VerifiedExpert verified

How to Calculate Your Crypto Taxes for Gains and Losses

Zac McClure
ByZac McClure, MBAVerified Reviewed byTynisa (Ty) Gaines, EAUpdated on March 6, 2023 · minute read

TokenTax content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. We do not accept money from third party sites, so we can give you the most unbiased and accurate information possible.

  • How to calculate crypto taxes depends on your region and circumstances. In the United States, crypto is taxed like property, with short- and long-term capital gains rules in effect.

  • There are two key factors that determine how to calculate crypto taxes: realized gains or losses and the holding period. It’s important to accurately calculate and report your crypto gains when filing your taxes, and we recommend using a crypto tax calculator.

How to Calculate Your Crypto Taxes for Gains and Losses

How is cryptocurrency taxed?

How to calculate crypto taxes varies from region to region. In the United States, crypto is taxed like other forms of property, which means short- and long-term capital gains rules are in effect. For crypto gains, the tax rates are the same as capital gains on stocks.

It’s important to properly calculate both gains (and losses) when calculating crypto taxes. A crypto tax calculator like ours at TokenTax will help with this.

What are the factors considered for the calculation of crypto tax?

Cryptocurrency is either taxed as short- or long-term capital gains. There are two key factors to take into consideration when you calculate crypto gains for taxes. If you traded or sold crypto in the United States, the rate of tax is calculated depending on:

  • Your realized gains (or losses)

  • How long you held a given cryptocurrency before selling or trading (that is, the holding period)

The holding period starts the day after you purchase or make a transaction of crypto and ends the day you trade or sell. Purchasing items with crypto also triggers a taxable event. Here is an example:

Calculation of crypto taxes example

You purchased $20,000 worth of Ethereum (ETH), then a month later traded your ETH for $30,000 Bitcoin (BTC). Here the taxable gain is $30,000 − $20,000 = $10,000. Three months after this, value of your BTC has risen to $60,000 and you use it to purchase a new Tesla. Here the taxable gain is: $60,000 − $30,000 = $30,000. If these were your only crypto transactions for the year, your total taxable short-term capital gains are $40,000.

What is the best way to calculate crypto taxes?

The best way to calculate crypto taxes is to create an account here at TokenTax, calculate your crypto gains and taxes with our platform and crypto taxes calculator, or simply leave your crypto gains and tax calculations to our experts.

On your own, you can also work to maintain accurate records and use a crypto tax calculator. A crypto taxes calculator will help you determine precisely how much were your realized gains or losses and the corresponding tax consequences. 

What is a crypto tax calculator?

A crypto tax calculator is a piece of software that helps to calculate cryptocurrency profits, losses, income, and corresponding tax liabilities. Crypto taxes calculators are typically designed to integrate with popular crypto exchanges, wallets, and platforms to make the process as accurate as possible and easy.

TokenTax is the industry-leading crypto tax calculator and full-service accounting firm that provides everything you need in order to file completely and correctly.

Example of crypto tax calculation

Annual crypto tax calculation can feel like an overwhelming chore, especially if you’ve been an active trader. Our crypto tax calculator software syncs with your wallets and accounts, so you can accomplish all your crypto tax calculation in one place without the need for laborious manual entry or a crypto taxes calculator.

Because TokenTax is both a full-service accounting firm and a crypto taxes calculator, we can handle all your crypto tax calculations for you. We’ll help you report crypto gains and losses, determine your cost basis, prepare crypto tax forms, determine your crypto rate tax and more.

How to minimize your crypto taxes

The simplest way to minimize your crypto taxes is to hold until your short-term gains become long-term ones. This means holding for at least a year before selling. Of course the crypto markets are famously volatile, so it’s important to make the right decision yourself given your risk tolerance and goals. HODL longer, and you’ll pay less taxes through long-term capital gains.

Another strategy is to gift some of your crypto to family members

How do you calculate profit on crypto?

Profits are simple to calculate in crypto. Simply subtract the amount you paid for it (in fiat) from the amount you’ve made when you sell. Say for example you purchase $10,000 worth of Ethereum and sold for $15,000. You’ve made a $5,000 profit. Easy enough. 

Of course there’s more to preparing your taxes with crypto involved, so let’s look now at some of the steps we need to know in order to learn how to calculate crypto taxes.

How to calculate crypto gains and losses

It’s pretty basic: to pay your tax bill, you’ll need to know the amount of your cumulative gains or losses. In what follows, we’ll outline how to calculate crypto gains so you’ll in turn know how to calculate crypto taxes.. Again, a crypto taxes calculator can be a big help through this process.

1. Tracking crypto transactions

Let’s learn how to calculate crypto taxes. First you need to track your transactions and their associated tax lots. A tax lot is simply the record of tokens purchased or otherwise acquired in a single transaction.

A tax lot includes the following transaction information:

  • Amount and currency of the digital asset sold

  • Fiat value at time of acquisition

  • Date of acquisition

  • Fiat value at time of trade or sale

  • Date of sale

It’s very important to keep detailed records of your trades, as it can be difficult to retroactively find and fill in the missing data that may be inflating your gains. The simplest solution for this challenge is crypto tax software that tracks your transactions.

Be aware, however: if you are using a crypto tax calculator, it's a good idea to keep notes on special situations, such as lost coins, crypto scams and rug pulls, and ICOs. No two years in crypto are alike, so take extra care when you calculate crypto gains.

2. Finding your cost basis

An important term in cryptocurrency tax is cost basis. This refers to the original value of an asset for tax purposes. In order to calculate crypto capital gains and losses, we need a simple formula: proceeds - cost basis = capital gain or loss.

Note that two additional variables may affect your cost basis: accounting method and transaction fees.

Crypto tax accounting methods

The IRS allows taxpayers to choose which variation of specific identification accounting they will use. Specific ID methods match up sales and acquisitions differently. One method on your trading data to calculate crypto gains can produce a different cost basis than using another. Among the most popular allowed methods are:

  • First in, first out (FIFO): Assets acquired first are sold first

  • Last in, first out (LIFO): Assets acquired last are sold first

  • Highest in, first out (HIFO): Highest price assets are sold first

Accounting method variations example

  • You have 3 BTC: 1 BTC was purchased in 2018 for $8,000; 1 was purchased for $50,000 in 2021, and 1 was purchased for $19,000 in 2022. In 2022, you sell 1 BTC for $23,000. 

  • If you choose FIFO, your capital gain will be $15,000 ($23,000-$8,000)

  • If you choose LIFO, your capital gain will be $4,000 ($23,000-$19,000)

  • If you choose HIFO, you will have a capital loss of $27,000 ($23,000-$50,000)

Transaction fees

Many crypto transactions involve transaction fees (paid to exchanges or protocols) or gas fees on the Ethereum or other networks. In many cases these fees can be added to your asset’s cost basis to decrease your capital gains or increase your capital losses, which will impact how you calculate crypto gains.

Cost basis calculation example

  • To swap 3,000 USDC for 1 ETH on Uniswap, you had to pay $100 in fees.

  • You can add that $100 to the ETH’s cost basis, making it $3,100.

Note that whether transaction/gas fees can be added to the cost basis depends on the type of transaction. For more about this, real our post: deducting Ethereum gas fees.

3. Determining your crypto capital gains tax rate

Crypto transactions are taxed at different rates depending on the length of time the assets were held. If they were held for a year or less, the transaction is a short-term trade. If assets were held for more than a year, the transaction is a long-term trade. 

The IRS treats long-term gains preferentially, with rates of 0%, 15%, or 20% depending on your tax bracket. Short-term gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.

Because short- and long-term trades are taxed at different rates, they are reported separately to the IRS. This means you should also split them up when calculating your crypto capital gains. A crypto tax calculator can assist in this process.

4. Calculating your crypto gains

With your full transaction history, you can calculate your capital gains and losses. Let’s look at some concrete examples of how to match crypto trades and learn how to calculate crypto taxes based on this.

If you buy cryptocurrency, trade it short-term for another coin, and then sell that coin long-term for fiat currency, your capital gains tax calculation will be split between short- and long-term crypto trades held for a duration of less than a year or greater than a year respectively. Here’s an example:

  • You bought 1 BTC for $30,000 (including fees), thus your cost basis for this lot of 1 BTC is $30,000.

  • You sold this 1 BTC for $32,000 (including fees) worth of LTC the next day, thus the proceeds are $32,000.

  • Subtract the cost basis of $30,000 from the proceeds of $32,000, and your gain is $2,000. This amount is subject to short-term capital gains tax that year.

  • More than a year later, you sold the $32,000 of LTC for $35,000 (including fees) in dollars.

  • Subtract the cost basis of $32,000 from the proceeds of $35,000, and your gain is $3,000. This amount is subject to long-term capital gains tax and reported on the tax returns of the year in which it was sold.

Now imagine that instead of $32,000 of LTC being sold at a gain, it was sold at a loss. That tax year, you engaged in other trading that resulted in cumulative long-term gains of $50,000.

  • You sell the $32,000 of LTC for $25,000 (including fees). The proceeds are thus $25,000.

  • Subtract the cost basis of $32,000 from the proceeds of $25,000 for a net loss of $7,000.

  • Subtract your long-term capital loss of $7,000 from your long-term capital gains of $50,000. Your new taxable long-term gains amount is $43,000.

A crypto tax calculator like ours at TokenTax can simplify the process of calculating your crypto gains. Crypto tax calculators aggregate your data and then automatically link your cost basis to your sales, using accounting methods like FIFO or LIFO to calculate your gains or losses and generate tax reports for you.

These are the basic steps of using our crypto tax software at TokenTax:

  1. Import all your cryptocurrency exchange trade history, as well as any transactions made off-exchange.

  2. Verify that all historical data has been imported, and that your crypto taxes are calculated properly. If not, manually edit the data to correct it.

  3. Decide on a crypto accounting method.

  4. Export your crypto tax forms.

  5. Include your crypto taxes on your return.

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions about how to calculate crypto taxes.

How to calculate crypto gains percentage

Calculating crypto gains as a percentage involves a simple formula: 

Calculate crypto gains percentage example

[(price sold - purchase price) / purchase price] x 100 = crypto gains percentage

For example, if you sold Ethereum for $10,000 having paid $5,000 for it, you simply divide $5,000 by $10,000 and multiply by 100 to give you 50% realized gains.

How is a crypto gain or loss "realized"?

Gains on crypto are not “realized” until you sell, exchange, or spend the asset. In other words, if you purchased a token and simply hold it without selling or exchanging it for another token, you won't have any taxable gains or losses. 

Our tax loss harvesting dashboard can help you keep tabs on your unrealized gains and losses, so that you can strategically harvest your losses to potentially lower your tax liability.

Are there any ways to avoid paying taxes on crypto?

The simplest way to avoid crypto taxes is to purchase and hold without exchanging or selling. There are a few other methods to avoid paying taxes on crypto. Options include:

  • Gifts to family

  • Donations to charity

  • Offset your gains with losses

  • Sell assets during a low income year

Different countries have varying rules pertaining to crypto. That noted, regardless of where a U.S. citizen resides, they are taxed worldwide on their income, which includes cryptocurrency gains. 

Moving to another country and renouncing citizenship is a bit of a stretch for most people, so if you’re transacting crypto, odds are you will have to deal with tax consequences. TokenTax is here to help with easy-to-use crypto tax software and support.

Is like-kind exchange allowed for crypto?

A like-kind exchange is when you exchange one asset for another similar asset without recognizing capital gains or losses on the transaction.[1]

Like-kind is specifically disallowed for crypto.[2] It can only be used for real estate.

For more info on crypto tax basics, visit our Crypto Tax Guide. For more on using TokenTax as your crypto tax software visit our Help Center’s getting started guide.

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

Related Content


Last reviewed by Tynisa (Ty) Gaines,EA on March 6, 2023 · Sources

Zac McClure
Zac McClureCo-Founder at TokenTax
Zac co-founded TokenTax after his career in international finance and accounting at JPMorgan, Imprint Capital and Bain. He has worked in more than half-dozen countries and received his MBA from the UPenn Wharton School.
Tynisa (Ty) Gaines
Reviewed byTynisa (Ty) GainesTax Expert at TokenTax
Tynisa (Ty) Gaines, EA has more than 20 years of experience as a tax professional. Ty has published numerous tax articles, two tax e-books, and an academic publication on cryptocurrency for the National Income Tax Workbook.

Let’s get started.

Check out our plans and pricing to find out which solution best meets your needs.

Review plans