Intro to NFT Tax Loss Harvesting

NFT tax loss harvesting poses several unique challenges. Learn more about how to lower your taxes by selling NFTs held at a loss.

Zac McClure
ByZac McClure, MBA Expert reviewed byArthur Teller, CPAUpdated on September 8, 2022 · minute read

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Key Takeaways

  • It can be difficult to estimate an NFT's fair market value, making tax loss harvesting a challenge. However, an increasing number of solutions are being introduced to help valuate NFTs.

  • Additionally, investors may struggle to realize a loss on NFTs with little to no current value.

Intro to NFT Tax Loss Harvesting

Crypto tax loss harvesting is the practice of strategically selling assets at a loss in order to offset your capital gains. We’re written extensively about the topic before, but have largely focused on tax loss harvesting for fungible tokens, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. 

However, an increasing number of crypto traders are also holding non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and many are wondering whether and how NFTs can be safely used in tax loss harvesting. As is common with crypto tax topics, unfortunately there is little official guidance from the IRS.

In this guide, we’ll contextualize some of the biggest questions around NFT tax loss harvesting, and provide answers where we can.

How to tax loss harvest with NFTs

If you’re using crypto tax software, it’s relatively simple to identify opportunities for fungible crypto tax loss harvesting. For example, TokenTax provides a tax loss harvesting dashboard that displays the assets you’re holding at a loss, as well as the amount of the loss. Software accomplishes this by pulling in exchange data, updating coins’ fair market values in real time and subtracting from them their cost basis so traders can gauge how large their loss would be. 

However, finding the best opportunities for NFT tax loss harvesting is more difficult. Because each NFT is unique, there isn’t a known fair market value for each one. This makes it hard to pinpoint which NFTs would realize the largest losses. 

However, services and softwares are emerging to tackle the problem. For NFT fine art, professional third-party appraisals are provided by a growing number of art appraisers who are familiar with the crypto asset class. 

Meanwhile, automated solutions are popping up for popular NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoKitties, or NBA TopShots. These use blockchain data to track the sale prices of NFTs, so price predictions are up-to-date with market conditions. While each service’s methodology is unique, most analyze factors including:

  • Sale prices: Naturally, an NFT’s past sales prices, especially recent sales prices, will play a large role in predicting what it could currently fetch on the market .

  • Floor price: This refers to the lowest listed price of an NFT in the same collection

  • Rarity: NFTs that are part of a collection typically have traits of certain categories, some of which are rarer than others. The rarer an NFT’s combination of traits are, the higher it will be valued. 

Realizing a loss on an NFT

To use losses to offset crypto gains, you need to realize the loss by selling, swapping, or otherwise disposing of the asset. Between NFT rug pulls and failed projects, it’s not uncommon that an investor is holding assets that can’t easily be sold. So, what can traders do? 

Your goal should be to trade the asset in an arm’s length transaction. This means that each party is acting independently in their own self-interest, without pressure from the other party. For example, selling an NFT on OpenSea for 0.01 ETH to someone you don’t know would be considered an arm’s length transaction. 

Can I burn an NFT to realize a loss? 

We do not recommend burning an NFT in order to claim it as a loss. The IRS has not issued any guidance suggesting that sending a token to a burn address results in a realized loss. 

Can I sell an NFT to myself to realize a loss? 

No. Once again, for an arm’s length transaction to occur, there needs to be two parties acting independently. “Selling” an asset to yourself does not fulfill these criteria. 

Can I sell an NFT to my friend to realize a loss?

If the only reason your friend is purchasing a worthless NFT from you is so that you can claim the loss on your taxes, you are not completing an arm’s length transaction; your friend is not acting independently of your wishes. We do not recommend this strategy for NFT tax loss harvesting. 

Can I claim my worthless NFT as a casualty or theft loss? 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated casualty and theft loss deductions in all cases except federally-recognized disasters. NFT rug pulls, scams, or failed projects do not meet this criteria, so no, you cannot claim worthless NFTs as a casualty or theft loss.  

Donating NFTs for tax deductions

Another way to get tax savings is to donate to a 501(c)(3) organization. An NFT donation realizes a loss or gain, and the fair market value of the asset can be deducted if you are itemizing deductions (up to 30% or 50% of your income, depending on the type of organization you’re donating to). 

NFT donation example

If you bought an NFT artwork for $30,000 of ETH and then donated it to a museum when the digital asset was valued at $100,000, you would not only not be taxed on the $70,000 gain, but you could also deduct the fair market value of the NFT ($100,000) if you reported itemized deductions, provided you had the necessary documentation and the sum didn’t exceed the income threshold. 

However, be aware of three requirements if you plan to reduce your taxes by deducting NFT donations: 

  1. If you donate a short-term asset, you may only deduct the NFT’s cost basis. In this example, that would be $30,000.

  2. The IRS requires documentation of your donation, and the amount of required documentation increases as the worth of your donation increases. If the asset’s fair market value is more than $5,000 you will need a qualified appraisal of the NFT, which can be difficult to find. 

  3. You must donate the NFT directly to the 501(c)(3) organization in order to defer tax on the $70,000 gain. If you sell an NFT and donate the proceeds to the organization, you are still liable for capital gains taxes on the sale of the NFT, though you would still be eligible for a $100,000 itemized deduction. 

For more, read our blog on tax deductions for crypto donations

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

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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.
Arthur Teller
Reviewed byArthur TellerCOO at TokenTax
Arthur came to TokenTax after 12 years at KPMG. A specialist in partnership taxation and enterprise tax software, he is a licensed CPA in both California and Illinois and a member of the AICPA.

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