IRS rules virtual currencies are property

March 26, 2014

The Internal Revenue Service Tuesday issued a notice that virtual currency is treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes.

In some environments, virtual currency operates like "real" currency i.e., the coin and paper money of the United States or of any other country that is designated as legal tender, circulates, and is customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in the country of issuance but it does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction, according to the agency’s statement.

The notice provides general tax principles that apply to property transactions apply to transactions using virtual currency, including the following:

• Wages paid to employees using virtual currency are taxable to the employee, must be reported by an employer on a Form W-2, and are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes.

• Payments using virtual currency made to independent contractors and other service providers are taxable and self-employment tax rules generally apply. Normally, payers must issue Form 1099.

• The character of gain or loss from the sale or exchange of virtual currency depends on whether the virtual currency is a capital asset in the hands of the taxpayer.

• A payment made using virtual currency is subject to information reporting to the same extent as any other payment made in property.        

Further details, including a set of 16 questions and answers, are in Notice 2014-21, posted Tuesday on

Topics: Bitcoin , Payments

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