Bitcoin Taxation

Bitcoin Taxation

Dear Client:

Are you considering accepting bitcoins as payment? If so, you should know the tax implications of accepting bitcoins in your business and the major pros and cons of doing so. I’m going to use an example to explain this.

Example. Carol is a freelance consultant. In exchange for her $1,500 invoice to a client, she receives 1.5 bitcoins. The bitcoin exchange rate at that time is $1,000 per bitcoin. Her payment processor charges 0.8 percent, up to a maximum of $8 per bitcoin transaction.

Two years later, Carol buys a $1,000 computer using 0.5 bitcoins. The exchange rate at the time is $2,000 per bitcoin.

Initial receipt. Carol receives property worth $1,500 in exchange for her services. The $1,500 value of the bitcoins is ordinary income to Carol (and subject to self-employment tax, since she received it in her trade or business).

Carol’s adjusted basis in the bitcoins received is the fair market value of $1,500 plus the $8 transaction fee, or $1,508. Because bitcoins are a capital asset (property), the transaction fee is added to its capital basis.

Computer purchase. Carol exchanged 0.5 bitcoins for the computer. Carol’s gain or loss on the transaction is the fair market value of the property received less her adjusted basis in the bitcoins.

Carol received a computer valued at $1,000 and gave up bitcoins with an adjusted basis of $503 (one-third of $1,508). Carol has a taxable gain of $497 and an adjusted basis of $1,005 in her remaining bitcoins.

The $497 gain is a tax-favored, long-term capital gain to Carol because she held the bitcoin property for more than a year.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Capital losses deductible. If you recognize a loss on a bitcoin transaction, then it is deductible from your other income, subject to the limitations applicable to capital losses. And if you are a noncorporate taxpayer, then you can carry forward any losses that you can’t use in the current year.

Pro: Taxable capital gains. Your bitcoins can appreciate in value, causing you to both gain extra income and pay taxes on that income. If you recognize a gain on a bitcoin transaction, then you have a short- or long-term capital gain on which you have to pay taxes. You may also have to pay the 3.8 percent net investment income tax on this gain. In cash transactions, you don’t have the possibility for profit or the complications of paying taxes.

Pro: Lower transaction fees. Stripe, a large third-party payment processor, processes bitcoin transactions for 0.8 percent of the gross amount, up to a maximum of $8 per transaction, compared with 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for credit card transactions (with no maximum).

If you receive a $2,000 payment for services rendered, your potential transaction costs are

  • $8.00 for a bitcoin transaction, and
  • $53.80 for a credit card payment.

Con: Basis tracking. Cash is cash and requires no special tracking. With bitcoin, you need to track the adjusted basis in your bitcoins and account for basis changes due to fractional sales.

Con: Liquidity. Once you get bitcoins, you may find it difficult to find others to transact with to use your bitcoins for goods and/or services.

You now have the big picture of how transacting business with bitcoins works. If you want to discuss virtual currency with me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely

PPP Loan Forgiveness update

PPP Loan Forgiveness update

Dear Client:

The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) rules—they keep a-changin’.

During the past month, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a new set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a new interim final rule, which in combination create the following good news for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP):

  • More forgiveness. The $20,833 cap on corporate owner-employee compensation applies to cash compensation only. It’s not an overall compensation limit as the SBA had stated in its prior interim guidance. Under this new rule, the owner-employee can add retirement benefits on top of the cash compensation, creating a new higher cap.
  • Escape owner status. You are not an owner-employee if you have less than a 5 percent ownership stake in a C or an S corporation. Therefore, the cap on forgiveness for this newly defined non-owner-employee is not $20,833 but rather $46,154.

The new rules override prior guidance and have significance for PPP loan forgiveness today—and perhaps for obtaining additional loan monies retroactively (if Congress reinstates the PPP along with a new second round for businesses that suffered a big drop in revenue).

Here’s one example of how the new rules benefit John, an S corporation owner.

Example. John, the sole owner and worker, operates his business as an S corporation. His 2019 W-2 shows $140,000 in Box 1, of which $20,000 is for health insurance. In addition, the S corporation pays state unemployment taxes of $500 on John’s income and contributes $20,000 to his pension plan.

Based on the facts in the example, the corporation is eligible for up to $25,000 of PPP loan forgiveness, as follows:

  • $20,833 on John’s salary (the cap), which the corporation pays to John at his regular rate in less than 10 weeks during the covered period;
  • $4,167 on John’s retirement ($20,000 x 20.83%); and
  • zero on the unemployment taxes because they were paid out in January, before the covered period began.

Advantage. Prior guidance limited forgiveness to $20,833. John’s S corporation gains $4,167 in additional forgiveness thanks to the new FAQs, assuming that the S corporation’s loan amount is $25,000 or more (which is possible).

The good news in the new guidance is that the corporate retirement contributions on behalf of owner-employees now count for additional forgiveness when the owner-employee has cash compensation greater than $100,000. And with the C corporation, the new guidance allows health insurance for the owner-employee.

Remember, I am always here for you. If you would like to discuss your PPP with me, don’t hesitate to call me on my direct line at 510-417-7050.

Sincerely,