Cryptocurrency Tax Basics

This article outlines what triggers a taxable event and how to calculate the profit on cryptocurrency transactions. An individual taxpayer includes their profit for the financial year (1 April to 31 March) in their income tax return. The profit is combined with their worldwide income and the taxpayer pays tax on the profit at their marginal tax rate. Examples below step through increasingly complex tax calculations of purchasing and selling Bitcoin with $NZD.

What triggers a taxable event?

A realised profit, triggers tax to pay for the financial year the profit was earned. Tax is only payable when profits are realised. In summary:

  • Buying crypto is not a taxable event (see example 2 below).
  • Selling crypto for fiat (e.g., NZD) is a taxable event (examples below)
  • Using crypto to purchase goods or services is a taxable event.

An unrealised profit is when the market value of a token is higher than the original purchase price. However, because the token has not yet been sold, the profit is unrealised, and there is no taxable event.

All trades during the financial year (1 April to 31 March) are combined to report a single profit/loss which is included in an income tax return.

How to calculate taxes on cryptocurrency transactions?

Profit is calculated using the formula: sale price – purchase price = profit

Example 1:

Situation: John purchases 1 Bitcoin for $20,000. John sells 1 BTC for $50,000.

Result: Using the profit formula above: Sale price ($50,000) – purchase price ($20,000) = $30,000 profit.

Outcome: John includes $30,000 profit in his income tax return.

What about Opening and Closing Stock?

Cryptocurrency held at the beginning of the financial year (purchased in a prior financial year but not sold in that year) and held end of the financial year (purchased during the current financial year but not sold) also need to be consider (known as opening and closing stock).

As outlined above buying cryptocurrency is not a taxable event. The closing stock (purchased during the financial year, but not yet sold) is added back. It is still owned and therefore no tax deduction is allowed.

The profit formula above can be updated to including opening and closing stock as follows:

Profit = sale price – opening stock – purchases during the year + closing stock

Example 2:

Situation: John purchases 1 Bitcoin for $20,000 in February 2020. On 31 March 2020 (the end of the financial year) John still owns 1 BTC.  

Result for the 2020 financial year: Using the profit calculation formula: sale price ($0) – opening stock ($0) – purchases during the year ($20,000) + closing stock ($20,000) = $0 profit for the year ending 31 March 2020. Note the 2020 closing stock must equal the 2021 opening stock.

Outcome for 2020 financial year: no profit/loss.

Example 3 (continued from 2 above):

Situation: In the 2021 financial year, John sells 0.5 Bitcoin on January 2021 and the price of Bitcoin is $50,000 (0.5 BTC = $25,000). He still owns the remaining 0.5 BTC which has a purchase price of $10,000 (purchase price of $20,000 x 0.5 still owned)

Result for the 2021 financial year: Using the profit calculation formula: sale price ($25,000) – opening stock ($20,000) – purchases during the year ($0) + closing stock ($10,000) = $15,000 profit for the year ending 31 March 2021.

Outcome for the 2021 financial year: John includes $15,000 profit in his income tax return.

Example 4:

Situation: John purchases 1 BTC for $20,000 in February 2020. On 31 March 2020 (the end of the financial year) John still owns 1 BTC. In November 2020, John buys 2 BTC for $20,000 ($10,000 each). John sells 2 Bitcoin in January 2021 and the price of Bitcoin is $50,000 ($100,000 total). John still owns 1 BTC on 31 March 2021

Result for the 2020 financial year: Sale price ($0) – opening stock ($0) – purchases during the year ($20,000) + closing stock ($20,000) = $0 profit. Note the 2020 closing stock must equal the 2021 opening stock.

Result for the 2021 financial year: Sale price ($100,000) – opening stock ($20,000) – purchases during the year ($20,000) + closing stock ($13,333*) = $73,333 profit for the year ending 31 March 2021.

Outcome for the 2021 financial year: John includes $73,333 profit in his income tax return.

Closing Stock:

The closing stock above of $13,333 is calculated using a weighted average cost (WAC) method. John purchased 3 BTC for a total of $40,000 (or $13,333 each). On 31 March 2021 he still owns 1 at the WAC of $13,333, hence this is the closing stock value. The closing stock will become the opening stock value for the 2022 financial year.

Contact Us

Contact Tim Doyle for a no obligation call or meeting to discuss any cryptocurrency tax or accounting questions. Our office is in Cambridge, Waikato, or we can arrange a video conference call.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

3 comments

  1. Hi Tim. If I’ve made a loss (from crypto or stocks – daytrading), can it offset my regular income? I trade part time (almost every day) but suffered a heavy loss during the coronavirus panic.

    I would imagine it can, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to tax it as income? Is it as simple as taking my regular income, minus the trading losses and paying the margin tax rate on that overall income for the financial year?

    1. Yes, as outlined above: The crypto profit (or loss) is combined with their worldwide income (employment income, business income, investment income etc) and an individual pays tax on their income at their marginal tax rate.

      If you have made a loss, and had tax deducted from your employment income, you will be entitled to an income tax refund.

  2. great article , makes a lot easier to understand but my situation seems very complex and cant seem to figure it out 🙁

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