brackets on individuals to four, tweaking them mostly downward and slightly, lessening the corporate tax, and increasing deductions here while limiting others there. For bitcoiners, An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018 tax legislation, signed into law by President Trump, closes a potential major loophole.
A Loophole That Might’ve Been Is No More Under Trump
When it comes to taxes, savvy bitcoiners know to trust no one. Seek professional advice. Tax revenue agencies are notoriously unresponsive, but with expropriation they’re all about getting the job done. Make every effort to comply with tax law as circumstance dictates. The days when under a thousand Americans even bothered to file crypto gains are probably long gone.
The last time US tax code was overhauled, it was 1986: Top Gun smashed box office receipts, Reagan was president, and Bill Buckner’s legs became world famous wickets (and punchlines) through which the hapless Metropolitans would claim title to World Series champions.
More than three decades later, and it appears most people in the US are getting some mild tax relief. As with every piece of legislation, however, there are horse-trades.
Conspiracists claim cryptocurrency enthusiasts were among the sacrificial bargaining chips this time around, as in Section 13303, IRC Section 1031 (a)(1). 1031 was amended to read “real property” from “property.” The section was long hoped to be a loophole, a kind of backward deduction because bitcoin was labeled property (subject only to capital gains) prior to the addition of the word “real.” Before “real,” bitcoin would essentially fall under in-kind or like-kind exchanges where assets can be swapped for other assets (other cryptocurrencies for example), and not cause such an event to be taxed.
Whereas changing bitcoin into fiat was taxable, buying physical things with crypto was taxable, now even crypto-to-crypto is taxable, effectively making all bitcoin transactions, well, taxable. And the change is implemented start of calendar year 2018, mere days away.
Government Gets Its Money
At some point, bitcoiners can also expect a 1099 form from an exchange, detailing account activity. This is further complicated by the summer hard fork creating bitcoin cash, which might act financially as a dividend for tax purposes. Depending upon the length of time coins were held, taxable percentiles range from a low of ten percent to a high of thirty seven percent.
Crypto trades taxed at the moment of swap could have dramatic impact going forward. Deferring the taxable event for a year, as was done under previous tax law, seems to have allowed for liquidity and growth within the ecosystem.
The kind of 2017 bitcoin had means the IRS is giving ever-greater attention to the space. Back-of-the-envelope calculations multiplying five-digit gains and the number of participants on various exchanges signals billions in the government’s due windfall. In fact, the IRS hired companies such as Chainalysis to help it track down trends. The company’s product, Reactor, claims to be able to “Start from anywhere — Have a specific customer that you are interested in? Or a ransom note with a Bitcoin address? Have some plain text that you don’t know if it contains Bitcoin references? Paste it into the tool and it will automatically find connected Bitcoin wallets,” the website boasts. It is also an “Interactive investigation tool — Annotate your findings and keep notes on what led you to those conclusions. Identify reappearing offenders and share data with other people in your organization.”
The IRS has three years to audit a return, and they assess penalties and interest retroactively.
Whatever your stance on the loophole, find a tax professional familiar with digital assets to guide you through the process. Try and stay clear of ideological fellow travelers who insist paying taxes is for suckers. While many in the community agree taxation is theft, immoral on its face, and the money used goes to fund atrocities and horrors, a basic fact remains: governments will get their due, so prepare accordingly.
How are you handling the tax issue this year? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images: Pixabay, White House, Chainalysis
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