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Gift and tipping rules vary from country to country. If required to report as taxable income, you would simply convert the cryptocurrency to their fair market value at the time they are received. Generally giving cryptocurrency as a gift is a non-taxable event for the giver, unless it meets the threshold for a gift tax. For the receiver, in addition to any taxable income that may be relevant, you will also take on the cost basis of the cryptocurrency from the donor.

There is however an important exception if the donor's basis was higher than the market value of the bitcoin at the time of the gift (i.e. there was a capital loss on the coins at the time of the transfer). In this case, the receiver should recalculate their capital gain/loss using their basis as the market value of the bitcoins on the date of the gift. If there is still a loss from the donor's original basis, then the receiver can proceed using the gift-date market value as the basis. If however there is now a capital gain, US tax law says to ignore the gain and report nothing (e.g. there is no capital gains event!). Note: the receiver always takes on the original donor's original purchase date for the coin in short/long-term capital gains calculations.

This is very confusing, so here's an example to demonstrate. Let's say that Rashmi buys one bitcoin for $1,000. Two years later she gives it to Jon when the price of bitcoin is $500. Ten days later Jon sells the bitcoin. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Jon sells the bitcoin for $1,100. He takes on Rashmi's original basis of $1,000, and has a long term capital gain of $100.
  2. Jon sells the bitcoin for $400. Since there is a capital loss using Rashmi's basis, he can't use that basis. Instead, he takes on the basis of the fair market value of the bitcoin at the time of the transfer ($500), leaving a long term capital loss of $100.
  3. Jon sells the bitcoin for $900. Again, since there is a capital loss using Rashmi's basis, he can't use that basis. He takes on the basis of the fair market value of the bitcoin at the time of the transfer ($500), however now this would yield a capital gain of $400, so instead you disregard the sale and nothing should be reported.

This is a counter-intuitive tax scenario, so it may help to think of this treatment as a way to prevent folks from sharing their capital losses with friends. Regardless, make sure to keep records any time you receive a crypto-gift, of the donor's original basis, acquisition date (which you always inherit), as well as the fair market value of the coin on the date of the gift.

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