March 5, 2021
IRS updates virtual currency FAQs to clarify reporting obligation on 2020 Form 1040
The IRS has updated one of its Frequently Asked Questions on Virtual Currency Transactions (FAQs) to explain that a taxpayer who merely purchased virtual currency with cash during 2020 does not need check “yes” on the Form 1040 virtual currency question.
As FAQ 5 explains, the 2020 Form 1040 instructs individual taxpayers to check a box on the form to indicate whether or not they “received, sold, sent, exchanged, or otherwise acquired any financial interest in any virtual currency” in 2020. This disclosure box had been included on the 2019 Form 1040 (Schedule 1), Additional Income and Adjustments to Income, but was moved to the face of the Form 1040 for tax year 2020.
Under the FAQ’s facts, the taxpayer used “real currency” to buy virtual currency and engaged in no other virtual currency transactions during 2020. In updating FAQ 5, the IRS clarifies that, under these circumstances (mere purchases of virtual currency with real currency), the question on Form 1040, “At any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?,” does not need to be answered “yes.”
This update to the FAQs should be welcome by many taxpayers who only purchased cryptocurrency in exchange for cash during 2020. Before this update, taxpayers who merely acquired cryptocurrency in exchange for cash may have believed that this activity meant they had “otherwise acquired any financial interest in any virtual currency,” requiring an answer of “yes” to the question regarding cryptocurrency on the 2020 Form 1040. This update provides some level of certainty, making it clear that this is not the correct response in the limited circumstance described.
Taxpayers and their advisors should keep in mind that the update to the FAQs is limited to acquisitions solely in exchange for cash, and only to the extent that there has been no other activity that would require a taxpayer to respond “yes” to the question on the 2020 Form 1040. In particular, taxpayers and their advisors should be aware that this updated guidance does not apply to cryptocurrencies received in connection with (1) mining, staking or lending cryptocurrencies, (2) airdrops, (3) hard forks in any blockchain or (4) exchanges of one cryptocurrency for another. In addition, taxpayers acquiring an interest in an entity that either directly or indirectly holds an interest in cryptocurrency should not presume that the updated guidance refers to their acquisition.
Should you have any questions regarding this Alert, please contact one of the individuals in our Private Client Services group or in our Cryptocurrency Tax Center of Excellence, listed below.