Cryptocurrency UK Tax treatments

By January 4, 2018Blog

The aim is to educate you for your meeting with a professional advisor to ensure the correct advice is given, and the fees kept low.

Welcome to the tax guide for Cryptocurrency gains. This article is written by a Chartered Accountant and has been reviewed by various experts for accuracy and consistency but it is not to be treated as professional advice

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It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally had some guidance from HMRC in the form of a letter answer questions about Crypto. We are proud to say that their advice matches our own and lays a good foundation for the correct treatment of Crypto currencies on your tax return. If you would like to view the letter in full click the link below. Extracts are now included where appropriate. 

HMRC Letter

Definitions

Read our section of definitions for better understanding of the technical terms used

What are disposals?

What constitutes a disposal for tax purposes

Reporting to HMRC

What, when and how do you report to HMRC.

Frequent Trading

What constitutes frequent trading and will you trigger income tax rates.

Speculative gains

What Cryptocurrency gains aren’t taxable

Losing  and Spending coins

What are the consequences for last or spent crpyto.

How to deal with Forks

The tax treatment for coins received in a Hard Fork

Record keeping for HMRC

Recording gains and transactions for HMRC

Mining and Staking Coins

How are mining and staking taxed and at what rates?

Definitions

Capital Gains Tax – is a tax on the profit when you sell (or ‘dispose of’) something (an ‘asset’) that’s increased in value.

Disposing of an asset – Disposing of an asset includes:

  • selling it
  • giving it away as a gift, or transferring it to someone else
  • swapping it for something else
  • getting compensation for it – like an insurance payout if it’s been lost or destroyed

(Souce: https://www.gov.uk/capital-gains-tax)

Disposals of Crypto

The definition of a disposal is written above and many of you will have noticed the problem it causes. As BTC is the entry point into most Altcoins, you must first purchase BTC, then transfer that to an exchange, then to trade that for an Altcoin. With the transaction times and volatility of BTC that value could have risen or fallen quickly, when you trade your BTC for an Altcoin you are ‘disposing’ of your BTC and creating a Capital Gain or Capital Loss.

Where you purchase and sell a large amount of Altcoins this can be a problem, you will need to create a spreadsheet recording the dates and FIAT values of the Altcoin purchases and disposals. Each separate disposal of a Cryptocurrency will be required to be converted to FIAT at the time of disposal. (CG78310)

Record Keeping

There is very little guidance from HMRC specifically regarding BTC your tax will be open to challenge from HMRC. In order to file your return as accurately as possible, we will treat Crypto’s as a hybrid between Shares and Currency, following logic seen in previous tax cases and law.

Where the nature of the cryptocurrency means they are dealt in without identifying the particular unit of currency being sold then they should be pooled as per TCGA92/S104(3)(ii) (CG11820). If TCGA92/S104(3)(ii) applies then the holder of the cryptocurrency will have a single pooled asset for Capital Gains Tax purposes that will increase or decrease with each acquisition, part disposal or disposal.

Where you have bought BTC for FIAT currency (£GBP) you will record the £GBP value at the time of the purchase and this will become your base cost. When you sell this BTC in future you will take your sales proceeds received in £GBP and deduct the base costs plus other allowable costs to sell. That is the gain you are taxable on.

Where you’ve bought BTC in tranches it would seem appropriate to hold them under the ‘Section 104 holding’ rules as each BTC is identical to every other and are not separately identifiable. In this instance, your costs will be pooled together with the average cost of your shares forming the base cost on disposals unless your purchase is affected by ‘bed and breakfasting’ and ‘same day’ rules.

When you are disposing of BTC you will be treated as disposing them in the following order.

First Shares acquired on the same day as the disposal (the ‘same day’ rule).
Second Shares acquired in the 30 days following the day of disposal (the ‘bed and breakfasting’ rule) provided the person making the disposal was resident in the United Kingdom at the time of the acquisition if the relevant acquisition was on or after 22 March 2007.
Third Shares in the Section 104 holding.

If the above rules fail to exhaust the shares disposed of, the remaining shares are matched with later acquisitions, taking the earliest one first.

For those of you will disposals under the first or second category above, please consult this HMRC helpsheet for further guidance.

Highly Speculative Gains

HMRC recently updated their CGT manual in December 2017 regarding Cryptocurrencies and gives guidance to their inspectors, but as always with HMRC it’s open to interpretation.

Their paragraph regarding highly speculative gains reads as follows:

Depending on the facts, a transaction may be so highly speculative that it is not taxable or any losses relievable. For example, gambling or betting wins are not normally taxable and gambling losses cannot normally be offset against other taxable profits (CG12602).

HMRC do not give a great deal of information regarding what ‘facts’ would lead to a speculation based purchase and from previous experience, one may expect HMRC to argue that losses were highly speculative and not allowable for any relief, whereas any gains are a taxable profit. Case law will likely be needed for us to definitely say what is treated as highly speculative gains, and it should not be counted on for tax planning purposes.

Best guesses regarding non-taxable highly speculative gains would mean the earlier the adoption of the coins lifecycle the better. ICO’s where anything but theory exists would be the most likely to win any HMRC dispute in my opinion. The recent correspondence from HMRC casts further doubt on this argument as it discusses betting in general and the Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball company. 

Frequent Trading

This is a key issue for a large number of users, especially in the ALTcoin arena. If you are deemed to be trading by HMRC then you will be subject to Income Tax treatment on your cryptocurrency profits, not Capital Gains Tax.

The higher echelons of the Income Tax are at the punitive rates of 40% & 45% with an effective tax rate of 60% on any income between £100,000 & £123,000 (caused by the loss of personal allowance)

We believe the best way to analyse Crypto as a substitution for shares in their current format and as such we can gain precedent from case law, especially those summarised in BIM56860 . The ‘Badges of trade’ may be considered but are unlikely to give a useful indication as there is no clear boundaries or checklist as to whether you are, or are not trading.

Salt v Chamberlain was the initial case that decided that Mr Salt was not trading. He had 200 transactions over 5 years and used his mathematical knowledge and skills in order to profit from share movements. It gives us reason to believe that simply buying and selling securities doesn’t constitute a trade, ut highlighted the limited usage of the badges of trade in such a case.

When looking at Manzur v HMRC we can see that he made between 200/300 trades in a year with a mixture of short & longterm holdings. He spent a small amount of time per day (2 hours) and had a mixture of his own expertise and online brokers. He was trading for himself and did not take profits from any clients.

As such they decided that Mr Manzur was managing his portfolio rather than trading in stocks and shares. The HMRC conclusion sums up the situation rather well.

The cases discussed above show that no one factor can determine whether an activity has been taken ‘out of the norm’. Some factors may be more relevant in some cases than in others. You have to take a view after considering the relevant circumstances as a whole.

When calculating the number of trades I’d suggest that any immediate FIAT-BTC-ALT would actually classed as one trade and not two and vice versa. If you are spending less than a few hours a day, have a mixture of long term and short term holdings you may be able to argue CGT as per Manzur. With Crypto being hugely more volatile than the stock market, you may also be able to argue that more time is required to manage a portfolio of cryptocurrencies and the number of trades required is also significantly higher, however that may need to be argued at the tribunal.

It’s one of “overall impression” and HMRC have to displace the assumption that you aren’t trading.

I think the main points HMRC will need to prove are:

  • how professionally organised someone is
  • how much time they spend on it
  • whether they do trades for anyone else
Forks

The acquisition cost of the new cryptocurrency will depend on how the new cryptocurrency is distributed. Where each holder of the ‘old’ cryptocurrency is given an equivalent amount of the ‘new’ cryptocurrency then TCGA92/S43 may apply to apportion an appropriate amount of the acquisition cost of the ‘old’ cryptocurrency to the ‘new’ cryptocurrencies that the person acquires (CG15230).

As you have received an asset during the fork, there is no disposal for tax purposes. The base cost you will assign to the fork will be part of the initial investment, there is little guidance on how to assign this. It matters on disposal of the new coins and computing your gains. As long as you follow a reasonably fair approach it’s likely HMRC will accept your valuation of your base cost.

Reporting to HMRC

If you believe you are trading in Cryptocurrencies, rather than subject to CGT then you should register for self-assessment. You will need to draft accounts in order to calculate your tax bill and you must include all incomes for the tax year. Tax years run from 6th April to 5th April (I.e 6th April 2017 to 5th April 2018) You must file your return and pay your tax by 31 Jan the following year (I.E 31 Jan 2019). If you wish to register for self-assessment to pay CGT then can also do this, but it may be easier to use the ‘real time’ CGT service.

You can report the gains any time using this service, but you must file your gains within the same time limits as self-assessment (i.e 31 Jan 2019). It would make sense to follow the self-assessment dates to avoid submitting multiple returns for multiple gains.

Losing & Spending Coins

Where coins are at a total loss (i.e locked out of a wallet) you must be able to prove to HMRC that these are truly no longer your possession. This may be a hard sell to HMRC as there is little proof that you’ve lost access. If the coins were stolen, and you have the adequate police reports of such, they may allow the losses, but it would require significant evidence.

When spending coins you are exchanging an asset for goods or services and as such a disposal has occurred and a gain is required to be computed. If a coin is used for a service and the value has risen and fallen over the course of its use then there may be no gain or loss to report.

For service specific coins you may be able to track the fiat purchase versus the amount of service received, it seems unlikely that any difference in the value of these coins would not breach the CGT allowances for personal usage.

Mining Coins & Staking coins

Mining coins are highly likely to be treated as trading under the income tax regime. They require significant investment into assets in order to generate a service which is paid for by a 3rd party. If income is significant (turnover greater than £1,000) you will work out your profit and loss with income less expenditure. There is likely to be significant costs involved in a mining operation, including capital allowances for plant and equipment purchases.

In 17/18 HMRC issued a new £1,000 trading allowance where micro-entrepreneurs are not required to declare small earning on hobbies. This rule seems to stop people with small hobbies been required to report and pay tax, although it’s unlikely many did. If your mining turnover is less than £1,000 during the tax year, there is no need to declare this income.

(https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/income-tax-new-tax-allowance-for-property-and-trading-income/income-tax-new-tax-allowance-for-property-and-trading-income)

Staking coins is using capital accumulated in order to see a set rate of return on that investment. This is likely to be treated as savings income rather than dividend income. As such any staking income below £1,000 (basic rate tax payers) & £500 (higher rate tax payers) is tax-free.

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Author bettingbitcoin

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Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Harvey says:

    Hello, my friend has been buying and selling many altcoins for a while now, such as NEO, XRP and Dash. He’s made a large amount of money from this, several millions worth of coins in his portfolio – mainly XRP. He’s let me invest myself by setting aside some of his XRP for me, while he still owns it. I’ve made also a lot of money on this and want to take some of the money out. He has sent a letter to HMRC and discovered he has to pay capital gains. His plan is to sell most of his coins on kraken or cex.io so he gets the money, then send me my profits to my bank. However I don’t know how if this is legal or I would be actually able to keep this money, because I cannot prove that it is mine as it’s Not in my crypto wallet and I don’t have any records. Any reply would be appreciated, thank you.

  • l r says:

    Hello, this was very useful thankyou 🙂 assuming I make under 11300, would transfering this straight to my bank cause any problems? My main worry is that I sell game skins for btc and have absolutely no idea how much tax i pay on it if any
    thanks

    • bettingbitcoin says:

      If the Selling price less cost for the year is less than £11,300 & the total sold is under £45,200 then you will not have to pay tax or report any gains.

  • adam says:

    Thank you for such an explicit and well written piece on crypto taxes.
    I held some alt coins since 2013 which have appreciated in value this past year and plan on getting an accountant, my biggest problem is that the exchanges that I used to use have all closed and I never kept a record of my transactions, is this some hmrc will make a fuss over? I have bank statements buying btc but that’s all.
    thanks

    • bettingbitcoin says:

      The records being incomplete may be subject to HMRC challenge. The initial purchase of BTC should help with any AML checks.

      It may be that you have to accept a lower base cost on your alt purchases if you are unable to prove the costs, if you have made disposals in prior tax years over the the nil-rate band may also mean you should have filed previous tax returns.

  • andy says:

    So from my understanding we should be treating crypto in exactly the same way as shares. Does this mean we should be filling in the ‘Unlisted shares and securities’ section of the capital gains summary or still under ‘Other property, assets and gains’ ?

    • bettingbitcoin says:

      I would be posting it as a security within unlisted shares and securities because of this – https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/capital-gains-manual/cg78316
      “Foreign currency is subject to the same rules of identification and pooling as unquoted shares and securities. See CG50500+. This is because currency – banknotes, coins etc – are ‘securities’ for the purpose of section 104 as they are of a nature to be dealt with without identifying the particular assets disposed of or acquired, TCGA92/S104(3)(ii).”

  • Steven Weatherfield says:

    This is a great article and very informative read (I found the link on the BitcoinUK sub!) – I do have a quick question though.

    Hypothetically. If a person decided to sell some shares at a gain of 25,000 GBP using up their entire CGT allowance. Would they then be able to off-set the remaining 13,700 by selling BTC at a loss?

    Wouldn’t that mean therefore it would make sense to “gamble” on some purchases of Bitcoin before submitting their tax returns to HRMC? If the BTC makes some gains; then ok hold onto them. BUT if BTC were to drop then it would be prudent to sell them at a loss to off-set their gains that proceeded the CGT allowance?

  • Ilya says:

    Hello and thank you for the article.
    Can you please provide some details on the definition of “trade”.
    I wan to do what is called “high frequency trading” meaning that i do thousands of trades daily. But when I do it, I use only my own money.
    What kind of tax should I pay?

    Second question is whether organizing some kind of limited partnership will change that. I am thinking to register some llp together with my companion to do HFT on some exchanges. Profits will be distributed among partners 100% of them as dividends.

    Thanks in advance!

  • James Black says:

    Re hard forks it would seem unwieldy and needlessly complicated to “apportion an appropriate amount of the acquisition cost of the ‘old’ cryptocurrency to the ‘new’ cryptocurrencies that the person acquires”. This would invalidate all previous CG calculations, and indeed any previously submitted tax returns also, EVERY TIME THERE IS A HARD FORK. The logical thing to do would surely be to assign purchase cost of £0 to the newly forked coins. This latter was what was suggested to the US Tax Authorities in this letter from the American Bar Association :-
    https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/taxation/policy/031918comments2.authcheckdam.pdf

    • bettingbitcoin says:

      ‘unwieldy and needlessly complicated’ is a good way to describe most of the tax system.

      You may choose to assign nil base cost and HMRC are unlikely to challenge this basis as it will likely lead to a higher short-term taxation receipt.

      If you adopt a sensible and reasonable approach I don’t see them challenging you on this point.

  • KC says:

    Hi – thanks for the article – very interesting. I have read the section on Disposals several times, and also read HMRC’s CG manual article it links to. I want to query your interpretation if that’s ok? I’m not sure I agree. They’ve classified crypto as an ‘asset’ and this part of the manual talks about transferring that asset for another asset being a ‘barter transaction’. They say that the whole currency conversion thing needs to happen when one of the ‘assets’ being acquired or disposed of is a ‘foreign currency’. Do they REALLY mean that we have to count every ALT trade as a Sterling loss or gain as we will not be trading for a foreign currency but another asset. Only when we come back to fiat are we disposing of all the assets? I’m really hoping they don’t expect us to record every single ALT-coin trade…that’s thousands!!

    • bettingbitcoin says:

      Hi KC,

      If you look at point 3.1 of the attached HMRC letter (https://bettingbitcoin.io/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/cryptotaxes.pdf) you will see that it describes the process that disposing of one ALT for another ALT will trigger a CGT disposal. Imagine you hold shares in company A and want to buy shares company B, usually, you would sell shares in company A for £GBP and then purchase shares in Company B. This would be a disposal of Company A & trigger CGT. If you simply swapped shares in Company A for Company B it is the same transaction without the intermediary step, I’m sure you’d agree at this point that the outcome is the same and CGT should be triggered.

      That forms the precedent for the ALT-ALT changeability. When you describe that your trades are thousands, I’d be more concerned about whether you fall into the income tax category under Cryptocurrency trading (as a trade) rather than managing a portfolio for Capital Gains Tax purposes.

  • zachary sanford says:

    ok but what bitcoin mining? I’ve made some amout with BTCPeek but not sure what to do next…

    • bettingbitcoin says:

      Mining is subject to income tax.

      Find GBP value at date received, where total received is greater than £1,000 in a tax year register for self-assessment.

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