Guide for cryptocurrency users and tax professionals
Cryptocurrency is a relatively new innovation that requires guidelines on taxation so that Canadians are aware of how to meet their tax obligations. The Senate reviewed the issue of taxation on cryptocurrency in 2014 and recommended action to help Canadians understand how to comply with their taxes, which the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is doing by presenting this guide.
Tax treatment of cryptocurrency for income tax purposes
Cryptocurrency is a digital representation of value that is not legal tender. It is a digital asset, sometimes also referred to as a crypto asset or altcoin that works as a medium of exchange for goods and services between the parties who agree to use it. Strong encryption techniques are used to control how units of cryptocurrency are created and to verify transactions. Cryptocurrencies generally operate independently of a central bank, central authority or government.
The following pages outline the income tax implications of common transactions involving cryptocurrency. When we refer to cryptocurrency in this publication, we are talking about Bitcoin or other similar virtual currencies.
The CRA generally treats cryptocurrency like a commodity for purposes of the Income Tax Act. Any income from transactions involving cryptocurrency is generally treated as business income or as a capital gain, depending on the circumstances. Similarly, if earnings qualify as business income or as a capital gain then any losses are treated as business losses or capital losses.
Taxpayers have to establish if a cryptocurrency activity results in income or capital because this affects the way the revenue is treated for income tax purposes. Not all taxpayers who buy and sell cryptocurrency are carrying on business activity.