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How To File Crypto Losses on Taxes: Take Advantage of Crypto Losses

Learn why you should file your crypto losses taxes. You can claim cryptocurrency losses on your taxes to deduct from your income or to offset capital gains

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Why it’s important to file your cryptocurrency losses taxes

If you invested in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies and ended up with a loss, you still need to file your crypto taxes. In this guide, we’ll explain why it’s important to file cryptocurrency taxes, even if you had only losses, as well as how to properly file your crypto losses.

Crypto is a volatile market, so you may have losses. Claiming crypto losses on taxes is important for two reasons. First, the IRS requires that you report all sales of crypto, since cryptocurrencies are treated as property.

Secondly, you can write off crypto losses for a tax deduction, to offset other capital gains like stocks, or to carry forward those losses to offset gains in future years. We'll explore in this guide exactly what tax benefits crypto losses can provide.

How do I calculate my crypto losses for taxes?

To calculate your total losses:

  • First, net your total long term gains and losses together
  • Then, net your total short term gains and losses together
  • Finally, net the long term gain/loss and short term gain/loss together to get your total capital gain or loss.

If you have a net loss in your cryptocurrency, you’d then add those losses to any gains you have in other capital assets, like stocks. If you have a net loss among all capital assets, then you can carry deduct from your income or carry forward capital losses.

Are crypto losses tax deductible?

When filing your tax return, you have a few options if you have a loss. Your losses in crypto can offset other capital gains, and if not, you can carry forward the losses to future years to offset gains in crypto or other capital gains.

You can also deduct up to $3,000 of your losses from your income. If you deduct $3,000 from your income but have more losses than that, then you can still carry forward the rest of the losses to deduct from future years or to offset future gains.

You can only deduct if you have total capital losses across all your assets. If you have crypto losses but enough capital gains with other capital assets to have an overall capital gain during the tax year, then you cannot deduct the losses, but your crypto losses will still offset capital gains in other assets.

How do I file cryptocurrency losses on my tax return?

You report your crypto losses with the Form 8949 and 1040 Schedule D. If you're unsure how filing crypto taxes on your return works, be sure to check out our guide for filing crypto taxes first. In particularly, it's important to be familiar with the 1040 Schedule D, as that's the main tax form you use to handle capital losses.

Let’s say you’re filing bitcoin losses taxes in 2019. You’ve calculated your crypto taxes and come up with:

  • A 1,000 long term gain
  • A 5,000 short term loss

For simplicity, let’s assume crypto is the only capital asset you are doing taxes for. If you had other capital gains / losses in assets like stocks, then you’d merely add in those totals as well when summing your total gain / loss.

With a net $4,000 loss, you can use $3,000 of that loss to deduct from your income. Otherwise, you can carry forward those losses to future years — so if you have gains in the following tax year, you can subtract your carried forward losses. So if you decide to use $3,000 of the losses to deduct from your income, you can carry forward the remaining $1,000 of capital losses.

What happens if I don’t file crypto losses taxes?

As we now know, certain crypto exchanges report information to the IRS, and crypto investors have received letters and notices from the IRS recommending crypto tax filing and even requests for more taxes paid.

Often, the IRS will have incomplete information on your crypto trading history. For example, if you bought bitcoin on Coinbase, transferred it to a separate foreign exchange, and made losses on that other exchange before sending bitcoin back to Coinbase to sell it for USD, then the IRS may only account for that BTC sale.

In this case, they don’t have the information to know that you have an overall capital loss with crypto. By properly calculating your crypto taxes and reporting them with the IRS Form 8949 and Schedule D, then you will show that you do not have any capital gains that should be reported.

I hold crypto at a loss but haven't sold it. Can I claim a loss on it?

In order to claim a loss, you will need to have made a taxable event on the asset — this means selling it, trading it for another crypto, or spending it. Otherwise, the loss remains an unrealized loss and thus cannot be reported as a capital loss.

One use of Tax Loss Harvesting is to pinpoint unsold assets before the end of the tax year. For example, if you invested in many ICOs, you may be holding some coins still that you can sell off to claim the loss and lower your tax liability.

How to get started on filing taxes for your cryptocurrency losses

First things first, you’ll want to properly calculate your crypto taxes. Crypto tax software like TokenTax handles this automatically by importing all your trade data from exchanges. Then, it creates your Form 8949 tax form, to be included with your Schedule D.

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