What To Do With A 1099 from Coinbase or Another Exchange

Andrew PerlinUpdated at: Aug 26th, 2021

This article is part of TokenTax's Crypto Tax Guide.

As the IRS increases its scrutiny of crypto transactions, more and more exchanges are providing traders with various kinds of Forms 1099. If you receive one, don’t panic. Simply read on for our rundown on what 1099s mean for your crypto taxes and what actions you need to take. 

Form 1099-MISC

What is Form 1099-MISC?

As its name suggests, Form 1099-MISC is designed for reporting miscellaneous income to the IRS. Before the 2020 tax year, it was most often used for reporting non-employee compensation. However, some crypto exchanges, most notably Coinbase, have begun to use it to report traders’ gross income from crypto rewards or staking. This amount is typically reported in Box 3 of Form 1099-MISC, as “other income.”

Exchanges that send Form 1099-MISC typically send them to U.S. persons who have earned more than $600 on crypto rewards or staking.

For Coinbase, this is a change in procedure from previous years, in which it did not send Forms 1099-MISC for rewards/staking income, but did send Forms 1099K to certain high-volume/high-value traders.

An exchange sends two copies of each Form 1099-MISC: one to the taxpayer and one to the IRS. When the IRS receives a Form 1099-MISC report of an individual’s total income from crypto rewards or staking, it will expect that person to itemize and report those transactions on their income tax returns.

Additionally, although a Form 1099-MISC only reports income from crypto rewards or staking, the form does suggest to the IRS that a taxpayer is actively involved in crypto trading and may have additional gains (not from rewards or staking) to report.

Which exchanges send Form 1099-MISC?

What do I need to do on my crypto taxes if I get a Form 1099-MISC?

The 1099-MISC doesn’t report individual transactions from staking or rewards, just your total income from them. You will need to report each transaction—as well as any other crypto transactions from any exchange—in order to calculate your crypto taxes. If you fail to file, you may come under scrutiny of the IRS.

Form 1099-K

What is Form 1099-K?

The Form 1099-K states your cumulative amount traded in a tax year: the total value of crypto that you have bought, sold, or traded on an exchange. This form is also known as a Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions form. It’s commonly used by credit card companies and payment processors like PayPal to report payment transactions that they’ve processed for third parties.

Exchanges that send Form 1099-K typically send it to U.S. traders who have made 200 or more transactions, the volume of which equals $20,000 or more.

The amount on the 1099-K does not represent your total capital gain or loss, and you don’t need to include the amounts on this document on your tax return.

Don’t be alarmed if the number on your 1099-K is a larger number than you’d expect. It’s merely a report of your trading volume to the IRS. If you trade often, you may have a very large trading volume while also not having that large of a gain or loss.

Which exchanges send Form 1099-K?

What do I need to do on my crypto taxes if I get a Form 1099-K?

As is the case for many tax forms, if you’ve received a Form 1099-K, so has the IRS. The form alerts the IRS that you have been trading cryptocurrency and thus you will likely be expected to report crypto on your tax return.

The 1099-K doesn’t report individual transactions, just the cumulative amount traded. You will need to report each transaction—as well as any other crypto transactions from any exchange—in order to calculate your crypto taxes. If you fail to file, you may come under scrutiny of the IRS.

Why did Coinbase switch from Form 1099-K to Form 1099-MISC?

Because Form 1099-K reports the aggregate amount of crypto involved in an individual’s trades, rather than the net profits or loss, it is easy for transactions that ultimately represent a loss to be interpreted as generating revenue.

For example, imagine you purchased a token for $1.00, but sold it later in the same year for only 75 cents. Despite the fact that this series of transactions represented a 25 cent loss, $1.75 would be reported as part of the amount on the 1099-K.

This situation can lead to confusion at the IRS. Agents sometimes interpret 1099-K calculations as crypto traders’ profits, rather than their trades’ volume. This may result in the IRS sending CP2000 letters, which inform filers they may have significantly under-reported their income on their tax filings. To address such misunderstandings usually requires the intervention of a crypto-savvy CPA.

Although IRS misinterpretations of the 1099-K are typically resolved, their effect on customers is burdensome enough to prompt Coinbase and some other exchanges to stop sending them.

Form 1099-B

What is Form 1099-B?

Form 1099-B is traditionally used by brokers and barter exchanges to report gains on a capital asset sold or exchanged on behalf of clients. Unlike Forms 1099-MISC or 1099-K, Form 1099-B does report individual transactions, detailing the following information:

  • A short description of the item sold, such as “100 shares of XYZ Co"

  • The date it was acquired

  • The date it was sold

  • How much it was acquired for

  • How much it was sold for

  • Whether the broker withheld any federal tax

Each transaction is reported separately, although trades from the same brokerage may be consolidated.

Form 1099-B often presents challenges for crypto exchanges, however, since the decentralized, easily-transferable nature of crypto can make it difficult to calculate an asset’s cost basis information.

For example, a user might transfer crypto between wallets on two different exchanges and then ultimately sell the asset on the second exchange. Although the second exchange would know the amount the crypto sold for and the date it was sold, it wouldn’t know the same information about the crypto’s acquisition. Therefore, it would be unable to determine the gains or losses a trader made on the transaction.

Which exchanges send Form 1099-Bs? 

What do I need to do on my crypto taxes if I get a Form 1099-B?

Individuals and/or their crypto tax professionals use Form 1099-B to fill out Form 8949, which is eventually filed on the taxpayer's Schedule D. Be aware, however, that because of the difficulties inherent in filing them or crypto transactions, Forms 1099-B may often contain incorrect information. We recommend you speak to a crypto tax professional about how to proceed if you receive a 1099-B.

Related content

To stay up to date on the latest, follow TokenTax on Twitter @tokentax.

Learn how to save money on your crypto taxes

We’ll send you tips that smart investors use when filing their taxes

Calculate your crypto taxes now

TokenTax does the hard work so you don’t have to.