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26 Sep 2023

Deciphering Cryptocurrency Income: What’s Subject to Self-Employment Tax and What’s Not

Cryptocurrency, often hailed as the future of finance, has not only disrupted traditional financial systems but also introduced a new frontier of income generation. With the rise of digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, many individuals have ventured into the world of crypto trading, mining, and other activities. However, when it comes to taxation, the treatment of cryptocurrency income is a complex and often misunderstood area.

Understanding Cryptocurrency Income


Cryptocurrency income can take various forms, and it’s essential to distinguish between them to determine their tax implications:

  1. Capital Gains: When you buy and hold cryptocurrencies as investments, any profit you make upon selling them is considered a capital gain. Capital gains can be either short-term (held for less than a year) or long-term (held for more than a year). The tax treatment of capital gains depends on the holding period and your overall income. Capital gains are subject to capital gains tax and are not subject to self-employment tax
  2. Mining Income: Cryptocurrency mining income is more likely to be subjected to self-employment tax. When you mine cryptocurrencies, you are earning income as if you were running a business. The IRS considers this self-employment income because it involves an ongoing effort to earn profits through mining activities.
  3. Trading Income: Active trading of cryptocurrencies, like stock trading, results in ordinary income. This income is subject to regular income tax rates but is not considered self-employment income. Traders are not required to pay self-employment tax on their trading profits.
  4. Staking Rewards: Staking rewards are generally considered income, and depending on the circumstances, they may be subject to self-employment tax. Here are some factors that make staking rewards subject to self-employment tax:
    • Frequency and Regularity: if you engage in staking activities frequently, it may be viewed as an ongoing income-generating effort like running a business.
    • Operational Effort: If you actively participate in the network’s operations, such as verifying transactions, maintaining nodes, or actively managing the staking process, it can be seen as a business activity.
    • Participation in Network Governance: If your staking activities involve voting or participating in network governance decisions, the IRS may view this as active participation in the operation of a block chain network, potentially leading to self-employment tax implications.
    • Structuring of Rewards: If the reward is distributed as regular income for your involvement in network activities, they are more likely to be subject to self-employment tax. If they are structured as passive investment income, they may not be.
    • Type of Cryptocurrency: The specific cryptocurrency being staked can influence the tax treatment. Some have established taxation guidelines, while others may be subject to evolving interpretations by tax authorities.

Compliance and Reporting


Regardless of whether your cryptocurrency income is subject to self-employment tax, it is crucial to maintain accurate records and fulfill your tax obligations. Here are some important steps to ensure compliance:

  1. Record Keeping: Keep detailed records of all cryptocurrency transactions, including dates, amounts, and counterparties involved. This information will be essential when calculating your taxable income and gains.
  2. Report Your Income: Be diligent in reporting all cryptocurrency income on your tax return. Failure to do so can result in penalties and legal consequences.
  3. Consult a Tax Professional: Given the complexity and evolving nature of cryptocurrency taxation, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a tax professional who is well versed in cryptocurrency tax laws.
  4. Pay Estimated Taxes: If you have self-employment income from cryptocurrency activities, you may be required to make quarterly estimated tax payments to cover your income tax and self-employment tax liabilities.
  5. Stay Informed: Cryptocurrency taxation rules are subject to change, so it’s essential to stay informed about any updates or clarifications from tax authorities.

Still feeling uncertain about how to navigate the complexities of cryptocurrency taxation? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Contact Better Accounting today to gain peace of mind and expert guidance from professionals well-versed in cryptocurrency tax regulations. Our team will help you make sense of it all!

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