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IRS Clarifies Bitcoin as Property Not a Currency; What are the Implications?

Courtesy of Mish.

Today the IRS further legitimized bitcoin simply by issuing a ruling bitcoin is property not currency.

In some respects this was the best possible ruling for bitcoin. In other respects it subjects those who intend to use it for everyday transactions to potentially huge bookkeeping requirements.

Please consider I.R.S. Takes a Position on Bitcoin: It’s Property.

The Internal Revenue Service may have just taken some of the fun out of Bitcoin. But that may mean that the virtual currency is growing up.

The I.R.S. announced on Tuesday that it would treat Bitcoin, the computer-driven online money system, as property rather than currency for tax purposes, a move that forces users who have grown accustomed to operating under the government’s radar to deal with new tax issues and reporting requirements.

While that may seem like an expensive headache for some, some financial experts view the move as a way to push Bitcoin further away from the fringes and into the mainstream financial system.

“It’s getting legitimacy, which it didn’t have previously,” said Ajay Vinze, the associate dean at at Arizona State University‘s business school. The ruling, he said, “puts Bitcoin on a track to becoming a true financial asset.”

While many users already treat Bitcoin like a currency, the I.R.S. made it very clear that “it does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.”

The industry had been expecting the government to come out with some sort of guidance on Bitcoin, so the announcement on Tuesday did not come as much of a surprise. But some users worry that treating it as an investment could discourage the use of Bitcoin as a payment method. If a user buys a product or service with Bitcoin, for example, the I.R.S. will expect the individual to calculate the change in value from the date the user acquired Bitcoin to the date it was spent. That would give the person a basis to calculate the gains — or losses — on what the I.R.S. is now calling property.

The I.R.S.’s decision would treat Bitcoin as property subject to capital gains taxes. Long-term capital gains taxes are capped at 20 percent, a more favorable rate than the top rate of 39.6 percent on federal income taxes. Individual traders in the currency markets — the British pound, for example — are expected to treat gains or losses as regular income for tax purposes.

“From a tax perspective, this is really the best possible outcome,” said Barry Silbert, the chief executive of SecondMarket, which is planning to introduce a new Bitcoin exchange.

The new guidelines also mean that online exchanges that buy and sell Bitcoin will now have to provide customers with annual reports of their transactions, just as stock brokerages and other investment firms do….

 

 


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