The following article is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk’s Crypto and Taxes 2018 series.
When tax season ends, will the crypto market end with it?
Certainly, with the April 17 U.S. deadline to file approaching, there’s much speculation that the crypto winter of 2018 was largely thanks to investors frantically selling to boost funds in order that they could pay taxes on 2017 gains.
“We may reminisce on this point because the ‘Crypto Tax Crisis of 2018,’ as because of tax liabilities we’re witnessing the foremost concentrated period of net fiat outflows that the crypto asset ecosystem has experienced in its short life,” Chris Burniske, a partner at Placeholder VC, and Jonathan Cheesman wrote during a recent, highly detailed Medium post.
And there has almost certainly been some tax-related selling, judging from posts on Reddit and various cryptocurrency forums from investors who had cashed out cryptocurrency during the December run-up and have become concerned about their liabilities .
“I didn’t know this some time past but it’s like I owe income taxes on those trades, which adds up to about $50,000 if I add up state (California) and federal,” a Redditor who goes by the handle of thoway wrote a month ago.
Further, Japan’s tax deadline was March 15th. Like, the U.S., Japan may be a huge participant within the crypto market, so this is able to further support the thesis.
But there are several reasons to discount the contribution of such selling to the recent market rout – and thus the probability that prices will suddenly surge again after Tax Day.
First of all, investors who sold during the slump wouldn’t likely have raised enough to hide their liabilities . Perry Woodin, Chief Strategy Officer at HashChain Technology, Inc, did the maths .
“Imagine a private who purchased 1.5 bitcoins in January of 2017 for $1,200 a bitcoin,” Woodin told CoinDesk. “If that individual sold one bitcoin in December of 2017 they might have realized a gain of ~$18,000. This short term gain is taxed as ordinary income within the U.S. Assuming a rate of ~30 percent, the liabilities would be about $5,400.”
As we spoke in early April, bitcoin was trading around $6,700. Hence, Woodin said, in his hypothetical example, “the remaining 0.5 bitcoin (or $3,350) isn’t enough to pay the $5,400 liabilities .”
So, tax-driven selling would are irrational. Of course, people don’t always behave rationally.
Trevor Gerszt, CEO of CoinIRA, a corporation that focuses on digital currency individual retirement accounts (IRAs), gave one more reason to doubt a robust connection between the crypto slump and tax selling. He pointed to the recent activity on the bitcoin blockchain, or lack thereof.
”If tax selling were really a driver of bitcoin prices, we might expect to ascertain a spike in selling, yet confirmed transactions are relatively low and have remained that way for the past two months,” Gerszt said on Tuesday.
To be sure, major exchanges started batching transactions within the half-moon , therefore the number of liquidations reflected on the general public ledger could be understated.
Eric Ervin, CEO of Reality Shares, which has launched an exchange traded fund (ETF) investing in blockchain technology, said taxes were certainly an element within the performance of crypto, but not the first one, as evidenced by the timing of the dips.
“The market selloff began in December, first bottoming in February, and now we are retesting the lows we saw in February,” Ervin said Tuesday.
There’s no point in trying to sell your crypto holdings during a panic simply because Uncle Sam is knocking on your door. If worse involves worse, you’ll need to work with the IRS, found out a payment plan then hope for a recovery in crypto markets.
And if you’re getting to stock anticipation of a recovery, don’t hold your breath for it to happen right after Tax Day.