lacker 6 days ago

So if you get a new coin from a hard fork, you owe taxes on the fair market value of that new coin you get. This seems pretty dangerous - if the fair market value is high on the first day of trading, but declines a lot, you could get taxed on value that you never realized.

It seems like this will incentivize people to sell off new tokens immediately, in order to pay the taxes they incurred during the fork.

To me it seems very unintuitive to tax a hard fork. It is like taxing a stock split. Your asset hasn't really changed, it is just now represented in a different way.

Another weird thing about these taxes is that they assume that one of the forks is the "real asset" and the other fork is the "new asset". In practice, it seems like a lot of times a fork happens along with a lot of argument about which side of the fork is the "real" one.

Well, I guess the IRS does not see cryptocurrency the same way as my intuition would.

  • arcticbull 6 days ago

    > It is like taxing a stock split. Your asset hasn't really changed, it is just now represented in a different way.

    It's not like taxing a stock split. In a 1:2 stock split, you go from having 1 share of AAPL worth $100 to 2 shares of AAPL worth $50 each for a total of $100. It's the same ticker, and represents beneficial ownership of the same fraction of Apple, Inc.

    A better analogy might be a dividend. If you hold 1 share of AAPL and it issues a dividend, you now have 1 share of AAPL and + $2.00. This $2.00 is totally unrelated to your ownership stake of AAPL (which of course cryptos don't represent anyways), new value, and you will owe taxes on this event. IMO a crypto fork amounts to a taxable distribution.

    A capital gain in these circumstances is actually what you want, because it would be offset by a future capital loss. To your point, the original distribution "plants the flag" with respect to the amount it's worth. If the value drops to 1/3 by the end of the first trading day like a typical crypto pump-n-dump, when you then dispose of that asset, your capital loss from the sale offsets the capital gain from the "flag plant" and you only pay taxes on the new value generated.

    It's actually quite fair.

    > It seems like this will incentivize people to sell off new tokens immediately, in order to pay the taxes they incurred during the fork.

    Not necessarily immediately but definitely by the end of the quarter or by the end of the tax year.

    • baobabKoodaa 6 days ago

      A dividend is not "new value" or "unrelated to your ownership stake". If you hold stock worth $100 and you get a $2 dividend, value of the stock drops to $98. Just like a stock split, or a cryptocurrency hard fork: before the event you had some assets worth $100 and after the event you have some assets worth $100. (Plus some -- mostly random -- fluctuation in asset prices.)

      • arcticbull 6 days ago

        You are correct it’s not new value per se, I was sort of glossing over that.

        A dividend is in fact unrelated to your ownership stake. Before a dividend and after a dividend, you continue to own the same percentage of the underlying entity. You could use the dividend to in fact increase your beneficial ownership stake by re-investing it in the security. What has changed is the market value of your shares -- and to your point, by the dividend amount.

        With a crypto fork, what's happening is someone is creating a new asset out of thin air, by copying an existing chain. When that happens, you now have two "assets" X and Y. The value may not even be correlated in any way. If I forked the BTC chain to create MagicPonziCoin2, it's not going to change the value of BTC whatsoever. This is recording that there's some initial value to the post-fork coin. If the fork affects the original holding, you can recognize your gain or losses by selling. If the post-fork coin changes in value, you can recognize your gain or loss there by selling relative to the value at your acquisition.

        • pliao39 6 days ago

          Hoping on the analogy train (knowing full well that all our analogies will be somewhat imperfect because this tech is unprecedented). I don't think it's like a stock split or a dividend.

          I think a hard fork is most like a company breaking itself apart (like eBay/PayPal into, well, eBay and PayPal). In the case of eBay/PayPal, each holder of the eBay stock also got PayPal stock 1:1, just like in a hard fork.

          I did some quick research into this and found that the issuance of PayPal stock was NOT a taxable event: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1633917/000119312515...

          The relevant quote: "The separation will provide current eBay stockholders with equity ownership in both eBay and PayPal. We expect that the distribution of PayPal common stock will be tax-free, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, to eBay stockholders."

          The reason this is similar to a hard fork is that, in theory, the two chains will splinter their hash power, their usage, and at the time, no REAL value is being transferred/created because of the fork (in theory).

          There is, of course, the abstract concept that I'm calling "anti-synergy": when two groups are suffering being together and there is more global value in the world when they're apart.

        • baobabKoodaa 5 days ago

          Hard forks can not magically create money out of thin air. If the "new" chain has some value post-fork, that value has been siphoned off the "old" chain (technically neither is "new" or "old" relative to each other, but bear with me for a minute).

          Suppose the opposite was true. If you could create value out of thin air like that, we could all get rich just by forking cryptos over and over again. I know it _seems like_ this has been happening in past 2 years. It's an example of irrational market behavior. There is no* reason hard fork should create value.

          *Sibling comment is also correct. A hard fork may create value by separating two entities which can thrive separately better than they can together. Similar to how a company that is shelling out dividends may be more valuable than a company which hoards cash.

          However, in a rational market this information would be incorporated into prices _before_ the hard fork: there is still no rational reason for the total price of assets to magically jump after the event.

          • belltaco 5 days ago

            >If the "new" chain has some value post-fork, that value has been siphoned off the "old" chain

            Not necessarily. I don't see how that follows at all.

            >Suppose the opposite was true. If you could create value out of thin air like that, we could all get rich just by forking cryptos over and over again. I know it _seems like_ this has been happening in past 2 years. It's an example of irrational market behavior. There is no* reason hard fork should create value.

            How does that matter to the IRS whether market is being irrational or rational?

            >However, in a rational market this information would be incorporated into prices _before_ the hard fork: there is still no rational reason for the total price of assets to magically jump after the event.

            The crypto market is full of hype and irrational actors

            • baobabKoodaa 5 days ago

              > >If the "new" chain has some value post-fork, that value has been siphoned off the "old" chain

              > Not necessarily. I don't see how that follows at all.

              If you can make infinite money out of thin air by making infinite hard forks, go ahead. No-one's stopping you.

              > >Suppose the opposite was true. If you could create value out of thin air like that, we could all get rich just by forking cryptos over and over again. I know it _seems like_ this has been happening in past 2 years. It's an example of irrational market behavior. There is no* reason hard fork should create value.

              > How does that matter to the IRS whether market is being irrational or rational?

              I didn't say it matters to the IRS.

              > >However, in a rational market this information would be incorporated into prices _before_ the hard fork: there is still no rational reason for the total price of assets to magically jump after the event.

              > The crypto market is full of hype and irrational actors

              We are in agreement here.

          • smallnamespace 5 days ago

            Here's a reason: the market was unsure whether the fork would happen until the moment of voting.

            Let's say the chain is worth $100 unforked and the value of forking is $10. The value might be $105 if the market only thinks forking is 50% likely, and can remain uncertain depending on how much voting information leaks out. If the fork succeeds, value jumps to $110.

            I'm not making this up out of whole cloth either, merger arbitrage funds make a living on these price jumps in equities.

            As a meta comment, it's probably unwise to make such sweeping negative claims in a field as varied and immature as economics/finance. You'll always find broad exceptions, since the definitions are all made up by humans out of convenience.

            • baobabKoodaa 5 days ago

              Ah, you're right. The uncertainty surrounding a hard fork can be a rational reason for a price jump after a successful fork.

    • biggestdecision 6 days ago

      I worry that this amounts to a requirement from the IRS to engage with many shady cryptocurrency forks. Entering your BTC wallet details into ShadyCoin's wallet app probably isn't a good idea, even if 1 ShadyCoin is apparently worth a bajillion dollars.

      • evrydayhustling 5 days ago

        Yes, it even created a new type of shadyfork strategy: you can punish any crypto asset holders by creating a hard fork, then booking trades that establish a high market value for the new asset.

        In fact, the way this rule is written, it's not even clear that you have to copy the whole block chain. You could issue a new currency to any address and cause them a taxable event.

        I suspect this rule wouldn't hold up in court.

    • evrydayhustling 5 days ago

      An even better analogy is a spin off, where a new entity is created out of the value previously contained in the original. (In theory, the value of a potential hard fork should be priced in before the fork happens and drop out after - and this happens in practice.)

      The funny thing is that these are generally non-taxable if no cash changes hands: https://investinganswers.com/dictionary/t/tax-free-spinoff

    • tehlike 6 days ago

      The problem is you might technically incur a lot of loss which you will have to carry on for unforeseeable future.

      • arcticbull 6 days ago

        Indeed, as you would incurring a capital loss in any other asset class.

        As such, you should recognize that loss in the same tax year as the fork occurred, which is why I believe the selling pressure would be towards the tail end of the tax year whether the price goes up (to cover taxes on the distribution) or down (to recognize and true up losses). If you did that in the same tax year as the fork, you'd never have to carry forward the losses. Both the gain and the loss occur in the same year and cancel out (i.e. you'd never lose more than you gained from the fork).

        • sokoloff 6 days ago

          You can still suffer if the fork forces you to realize a gain as short term capital gain (higher tax rate than long term capital gain).

          I expect this ruling to be challenged and ultimately settled in Tax Court. (I have zero investments in crypto, so no dog in the fight, but this seems patently unjust to me.)

    • zone411 6 days ago

      An even better analogy would be a company splitting itself into parts. Gap will do it in 2020 for example.

      • arcticbull 6 days ago

        Maybe, but when Gap splits up some assets go to one, some assets go to the other. When a coin forks, someone just hits copy-paste and lists it on an exchange. No assets are transferred, no value changes hands, because there's no intrinsic value to a crypto asset. A gap split-up yields no intrinsic change in value, just like if I take $100 and put it into 2 piles.

        This is more akin to my forking the GitHub repo for MySQL and calling it MySQLCash (MCH, naturally). It doesn't change anything about the original; that only happens if the new asset wages an adoption campaign like BCH/BSV/Bwhatever, in which case the origin story is irrelevant.

        • pliao39 6 days ago

          Ah, yes, this is good nuance, but I would like to argue that there are intangibles that can be replicated across Gap's future spinouts. There will be aspects of the culture, certain processes, relationships, and perhaps even software, that will be instantly DUPLICATED the moment the company splits!

          And remember, the value of a chain is not simply its code. In fact, you can argue that the code is NOT important AT ALL to the value of a chain, for the very reason that it is entirely open. The chain's valuation comes from the network - and arguably the most important of those (at least in the short term) - the users who transact on the chain, and the miners whose hash power push the chain forward, will splinter.

          When a chain splits, the miners must make a decision on what percentage of their finite hash power should be allocated to each fork.

          I'm actually of the belief that this analogy is VERY good.

  • klodolph 6 days ago

    From the FAQ:

    > A21. A hard fork occurs when a cryptocurrency undergoes a protocol change resulting in a permanent diversion from the legacy distributed ledger. This may result in the creation of a new cryptocurrency on a new distributed ledger in addition to the legacy cryptocurrency on the legacy distributed ledger. If your cryptocurrency went through a hard fork, but you did not receive any new cryptocurrency, whether through an airdrop (a distribution of cryptocurrency to multiple taxpayers’ distributed ledger addresses) or some other kind of transfer, you don’t have taxable income.

    https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/freq...

    So with e.g. Bitcoin / Bitcoin Cash fork you would be doing ordinary capital gains, not income. You don’t have “new cryptocurrency”, you have the same cryptocurrency, but on two ledgers because of the fork.

    • lacker 6 days ago

      I'm pretty sure the IRS considers BCH to be the new cryptocurrency in that scenario, and considers BTC holders to have "received new cryptocurrency".

      The more I look through this ruling, the more it seems like it is only designed for people who hold their cryptocurrency at an exchange. At an exchange, the exchange officially declares which coin is the "new one" and which coin is the "old one", so that isn't a problem for users. Plus, there's a clear distinction with whether the exchange provided you with a new asset during the fork, or whether the exchange did not provide you with a new asset during the fork.

      So if you just use Coinbase, this ruling is perfectly clear. If you control your own wallet, it doesn't make as much sense.

      • panarky 6 days ago

        What exactly is the taxable event? When the source code for the fork is first published? When the first block is mined on the new chain?

        If so, then there's probably no market for the asset at that instant, so the fair market value is zero?

        When Ethereum hard-forked, some miners kept mining the old chain, now affectionately known as Ethereum Classic. Seems like Classic is the original asset and what we now call Ethereum is the new asset.

        Let's say I paid $200 for 1 ETH before the fork, and after the fork I own 1 New ETH worth $195 and one 1 Classic ETH worth $5.

        Do I now owe tax on $195 even though the total value of New ETH + Classic ETH equals my acquisition cost?

        • lacker 6 days ago

          What exactly is the taxable event?

          The taxable event is when the coin appears in your Coinbase account.

          Oh, you have your own wallet? Well, the IRS wasn't really thinking about that case.

        • arcticbull 6 days ago

          > Let's say I paid $200 for 1 ETH before the fork, and after the fork I own 1 New ETH worth $195 and one 1 Classic ETH worth $5.

          > Do I now owe tax on $195 even though the total value of New ETH + Classic ETH equals my acquisition cost?

          Let's say for simplicity sake that all this happened within the same calendar year. Here's where you're at.

          You bought 1 ETC for $200 and now it's worth $5. That's a $195 unrealized capital loss.

          Let's say you acquired your ETH from the fork and it was trading at $5 when you got it. You now have 1 ETH that has a cost basis of $5. This represents a $5 realized capital gain, and a $190 unrealized capital gain.

          If you disposed of everything within the same year, it would be a complete wash, as your $195 capital loss would offset your $(190 + 5) capital gain.

          If you carried your positions into the next tax year, you'd have to pay taxes on the $5 your ETH was worth when the fork happened at the end of year 1. Then in year 2, you have a $195 unrealized capital loss and a $190 unrealized capital gain. This would yield a $5 net capital loss, which you could use to offset other capital gains or carry forward into future years, deductible $3000 per year for the rest of your life.

          In reality what happened though is that both ETH went up and ETC went up because a fork of a currency is just a copy-paste, as they have no intrinsic value and their performance afterwards is frequently totally uncorrelated other than in the way the whole crypto "market" is correlated to BTC.

      • modeless 6 days ago

        > The more I look through this ruling, the more it seems like it is only designed for people who hold their cryptocurrency at an exchange.

        I think you're absolutely right. The guidance only makes sense through this lens. It's unfortunate that the IRS didn't base their reasoning on the technical characteristics of the underlying blockchains. There is a whole lot of ambiguity as a result.

        • arcticbull 6 days ago

          Nah, it's just up to you to justify the value of the asset when it forks. Frequently that's $0. If it's a meaningful fork, like BTC/BCH/BSV you could easily use the value at listing on the first exchange as the cost basis, as that's what everyone else will do in lieu of a 409(a) type valuation, which of course doesn't exist because crypto doesn't have intrinsic value. It just means more legwork for you. This is also addressed in A24 of the FAQ.

          • zjs 5 days ago

            I'm not sure if numbering is stable (so perhaps this was A24 at one point), but I find this the most relevant portion of the FAQ:

            Q27. I received cryptocurrency that does not have a published value in exchange for property or services. How do I determine the cryptocurrency’s fair market value?

            A27. When you receive cryptocurrency in exchange for property or services, and that cryptocurrency is not traded on any cryptocurrency exchange and does not have a published value, then the fair market value of the cryptocurrency received is equal to the fair market value of the property or services exchanged for the cryptocurrency when the transaction occurs.

            If there is not [yet] a published value at the time of the airdrop, A27 seems to suggest that "the fair market value of the cryptocurrency received is equal to the fair market value of the property or services exchanged for the cryptocurrency when the transaction occurs". If you received the cryptocurrency in exchange for nothing, I'd conclude that the fair market value was $0.

            (IANAL, IANYL, YMMV, etc.)

            • dodobirdlord 5 days ago

              What the IRS likes to see in audits that involve questions that don't have clear answers is that you made a good-faith interpretation of the law and applied it consistently. You can even have picked the interpretation that benefits you, that's ok. If you did all of your taxes based on this logic, and subsequently paid capital gains tax on 100% of the value of any forked cryptocurrencies you sold I'd expect that to turn out fine for you even if the IRS ends up disagreeing. The IRS has an entire appeals process because they expect to encounter scenarios where there aren't clear answers.

              An old but entertaining example, what's the inheritance tax value of a famous work of art that is illegal to sell because it contains a stuffed bald eagle?

              https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/arts/design/a-catch-22-of...

    • nullc 6 days ago

      The text of the ruling is incredibly unclear.

      You could read the ruling as saying that if you have coins on both the old system and the new system that you recieved an 'air drop' and owe taxes. Or you could attempt to read it as saying that you only received an 'air drop' if there was a "transfer" and not merely state copying.

      The latter interpretation is more reasonable in effect but seriously frustrated by the total lack of guidance on setting the cost basis of the resulting assets! Also the language of the ruling comes very close to directly contradicting this interpretation: "Situation 1: A did not receive units of the new cryptocurrency, Crypto N, from the hard fork;".

      The former interpretation is frustrated by the absurd result that users of eth, bcash, or other centrally administered frequently hardforking cryptocurrencies would owe income tax multiple times over for every one of those coins they own... even though the original systems have largely (but not completely) been ignored, and aren't valued as much. So what, are users of those systems supposed to have over and over against recognized ordinary income for nearly the total value of their holdings and sold the original coins and taken a capital loss on them (which they couldn't deduct against their ordinary income, except in a limited way)?

      • wmf 6 days ago

        ...total lack of guidance on setting the cost basis of the resulting assets...

        "A24. If you receive cryptocurrency from an airdrop following a hard fork, your basis in that cryptocurrency is equal to the amount you included in income on your Federal income tax return. The amount included in income is the fair market value of the cryptocurrency when you received it. You have received the cryptocurrency when you can transfer, sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of it, which is generally the date and time the airdrop is recorded on the distributed ledger. See Rev. Rul. 2019-24. For more information on basis, see Publication 551, Basis of Assets." (I realize the FAQ may not be legally binding, but there it is.)

        • nullc 6 days ago

          Sorry, You've misunderstood my comment.

          Some people, like the person I was responding to, are looking at Situation 1 in the ruling as saying that when a fork happens and there are two cryptocurrencies and you didn't receive any additional "new" cryptocurrency (just two, now independently spendable, copies of cryptocurrency you already had) that taxes aren't owed.

          They adopt this reading in part because the only other interpretation of Situation 1 is that it's talking about an irrelevant and uninteresting case.

          They imagine that you only owe taxes if in addition to the coins copied by the fork you also receive additional "air drop" units, Situation 2's 'owned 50, airdropped 25' contributes to that interpretation.

          They think in situation 1 you have 50 coins of M and 50 coins of N and owe no taxes, and in situation 2 you have 50 coins of R and 75 coins of S and owe taxes on 25 S.

          I think this interpretation doesn't work well, both because it's totally silent on the cost basis of the copied coins and because of the text at the top of page 5.

          As a separate problem with this ruling, if you do adopt the view that when a fork comes into existence you "received" coins, there is usually no fair market value at that time because the coins were not tradable in any way until later. In some cases seen so far one side of the fork or another doesn't become effectively tradable for months, we may eventually see examples where a market doesn't form for years.

          [In a few cases there is potentially a FMV at fork time, e.g. when there were liquid futures markets ahead of the fork (has only happened even arguably once, AFAIK), or when many market participants decided to give the new asset the old asset's ticker.]

          • gamblor956 6 days ago

            Your misreading the ruling. It considers the forked coins to be new coins. However they're not income until actually received in your exchange account.

            The cost basis of the new coins is $0 because you paid nothing to acquire them. If they have value when received for some reason, they take on the value you claim as income in your tax return. This may be possible if for example other exchanges have already enabled transactions in that fork and established a value.

            • nullc 5 days ago

              > However they're not income until actually received in your exchange account.

              What exchange account? -- yes, many (IMO foolish) users keep coins in exchanges, many don't. :)

              I'd love to read it the way you're reading it.

              > The cost basis of the new coins is $0 because you paid nothing to acquire them.

              The document states:

              > When a taxpayer receives property that is not purchased, unless otherwise provided in the Code, the taxpayer’s basis in the property received is determined by reference to the amount included in gross income, which is the fair market value of the property when the property is received.

              So I guess you'd take the position that if you got access to the coins at the instant of the fork, when there is no FMV yet, then you'd report $0 income and have a $0 cost basis. Otherwise, if your access was delayed and there was a FMV, you'd treat that as income and it would become your cost basis?

              • gamblor956 5 days ago

                What exchange account? -- yes, many (IMO foolish) users keep coins in exchanges, many don't. :)

                Doesn't matter, only that you use an exchange for the guidance to apply. If you receive the coins directly, this guidance isn't really relevant.

                So I guess you'd take the position that if you got access to the coins at the instant of the fork, when there is no FMV yet, then you'd report $0 income and have a $0 cost basis. Otherwise, if your access was delayed and there was a FMV, you'd treat that as income and it would become your cost basis?

                Yes, correct. If the forkcoin is worth $X at the time of receipt, you are taxed on $X income because your cost basis at the time is $0. But because you were taxed on $X, your cost basis is set to $X.

        • jkepler 6 days ago

          That 'guidance' isn't clear, as its quite frequent that when a hard fork occurs, there's speculation on the value of the new chain before the split, and high volatility after the split. In a number of cases, there aren't actually functional markets allowing price discovery for the new chain; thus the IRS hasn't yet given any guidance on establishing a new chain's cost basis.

      • klodolph 6 days ago

        > You could read the ruling as saying that if you have coins on both the old system and the new system that you recieved an 'air drop' and owe taxes.

        The text is fairly clear on this point, that a hard fork may or may not be followed by an airdrop, because it has a separate entry for “hard fork followed by airdrop” and “hard fork not followed by airdrop”.

        So if you have a hard fork, and your old coins are now on two forks, that’s not income. “Hard fork without airdrop.”

        I am not sure what else “hard fork without airdrop” could possibly mean.

        Agreed that the cost basis for these coins is unclear.

        • gamblor956 6 days ago

          Cost basis is very clear. It's zero, because there is no cost to acquiring the forked coins.

          • klodolph 5 days ago

            Which ledger’s coins have the zero cost basis?

            • gamblor956 5 days ago

              The forked/new ones, i.e., the ones you received because of the original crypto held.

      • dragonwriter 6 days ago

        > The latter interpretation is frustrated by the total lack of guidance on setting the cost basis of the resulting assets!

        IMO, the most reasonable interpretation without a specific basis-splitting rule, given that the IRS divides a hard fork into a legacy ledger a and a new ledger would be that the basis value for the new ledger entries (being that they are created by the fork at no cost) is zero, with the legacy ledger entries retaining their original basis value.

        • nullc 6 days ago

          I agree that is a logically consistent position and wouldn't be entirely absurd. But I can't extract that position from their ruling.

          It's also not one free of unexpected negative consequences in the case where the new system doesn't have a low value. Consider, a number of altcoins with more centralized administration have frequently hardforked and the ticker symbol and most of the value went to the new system while the old system was largely devalued.

          So your policy would end up constantly resetting the holding period for these assets and the tax treatment would also be disadvantaged because it would tend to create short term gains and long term losses essentially out of nowhere.

          E.g. You own Ethereum for two years. Then Eth hardforks to undo the execution of the DAO smart contract and return the lost funds eth's administrators. The original Ethereum continues, but the value and ticker symbol follow the new blockchain. A month later you sell all your coins. Did you just create a short term gain of the full value of the coins and a long term loss?

          • gamblor956 6 days ago

            That is exactly how it should turn out.

            The hard fork was ethereum's failure as a result of the technical inability to roll back the transactions the proper way (i.e., by just undoing the redactions themselves) and the tax law shouldn't be changed just for that.

        • jkepler 6 days ago

          Your interpretation makes sense to me. However, the problem is that the IRS didn't actually state that in their limited guidance.

          • dragonwriter 6 days ago

            I think it's the most reasonable reading of the guidance, but I would agree that it would be vastly superior if this (or some other treatment) was made quite explicit. Guidance should do a better job of guiding.

            • nullc 6 days ago

              How do you square your interpretation with the text at the top of page 5?

              It appears to be saying in situation 1 you have no N-coins at all. By exclusion, situation 2 would apply if you have the new coins and it clearly states taxes are owned on the market value in that case.

              • gamblor956 6 days ago

                Not sure I understand your confusion. If you don't receive the forked coins (situation 1) you don't have income. It doesn't matter why you didn't get any of the forked coins.

                • nullc 5 days ago

                  I was reading the top of page 5 as "the user doesn't have any crypto N after the hardfork". I understand your reading now.

    • wmf 6 days ago

      It's not obvious that your interpretation is right. During the Bitcoin / Bitcoin Cash fork you received new BCH, especially if you "claimed" any UTXOs on the new chain.

      • beaner 6 days ago

        You didn't receive anything new. You already had the keys. There was simply a new client created to let you access these alternative coins.

        If you own bitcoin private keys, you already own coins on an infinite number of hard forks. You're just lacking a client to access them.

        • X6S1x6Okd1st 6 days ago

          the IRS sees it differently.

          • stale2002 6 days ago

            No, it does not.

            The IRS specifically refers to when you recieves the tokens, on chain, in a transaction.

            If there is no additional data, in the blockchain, then it is not an airdrop, according to the IRS.

            • nullc 6 days ago

              Can you explain what the first couple lines about situation 1 on page 5 mean, according to your interpretation?

              • stale2002 6 days ago

                Sure, In situation 1 is says the following:

                "A holds 50 units of Crypto M, a cryptocurrency. On Date 1, the distributed ledger for Crypto M experiences a hard fork, resulting in the creation of Crypto N. Crypto N is not airdropped or otherwise transferred to an account owned or controlled by A."

                So I interpret the line "Crypto N is not airdropped or otherwise transferred", too mean that there are no additional transactions that are recorded on the new blockchain N to give people additional coins, but previous state is maintained, as maintaining state is not a transfer.

                An airdrop would have to be an actual state change, "recorded on the distributed ledger", that says "These people now receive 200 coins". In the case of a normal hardfork, there is no transfer that is "recorded on the distributed ledger".

                I interpret that as meaning some sort of additional transaction, on the blockchain.

                If you notice, in situation 2, the key line to look at is as follows:

                "The airdrop of Crypto S is recorded on the distributed ledger on Date 2 at Time 1 ".

                It specifically says that something must be recorded on the ledger.

                The reason why situation 2 needs to be called out, specifically, would be in the case of a developer, hard forking a coin, and giving themselves a developer dividend, for example. It would make sense why the additional transactions, that are "recorded on the distributed ledger" would need to be taxed, as it is referring to additional coins being airdropped.

                Edit:

                Ah, you were also referring to this line here:

                " A did not receive units of the new cryptocurrency, Crypto N, from the hard fork"

                I'd interpret this the same way. The user did not receive any units of the cryptocurrency. They had it all along. It would take an actual state transfer for them to "receive" it.

                It sounds weird to say, but basically, they had these coins already.

                • gamblor956 6 days ago

                  You are reading it wrong.

                  There does not need to be a transaction on any ledger for the receipt of the forked coins to be income.

                  What makes them income is that you received the forked coins, whether that fork is a true fork or just a new ledger that is otherwise identical to the old one. The IRS doesn't care about those technical details.

                  Situation 1 would apply if for example you choose not to receive the forked coins or if for some reason your exchange didn't recognize the fork and thus never credited any new fork coins to you.

                  • stale2002 6 days ago

                    It specifically calls out "record on the ledger", though.

                    I don't know what it would even mean to have a "hard fork" which does not maintain the previous state of the blockchain.

                    Like, would that be talking about lite-coin, and arguing that it is technically a "hard fork" of Bitcoin?

                    Or would it be a "hard fork" which sets everyones balance to 0, but still maintains the old blocks from the fork? (For some unknown reasons...)

                    Both of those seem weird.

                    The document specifically calls out things that are recorded on the digital ledger though.

                    • nullc 5 days ago

                      > I don't know what it would even mean to have a "hard fork" which does not maintain the previous state of the blockchain.

                      Some of these things have edited the prior state... heck even the purpose of the eth/etc hardfork was taking coins from the 'dao hacker' and assigning them to the ethereum foundation. There was some "united bitcoin" where you had to transact during some particular window to get granted coins, etc.

                      I agree that the case where there is a fork and where you don't get coins is degenerate-- plus the tax treatment in that case is obvious.

                • nullc 5 days ago

                  Thanks for your read on it. Okay, now -- later you sell those Crypto N coins. What is your cost basis? You also sell the M coins, whats the cost basis there?

                  [FWIW, I think the way you're reading it has fewer absurd effects, I'm just struggling to convince myself that they actually meant what you're describing.]

      • bilbo0s 6 days ago

        Yeah. I'd encourage everyone to check with tax attorneys to be sure because klodolph's interpretation seems a bit suspect at first blush. Check with an attorney, or preferably two, just to be sure because the consequences for getting this wrong are nontrivial.

  • chatmasta 6 days ago

    It’s pretty crazy that we’ve even gotten to the point where there is an FAQ about “hard forks” on the IRS website.

    You have to give the US government a certain amount of kudos for how it’s handled cryptocurrency so far; it’s been far from perfect, but you can tell they are trying to be accommodating and employ common sense.

    • freeAgent 6 days ago

      I think the tax treatment of cryptocurrency is nonsensical if one views and attempts to use it as a currency rather than an investment. There is no exclusion of small transactions from capital gains reporting requirements like there is for foreign fiat currencies. That means that actual currency users must track and report cost basis and gains on every single transaction, no matter how small, in order to remain in compliance. This tax treatment is overly burdensome and stifles legal cryptocurrency usage and adoption in the US.

      • wglb 6 days ago

        Keep in mind that if you swap houses that you bought as an investment, there is still the possibility of a tax liability. Barter is not excluded from taxation.

        • freeAgent 6 days ago

          The first $250-500k of capital gains on houses is tax-free when you sell your house. I would argue that the IRS should treat cryptocurrency like other foreign currencies where the first $200 of capital gains is not taxed: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p525#en_US_2018_publink1000...

          That would just put cryptocurrency on similar footing as any other currency.

        • Hydraulix989 5 days ago

          It would be considered a 1031 Like-Kind exchange though.

    • rsclient 6 days ago

      Take a look at how fishing works -- it's also got tons of weird nuance about who get what and how to tax it. We techies sometimes forget that other aspects of life are complicated.

    • hdfbdtbcdg 6 days ago

      It fits pretty well with how the IRS operates. They don't seem to care how money is made - as long as they get their share.

  • tuesdayrain 6 days ago

    In my opinion it doesn't make sense to pay taxes on a fork until you sell it and realize the gains. Otherwise do you pay taxes a second time when you do sell it?

    • jron 6 days ago

      I agree. The IRS should simply mandate that forked coins have a purchase price of 0 USD. When sold, the tax event occurs and the seller simply pays the short term or long term realized gain.

      • gamblor956 6 days ago

        They do have a purchase price of $0. That's exactly why it's taxable income.

        If you had to pay market value for the forked coins they wouldn't be taxed when you received them.

        • mths 5 days ago

          Quickly, what's X*0?

          I'm aware that there's situations where a CGT event occurs even without selling your asset, but this shouldn't be one of them.

          • gamblor956 5 days ago

            It's not a capital gains transaction. It's a receipt of income transaction.

            You receive crypto worth $X that you paid $0 for. Thus, you have $X in income and owe income taxes on that. If you paid $Y for the crypto, then you had $X-$Y in income (similar to in-the-money stock options). Your cost basis would be $Y in the $X of coins, so if you ever sell them, then your income is $Z (value at time of sale) less $Y in capital gains.

    • wmf 5 days ago

      You would pay tax a second time, but only on the difference between the fork price and the price you sold for. They're not trying to double-tax you on the same money.

  • scarejunba 6 days ago

    Interesting so if I make a coin, airdrop it to you guys, and enforce only a single sale of one coin for a million dollars to my friend and from him back to me, then leaving the chain untransactable, you're all on the hook for 1 million dollars worth of coin but can't sell it? Fascinating.

    • onlyrealcuzzo 6 days ago

      No. For the same reason you can't create stock in a company and mail people shares, rack up a bunch of debt, and have random people liable for part of the debt.

      Just because someone "gives" you something, doesn't mean you accepted it and own it.

      • nullc 6 days ago

        Can you relate your position back to the text of the ruling? Particularly where it references Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426, 431 (1955)?

        The standard they are appearing to apply is "undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the taxpayers have complete dominion".

        • gamblor956 6 days ago

          From the example just above, the scam coin is neither realized nor does the recipient have complete dominion.

          • nullc 5 days ago

            Realized seems dicey indeed, I can't figure out how 'realized' applies to any fork unless the coins are moved.

            Complete dominion, OTOH is easy to address. E.g. instead of mailing them the keys, I pull the public keys out of their website's SSL cert. They now have complete dominion.

    • gamblor956 6 days ago

      Your victims can choose not to accept receipt of the coins you send them.

      Also, if the coin is not transactable it has no value.

  • dnprock 6 days ago

    I think IRS can work out the hard fork situation by letting individual declare which side he/she considers airdrop. There's no tax due right away. You declare it once at the time you sell. Once you decide, you can't change that election.

kauffj 6 days ago

In honor of the IRS fork guidance I’m announcing BBV — Bitcoin Bruce’s Vision.

It’s a Bitcoin fork that gives me an extra 1 million coins. I’ll sell one sat to you for $300.

Also: I’m sending a 12 word seed phrase poem to each member of Congress right before the fork.

https://twitter.com/brucefenton/status/1181981988221329413

floatingatoll 6 days ago

If you hold pre-fork currency, and there is a hard fork: IF you gain any of the new currency THEN it's income ELSE it's not.

To quote the final paragraph, emphasis mine:

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rr-19-24.pdf

HOLDINGS

(1) A taxpayer does not have gross income under § 61 as a result of a hard fork of a cryptocurrency the taxpayer owns if the taxpayer does not receive units of a new cryptocurrency.

(2) A taxpayer has gross income, ordinary in character, under § 61 as a result of an airdrop of a new cryptocurrency following a hard fork if the taxpayer receives units of new cryptocurrency.

  • norswap 6 days ago

    Don't you automatically "receive/gain" the new currency upon a hard fork? Or am I misunderstanding these words?

    • nullc 6 days ago

      Depends on how you define "receive". Also "new".

      If currency X is hardforks and there now exist X and X' then in all ordinary cases you have access to both X and X'. But did you receive? Your access is because X' copies/extended X's state when it came into existence. There wasn't any new transfer to you.

      One part of the text sounds like it's possible to not "receive": "Situation 1: A holds 50 units of Crypto M, a cryptocurrency. On Date 1, the distributed ledger for Crypto M experiences a hard fork, resulting in the creation of CryptoN. Crypto N is not airdropped or otherwise transferred to an account owned or controlled by A."

      Another part of the text describing the same facts, instead makes it sound like reception is determined by resulting control: "Situation 1: A did not receive units of the new cryptocurrency, Crypto N, from the hard fork; therefore, A does not have an accession to wealth and does not have gross income under § 61 as a result of the hard fork."

      So, taking both these parts together, it sounds like situation 1 is describing an irrelevant and obvious case. It's technically possible for N to be created and copy currency M but leave out A's coins. Obviously A wouldn't owe any taxes as a result. Duh. This wasn't a case anyone was concerned with.

      So what if you instead say okay, the coins you got access to via state copying were "received"-- well okay, but now in that case the many times ethereum or bcash were hardforked and the original systems were largely, but not completely, abandoned you'd then owe income tax on essentially the entirety of your holdings. 0_o

    • undefined3840 6 days ago

      No. It completely depends on how you hold your crypto. If you are storing it on an exchange it’s completely up to the exchange to credit your wallet, which they don’t necessarily have an obligation to do.

    • zucker42 6 days ago

      I would think so too. It makes me question if the IRS understands how decentralized cryptocurrencies work.

    • ThrustVectoring 6 days ago

      No. You have one asset that is sellable in part in two different manners. It's exactly as if you bought a two-piece action figure as one lot and then sold the pieces separately.

  • panarky 6 days ago

    Why is cryptocurrency treated differently from stocks?

    I bought 100 shares of GOOG worth $1000 each, or $100,000 total.

    The next day, the stock split and now I own 100 shares of GOOG worth $501 each and 100 shares of GOOGL worth $499 each, or $100,000 total.

    Under the stock scenario I don't owe any tax on the new GOOGL shares, but if it was cryptocurrency then suddenly I have to come up with a pile of cash for taxes?

    • abduhl 6 days ago

      You have described a spin off or a change in asset of some kind, not a stock split.

      A stock split is when the same underlying asset is revalued due to issuance of new shares. It has the same ticker generally.

      For a stock split you would owe no additional taxes due to the split itself.

      For a spin off, my understanding is that you owe additional taxes on the extra value obtained from the split. Take the pre spin off market value as the combined asset value then compare it to the added value of the two assets after the spin off. If the post spin off value is more then you are taxed on the realized gain.

      Switching assets is taxed normally by sale price and new purchase price.

  • ThrustVectoring 6 days ago

    This should result in differences in tax treatment between exchange-held and wallet-held balances.

    If you hold it in a wallet, you have one asset that is dividable into two parts, each transactable on different blockchains. If you hold it on an exchange, you have the right to receive an asset on one blockchain, and after the fork the exchange credits you the right to receive an asset on another blockchain.

    These are different events. Arguably, all exchange balances in new blockchains are basically "airdrops" of new economic rights. It's not directly held assets, but rather an abstraction over it, and this abstraction is different. If the exchange wants to, it can refuse to give you airdropped or hardforked assets on "your" crypto.

modeless 6 days ago

Finally! Guidance on airdrops and forks was sorely needed.

The guidance seems mostly in line with expectations, but I find one bit confusing. The IRS is drawing a distinction between a hard fork with an airdrop and a hard fork without an airdrop. I don't understand the concept of a hard fork without an airdrop. If the new chain doesn't at least maintain the balances of all existing accounts using the new chain's token, then IMO it's not a fork at all but simply the launch of a new cryptocurrency. Can someone give an example of the kind of hard fork with no airdrop the IRS is talking about?

  • nullc 6 days ago

    > The guidance seems mostly in line with expectations,

    I'm curious what expectation you feel it met?

    I believe it somehow managed to provide absolutely no clarity on any of the difficult questions. And to the extent that one can attempt to apply it literally and conservatively the results are unconscionable (e.g. having to pay income tax many times over on any hardfork-prone cryptocurrency).

    The only way that I can see that this met expectations is that those of us that don't own hardfork prone centrally administered assets and diligently sold fork coins ASAP and recording ordinary income for their sale won't be impacted significantly by this. But anyone who didn't do those things is now in a world of confusion.

    • modeless 6 days ago

      I expected that airdrops would be ordinary income based on the market value at airdrop time. I expected that stock split rules would not apply to forks (though this may seem obvious, there were many that were arguing the opposite). I was hoping that tokens you can't access due to exchanges not supporting them or whatever don't count as income. Those are all aligned with my expectations.

      I agree that the rules are stupid and have bad outcomes in many cases. But I didn't expect IRS guidance to change that. I also agree that the guidance is ambiguous on hard forks (is it an "airdrop" or not?) and that's a big problem.

      • nullc 6 days ago

        Except in the situation where the HF coin gets the original ticker or the very rare situation that there is a liquid futures market in advance of the fork (has only arguably happened once that I'm aware of) there is no market value at the time of the fork-- the fork happens at an instant, and the asset cannot be traded at or before that instant.

        A market value might well be established in the hours or days after, but it isn't always.

        In cases where the newly created cryptocurrency immediately carries the market there is an unambiguous value for the new system (and the original cryptocurrencies value becomes ambiguous), but applying income tax to the new asset there leads to absurd results.

        I agree that the ruling seems to generally support some aspects of one of the most obvious conclusions in the simplest of cases, but it fails to meaningfully clarify the application... and also suggests some absurdities that almost no one was expecting.

        • modeless 6 days ago

          I hadn't considered the situation where the forked coin is the one that retains most of the value. I think in that situation I would be comfortable arguing to the IRS that the old currency is actually the fork, e.g. ETC vs ETH. The technical and legal definitions of "fork" don't necessarily have to match.

          I would also be comfortable using the first trading day's close as the market value rather than the instantaneous value at fork time which as you say doesn't exist in most cases. Of course the "close" time is arbitrary but as long as you have a consistent methodology for choosing it you should probably be OK.

          In any case, it's clear the IRS didn't think hard enough about the consequences of their guidance here. I hope they clarify more but we are probably in for another long wait. Ideally, Congress would do something to make the rules more reasonable.

          • nullc 6 days ago

            > I hadn't considered the situation where the forked coin is the one that retains most of the value. I think in that situation I would be comfortable arguing to the IRS that the old currency is actually the fork, e.g. ETC vs ETH. The technical and legal definitions of "fork" don't necessarily have to match.

            Agreed, but that appears to contradict the plain text of the ruling.

            It's also not guaranteed to be unambiguous. Even with ETH/ETC and BTC vs BCH/BSV there are people that argue the forks are the real thing, though I agree that they're crazy. But it isn't hard to imagine a situation where the split were closer to 50/50 (and maybe both sides got different tickers).

            It's also possible for it to look like one won but have the situation reverse... E.g. it's not completely implausible that ETH might have won originally, but then a week in the political winds changed, all the hash power moved to ETC leaving ETH useless and then had the ethereum foundation people say the fork was a mistake, and then everyone followed along with giving the old chain back the ticker.

            When BSV split off, there were two chains each incompatible with each other and the original rules didn't continue (in that case). Many exchanges listed two assets, transferring any bcash holdings into each equally, "Bitcoin ABC" and "Bitcoin SV". Other exchanges gave ABC the BCH ticket. I think at least one gave BSV the BCH ticker. Over time the ABC side got the BCH ticker everywhere. I imagine if BSV had succeeded in their effort to get more hash power the situation would still be highly inconsistent.

            In some cases cryptocurrencies have made additional consensus rule changes to make sure hardforks couldn't be undone, in some cases they haven't. Their understanding of hardforks seems to assume that all hardforks are bilateral, but in many cases they're actually one sided and could be undone.

            I agree that your interpretation should be the one adopted when it is unambiguous.

            > I would also be comfortable using the first trading day's close as the market value

            I would agree if we were talking about orderly or regulated markets. For example, in many bitcoin forks the fork was not meaningfully tradable for a week or more-- and when it became tradable it was only tradable on obscure foreign exchanges whos terms and conditions forbid US residents from using the service. In these illiquid markets the prices have been rather distorted.

            FWIW, the interpretation I adopted was that I've just sold fork quickly as soon as I could reasonably move them to a place to sell them, then reconized as income the value I actually received in selling them. ... at least the forks I knew about, but there have likely been other forks that I've never heard of.

            There are also likely coins that I could be argued to technically control but which I don't currently know about-- stuff like coins mined in 2012 which are currently lost in corrupted wallet files (or perhaps with forgotten passwords that I'll eventually crack) on old system images that I'll probably find some day, but which I don't know about right now, even after doing a bit of looking.

            Consider: for people actually using Bitcoin rather than speculating in an exchange account-- their bitcoin holdings can look a lot more like USD laying around your house than like your S&P 500 ETF in your brokerage account.

            Because of these lost cases I think it would be much more reasonable to state that ordinary income is only realized when you demonstrate actual control over the coins, e.g. by moving them. This would have the effect of allowing people to delay the income tax, but they'd do so only with serious risk of value loss and at the cost of delaying the starting date for a capital gains calculation (so it would fail an equivalents test). This would nicely eliminate a lot of the absurd corner cases, including stuff like the winner flip/flop.

            • modeless 6 days ago

              > FWIW, the interpretation I adopted was that I've just sold fork quickly as soon as I could reasonably move them to a place to sell them, then reconized as income the value I actually received in selling them. ... at least the forks I knew about, but there have likely been other forks that I've never heard of.

              Yup, I did the same. If the IRS audits us we may have to change our calculations but the absolute difference in tax owed should be small.

              My understanding is that despite their reputation the IRS is usually fairly chill about this sort of thing if you demonstrate you had good intent. I hope I never have to test that though. Unambiguous guidance sure would be nice!

  • draaglom 6 days ago

    People are speculating this is for e.g. when your coins are at an exchange; the currency hard forks; and the exchange does not (yet) implement the fork so you can't access the coins.

    • modeless 6 days ago

      No, that's handled separately. You're not in possession of the coins if you can't access them, and you aren't taxed on them until you gain possession.

  • Scoundreller 6 days ago

    Quite refreshing to see. Canada’s CRA publishes some crypto guidance, but delicately avoided any discussion about forks and airdrops, which is the only thing that’s unlike any other asset that someone buys and sells that goes up or down in value.

    Clarifying the parts that are already clear wasn’t too valuable. Maybe useful for a consumer that thinks “I can trade all day and never pay tax”, but nothing actionable for any accountant.

  • gamblor956 6 days ago

    This guidance specifically applies to forks where you receive the forked coins through an exchange because you held pre-fork coins in the exchange.

    If you receive the new coins directly, this guidance does not apply to you.

zjs 5 days ago

I think this is the first time that the IRS has explicitly stated that specific identification is a valid accounting method for virtual currency:

Q36. I own multiple units of one kind of virtual currency, some of which were acquired at different times and have different basis amounts. If I sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of some units of that virtual currency, can I choose which units are deemed sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of?

A36. Yes. You may choose which units of virtual currency are deemed to be sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of if you can specifically identify which unit or units of virtual currency are involved in the transaction and substantiate your basis in those units.

Q37. How do I identify a specific unit of virtual currency?

A37. You may identify a specific unit of virtual currency either by documenting the specific unit’s unique digital identifier such as a private key, public key, and address, or by records showing the transaction information for all units of a specific virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, held in a single account, wallet, or address. This information must show (1) the date and time each unit was acquired, (2) your basis and the fair market value of each unit at the time it was acquired, (3) the date and time each unit was sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of, and (4) the fair market value of each unit when sold, exchanged, or disposed of, and the amount of money or the value of property received for each unit.

Note, however, that they also clarify that this is not the default accounting method:

Q38. How do I account for a sale, exchange, or other disposition of units of virtual currency if I do not specifically identify the units?

A38. If you do not identify specific units of virtual currency, the units are deemed to have been sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of in chronological order beginning with the earliest unit of the virtual currency you purchased or acquired; that is, on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis.

cft 6 days ago

I think it's the decision to treat it as property (and not its scalability) that killed the use of crypto in the US as payment mechanism, and limited its use only to store of value, speculation, and illicit payments.

  • tathougies 6 days ago

    They were supposed to treat cryptocurrency as not property? How would that work?

    • lostmsu 6 days ago

      Same as dollar. E.g. you are not taxed, if dollar aporeciates.

      • wmf 6 days ago

        Note that treating cryptocurrency as a "foreign" currency would not be magic; you still have to pay capital gains on any transaction over $200 AFAIK. But the IRS decided it's property so you still have to calculate capital gains on pizza and alpaca socks.

      • tathougies 6 days ago

        But that would put bitcoin above every other currency. As far as the United States is concerned, one dollar is one dollar and dollar is the unit of currency. Whether you own bitcoin, Mexican Pesos, Canadian dollars, etc, holding another currency as an American citizen means you are subject to appreciation of that currency when compared against the dollar, which is the unit of currency in which the IRS collects tax.

        You are right you are not taxed (in nominal terms) if your dollar appreciates. That is because payment to the IRS is rendered in dollars, and dollars only. If your dollar increases, well so does the amount you lose when you give that dollar to the IRS.

        • cft 6 days ago

          Not above any foreign currency. Transactions below $200 would be exempt from capital gains. When they made that decision, the implication was that it cannot be used for liquid payments, i.e. be a "currency".

ocdtrekkie 6 days ago

So perhaps someone can help me here: When Keybase sent everyone with an account a bunch of Stellar Lumens did they gift everyone with an obligation to file more tax forms?

EDIT: To answer my own question, this FAQ states: "No. If you receive virtual currency as a bona fide gift, you will not recognize income until you sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of that virtual currency."

Presumably I only have to worry about my lumens if I cash them out or pay someone with them.

shiado 6 days ago

Without a legal definition of cryptocurrency ownership there is no way to interpret this guidance. I may assert that I own the private key which can transact on the Bitcoin blockchain but also assert that I do not own the exact same private key on the Shitcoin 1234 blockchain. A very crude and simple analogy would be like assuming people with the same bank pin are the same person.

  • prolixus 6 days ago

    The guidance does have a defintion of ownership: "Under § 61, all gains or undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, over which a taxpayer has complete dominion, are included in gross income."

    If you are the sole possessor of a private key which grants control of a cryptocurrency address then you have complete dominion over the crypto at that address. Under situation 2 of the guidance: "B has dominion and control of Crypto S at the time of the airdrop, when it is recorded on the distributed ledger, because B immediately has the ability to dispose of Crypto S."

    Taken in the most taxpayer hostile interpretation that means that if the ledger is duplicated you have income because you have the ability to dispose of the forked coin with your private key even if you have no desire to touch it in any way.

    • shiado 6 days ago

      This generates a lot of additional questions. What about a multisig situation? Can I have a buddy withhold a digital signature until I want to transact so that I did not own the crypto up until the transaction? Add in multiple jurisdictions of private key holders and things could get really interesting. Maybe it would be possible to pay no taxes at all! What about exchange coins where the person has no private keys and hence owns no crypto at all? Would they still have to pay taxes on crypto they clearly don't possess? What an absolute mess.

      • rsclient 6 days ago

        Lots of IRS regs are about the common case, not weird cases.

        As an analogy: if I get paid by check on december 30th, and the check doesn't clear until january 2nd, is the income for the old year, or the new year? What if I hold onto the check, waiting for the new year? How about if I have the check, but I'm snowed in, and can't get to the bank? What if I can get to the bank on december 30th, but the bank is snowed in and closed?

        (Answers: old year, old year, and then two don't knows)

    • nullc 6 days ago

      That language comes from https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Commissioner_of_Internal_Reve... ... and unfortunately that particular case seems to be of no help clarifying many of the relevant issues.

      > even if you have no desire to touch it in any way.

      Not just desire, in most cases people don't even know about most of the cryptocurrency forks!

    • ssalka 6 days ago

      What about the (unlikely) case that a wallet is shared between 2 or more individuals? Could I then "share" my private key with a trusted person (e.g. a parent) and claim _not_ to have complete dominion over the gains, thus no gross income?

    • baobabKoodaa 6 days ago

      So, according to the IRS, if you keep your crypto on an exchange, the exchange owns it, since it has complete dominion over the private keys. Taken literally, this would mean you wouldn't have to pay any taxes on it.

aazaa 6 days ago

The "airdrop" terminology is interesting to say the least.

The closest thing I can see to a definition is in 26 CFR 1.61-1:

> An airdrop is a means of distributing units of a cryptocurrency to the distributed ledger addresses of multiple taxpayers. A hard fork followed by an airdrop results in the distribution of units of the new cryptocurrency to addresses containing the legacy cryptocurrency. However, a hard fork is not always followed by an airdrop.

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rr-19-24.pdf

Consider the Bitcoin/Bitcoin Cash hard fork of 2017. No "distributed ledger addresses" received an airdrop distribution.

What happened instead is that the tokens previously valid on a single network (Bitcoin) became valid on a new network (Bitcoin Cash). There was no "distribution" and as such there was no airdrop according to the IRS definition.

On the first block of the Bitcoin Cash split, there was no "recording" of cryptocurrency receipt on the "distributed ledger." There was just a block containing some unrelated (for most users) Bitcoin Cash transactions.

Either the IRS doesn't understand the basis of a hard fork, or it's specifically singling out hard forks coupled to "airdrops" as having received income.

Likewise Situation 1, from the same document:

> Situation 1: A holds 50 units of Crypto M, a cryptocurrency. On Date 1, the distributed ledger for Crypto M experiences a hard fork, resulting in the creation of Crypto N. Crypto N is not airdropped or otherwise transferred to an account owned or controlled by A.

> ...

> A did not receive units of the new cryptocurrency, Crypto N, from the hard fork; therefore, A does not have an accession to wealth and does not have gross income under § 61 as a result of the hard fork.

The use of the word "account" is also problematic, as it implies a custodial relationship with a financial institution, which has nothing to do with Bitcoin itself.

Filling in the blanks:

A holds 50 BTC. On Date 1, BTC experiences a hard fork, resulting in the creation of Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin Cash is not airdropped or otherwise transferred to an account owned or controlled by A.

A did not receive units of the new cryptocurrency, Bitcoin Cash, from the hard fork; therefore A does not have an accession to wealth and does not have gross income under § 61 as a result of the hard fork.

Stay tuned because these rules are going to be refined - a lot.

  • jrockway 6 days ago

    I think I got a Stellar "air drop" through Keybase. I don't even want their fake money, but now I have to do extra paperwork to deal with it.

    I am surprised that McDonalds can offer you 50 cents off a burger without having to file a 1099.

    • toast0 6 days ago

      > I am surprised that McDonalds can offer you 50 cents off a burger without having to file a 1099.

      A discount is not income. If they gave you a $0.50 gift card though, that's taxable income, and they should collect a W-9, and file a 1099 if the total of annual amounts adds up to $600 or more; as a recipient, you're required to include it in your income regardless of if the originator filed a 1099 or not.

      • traviscj 5 days ago

        This guy taxes.

        In seriousness, though, how do you build up this level of comfort/familiarity with the tax code? Did you do it professionally?

        • toast0 5 days ago

          No professional experience. I'm intrigued by systems of rules with exceptions, and I have pretty good recall for random, mostly useless data. (It's a useful collection in aggregate). Some amount of motive to minimize taxation; the tldr there is if you wanted a super awesome charitable trust, open it in the 80s; and maybe try to figure out how to get startup stock into a Roth account before it's worth much, but this requires prescience to know it's worth the effort. I think there are some brokerages that could offer enough flexibility to do it, but I only looked into it much too late.

          I read bogleheads forums and tax questions are usually interesting to me. I don't like filing my tax returns without understanding why everything is where it is.

          All that said, discounts aren't income comes up in the context of "why aren't cash back credit cards taxable, but account opening bonuses are" which also touches on 1099 rules because people complain about bank X issuing 1099s for all the bonuses, even when they aren't near the reporting limit. A quick search to verify that gift cards count as income (because they're considered cash equivalent) also reminded me of the name of the W-9 form.

nsfyn55 6 days ago

>A taxpayer generally realizes capital gain or loss on the sale or exchange of virtual currency that is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer.

What does this mean for crypto players that exchanged a lot of crypto, realized gains, then lost their wallet?

Are they still on the hook for taxes on the gains even though they can't access the wallet anymore?

  • koolba 6 days ago

    How is that different then realizing gains for stock, converting it to cash, then losing the cash?

  • tathougies 6 days ago

    If you lost access to cash, perhaps you can claim it as a tax deduction, since you can claim lost or stolen cash, I think.

  • wbl 6 days ago

    Yes. But they also incurred a loss of the wallet that may be used to offset. IANAL and the tax code makes Shadowrun look simple.

algaeontoast 5 days ago

Why does anyone in tech still pretend there’s any real value left in blockchain tech?

The crypto industry is stymied, time to move on and let “real” fintech take the reins...

jerkstate 6 days ago

What does this mean if I have coins on an exchange when they fork and the exchange decides not to support the new coin? Is that theft?

  • gamblor956 6 days ago

    This just addresses the tax consequences. Theft is something else.

    The ruling is basically saying that if your exchange didn't support the fork, you didn't receive any crypto, so there's no taxable income.

    But if your exchange did support the fork, you have taxable income once those crypto show up in your exchange account and you can transact with them.

    • Legogris 6 days ago

      Isn't it rather that you have taxable capital gains once you choose to transact those assets?

      • nullc 6 days ago

        That might be a reasonable position to take: it would nicely avoid the issue that you might not know or be able to know about the fork, that the value at the instant of creation is exceptionally unclear, and it would nicely avoid the issue that you might not meaningfully have access to the coins.

        The ruling appears to say nothing like that and nothing that would particularly support that interpretation.

  • jefftk 6 days ago

    > A taxpayer does not have receipt of cryptocurrency when the airdrop is recorded on the distributed ledger if the taxpayer is not able to exercise dominion and control over the cryptocurrency. For example, a taxpayer does not have dominion and control if the address to which the cryptocurrency is airdropped is contained in a wallet managed through a cryptocurrency exchange and the cryptocurrency exchange does not support the newly-created cryptocurrency such that the airdropped cryptocurrency is not immediately credited to the taxpayer’s account at the cryptocurrency exchange. If the taxpayer later acquires the ability to transfer, sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of the cryptocurrency, the taxpayer is treated as receiving the cryptocurrency at that time.

    So you would not owe tax until they supported it (if at some point they do). Whether it's theft isn't a matter for the tax agency.

aesthethiccs 5 days ago

Oh the same irs that is undefunded to persue billionaire tax avoidance but seems to be quite capable of attempting to tax all cryptocurrency use for us citizens.... yeah this seems like complete bullshit.

  • kube-system 5 days ago

    What makes you think billionaires aren't trying to use cryptocurrencies to their advantage?

flippinburgers 5 days ago

So does this retroactively apply to existing assets? BCH?

revel 6 days ago

A huge day for digital assets. The big highlights for me are:

* fair date accounting for when you take custody of a private-key / access to a wallet holding an asset (air dropped, hard forked or traditionally acquired).

* specific identification is allowed for cost basis accounting! Not sure if this is new but this is a massive game changer for me.

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rwmurrayVT 6 days ago

tl;dr if you take possession of any 'new' crypto holdings after a hard fork you now have new tax liability !

  • oiasdjfoiasd 6 days ago

    lol ain't nobody paying tax on crypto