Collectors buying NFTs with cryptocurrency gains could face high tax bills



People using crypto to buy NFTs could be in for a tax surprise. CNBC’s Robert Frank reports. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

The NFT craze may come with a painful tax surprise for buyers and sellers who use cryptocurrencies, according to tax experts.

Sales of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have exploded in recent weeks, topping $500 million in 2021, according to NonFungible.com. Along with the sale of the $69 million Beeple NFT titled “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” at Christie’s last week, and the $3 million NFT sneakers, NFTs of everything from NBA highlight videos to Jack Dorsey tweets have created a vast new market of blockchain-based digital assets to buy and sell.


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Yet experts say buyers and sellers aren’t likely aware aware of an Internal Revenue Service tax rule that could come back to haunt them — and cost them a big chunk of their gains. It involves a steep potential tax on anyone who uses their highly valued cryptocurrency to buy NFTs, which experts say is most NFT sales.

“People’s knowledge of this tax in the U.S. is very poor,” said Shehan Chandrasekera, head of tax strategy at CoinTracker, a platform for tracking crypto portfolios and taxes. “I just don’t think people know about it.”

At issue is recent IRS guidance on using cryptocurrencies to buy an asset, including an NFT. As part of its principle known as “disposition of assets,” the IRS states that “if you exchange virtual currency held as a capital asset for other property, including for goods or for another virtual currency, you will recognize a capital gain or loss.”

Chandrasekera said this has major implications for the NFT craze, which is largely being fueled by collectors using bitcoin or ether to buy NFTs. For example, if someone bought a unit of ether for $100 in 2018 and it would worth around $1,700. If they used that ether unit to buy a $1,700 NFT, they might assume they pay no tax on the ether, since they’re simply using it to buy a good or service.

But under the IRS rules, the ether is a capital asset not a currency. So the holder would have to pay tax on the gain of $1,600 as part of the NFT purchase, since the act of exchanging it for another asset counts as a sale or “disposition.” So they would owe the IRS — assuming a top capital gains rate of 20% — a tax of $320. They might also owe state taxes, since many states like New York and California tax capital gains as income. (The rules around additional sales taxes in each state for NFTs are less clear.)

“You’re not spending currency, you’re spending an appreciated asset,” Chandrasekera said. “So just spending it creates a taxable event.”

If the NFT buyer later goes on to sell or “flip” the NFT at a higher price — which has become popular with NBA highlight videos and Beeple works — the seller would also pay a capital gains tax on any gain. And since NFTs are considered collectibles, they are taxed at the higher collectible capital gains rate of 28%.

In other words, both buyers and sellers of NFTs likely face tax bills they didn’t consider when investing in NFTs.

Another problem is inadequate reporting by companies at the center of the NFT boom. The big platforms that buy and sell NFTs, like Flow by Dapper Labs or OpenSea, can report a sale but they aren’t able to report a buyer’s gain on the crypto used for the purchase.

“They don’t know what a buyer originally paid for their Ethereum or bitcoin, they can only report the sale price of the NFT,” said Chandrasekera.

Tax experts say it’s almost impossible to know the total amount owed or unpaid to the IRS from the NFT boom. Some say it’s in the tens of millions, and perhaps hundreds of millions.

Granted, NFT buyers who simply buy bitcoin or ether, and instantly use it to buy an NFT would not face a tax. The tax only applies to those who buy NFTs with crypto that has increased in value since its purchase.

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23 thoughts on “Collectors buying NFTs with cryptocurrency gains could face high tax bills

  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    USA is scaring many investors in the cryptospace because of the new unfair taxes, instead of making the country appealing for those crypto-traders and creators of digital content.
    It's no surprice that many big content creators and crypto-businessman prefer to leave the country and live in places like Portugal, Andorra, Switzerland, and other crypto and tax friendly countries. In Portugal the tax for the rich and millionaries is 10% and if you are a bitcoin trader you pay no taxes what so ever: It's amazing and you don't get in bankruptcy if you get sick. Also, Madonna lives there, no wonder why <3

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Got damn lol thank goodness I will buy NFTs when I am in Portugal. Hoping to go in late 2022 and get a Golden Visa. Yes that means dropping U.S citizenship.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    I bought a token for $20 that is now worth $60 but the fee to transfer it is $38. I would loss money if I had to pay tax on $40 when I am getting hit with a $38 fee. Am I allowed to subtract the $38 fee from my $40 profit, meaning it really is a $2 profit. And pay tax on the $2?

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    I need your prediction one more time, fella. Found an article about UnoRe. As I got it, their aim is to revolutionize the reinsurance market. Shall I be interested?

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    I haven’t even thought about that, matedude

    Have you heard anything about UNO tokens? UNO has implemented a buyback mechanism for its value $DAI staking will help maintain a more constant price. And also the system of bonuses through staking is available.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Can't wait for the day I hand in my American passport.

    No more criminal taxes for me

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Lol. Not a single chance they can tax anything crypto, nothing to see here, move on.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    It's not considered currency ? It's called cryptocurrency. Who makes that distinction? Is it people that we the people elect? 🤔

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Nobody buys nfts. They only sell them. To themselves.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Eeww! The way he swallows his saliva! How did this guy survive as a speaker?!

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    A lot of amateur are making enquires to know whether or not it is too late to buy crypt0s especially BTC, ETH, l!tecoin and maybe XRP…most having the intention to hodl these assets. though analysts have noted that BTC and ETH are set for big wins this year, a major surge is in place, though I must say tradlng offers far more benefits than just holding, for one it is ne ver too late to buy an asset when you are tradlng, a good tr@der or a tr@der working with good s!gn@ls and trade ind!c@tors can make for greater gains and even accumulate more crypt0s. Over the space of 3 months trading I've been able to accumulate about 360k(usd) worth of btc. S!gn@ls from Mr Bryant provides better pr0fits than any I have tried. You can easily get in contact on via 𝔀ℌ𝒶𝓉𝔰🅰️🅿️🅿️☞ +1(253)231-7125 or 🄶🄼🄰🄸🄻 (bryantmillertrade@gmailcom) for crypt0 related enquiries …

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Biden's gotta find a way to find his wasteful spending and policies.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    So keep in crypto, pay with crypto, charge in crypto?

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Get lost with ur TAX BS!☢☣🚫💩🤣🤣

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    theres no way of tracking these things, IRS is freaking out and trying to scare people.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Probably a sign to move country with such unfriendly tax laws…

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    have traded with a lot of individuals but I have never come across anyone as good as Metro__Kelvinfx on insta. just by applying his strategies, I now trade independently. he is the best I'd advise any novice in investing to trade with him

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Tax the corporation's first

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Why is he swallowing so much?

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Capital gains tax… Ouch…

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    Thanks for wat-ching,for cry-,pto tra-ding/ in,vest-ment
    What-ss-app
    1

    Reply
  • January 22, 2022 at 3:21 pm
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    No shocker there. Gas is already up 60 cents. Congress is about to bleed us all dry

    Reply

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