How to Calculate Your Crypto Taxes for Gains and Losses February 2024

Zac McClure
ByZac McClure, MBAReviewed byTynisa (Ty) Gaines, EAUpdated on February 5, 2024 · minute read
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  • How you will calculate crypto taxes will depend on your particular circumstances and region. The US taxes crypto as property, with corresponding short- and long-term capital gains rules in addition to regular income taxes for crypto received as such.

  • Two key factors that determine how you calculate crypto taxes include how long you hold a given crypto and your realized gains or losses. It’s critical to accurately calculate and report your crypto gains when filing your taxes, and we recommend using a crypto tax calculator like ours at TokenTax for the best results.

How is cryptocurrency taxed?

Understanding the complex terrain of cryptocurrency taxes can be daunting for even the most die-hard crypto enthusiast. In the US, crypto is classified as property, which subjects it to the rules of both short- and long-term capital gains. Effectively, this taxation framework treats crypto gains like capital gains incurred from stock transactions. Crypto received as income is subject to regular income tax rates.

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

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 hold 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.

Crypto tax calculation example:

Annual crypto tax calculation can feel like an overwhelming chore, especially if you’ve been an active trader.

  • 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 later, 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.

  • Imagining that these were your only crypto transactions for the year, your total taxable short-term capital gains are $40,000.

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 sell for $15,000. You’ve made a $5,000 profit. Easy enough. 

How TokenTax can help you to calculate crypto taxes for gains and losses

TokenTax VIP is your full-service crypto tax accountant. We offer you a dedicated team and tailored crypto tax solutions for your needs. Get in touch with us and have us calculate your crypto gains and taxes with our platform and own crypto taxes calculator, or simply leave your crypto gains and tax calculations to our experts.

Because TokenTax is both a full-service accounting firm and a crypto tax 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.

Schedule a FREE crypto tax consultation

How to keep your crypto taxes to a minimum

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.

Looking to minimize your crypto taxes? Strategies how to reduce your 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 will 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 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.

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. Calculate profit on crypto

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 of how to calculate profit on crypto:

  • 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.

Basic steps of using our TokenTax crypto calculator

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.

  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.

Schedule a FREE crypto tax consultation

Calculating crypto tax for gains and losses FAQs

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: 

[(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 US 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.

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.

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

What percent tax do you pay on crypto?

Crypto tax rates in the US depend on income and holding period. Short-term gains are taxed at ordinary income rates (10-37%), while long-term gains are subject to preferential rates (0-20%) based on income. Crypto received as income is subject to regular income tax rates.

Are crypto-to-crypto trades taxable?

Yes, crypto-to-crypto trades are taxable events in the US. When you trade one cryptocurrency for another, it triggers a capital gain or loss and you must report this on your tax return. It's essential to track the value of the crypto at the time of the trade and calculate the gain or loss accordingly.

What are the penalties for not correctly reporting crypto taxes?

Failure to correctly report crypto taxes can result in penalties and interest. The IRS has increased its focus on cryptocurrency transactions, and non-compliance may lead to fines or legal consequences. Using a reliable crypto tax calculator, maintaining detailed records, and consulting with crypto tax professionals can help ensure accurate reporting and compliance with tax regulations.

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

Zac McClure
Zac McClureCo-Founder & CEO 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.

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