Herbert M. Chain
Shareholder, Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C. Deputy Technical Director, Global Audit Group, Kreston Global
Herbert M. Chain is a highly experienced auditor and is a financial expert with over 45 years of experience in business, accounting, and audit, having served as a Senior Audit Partner at Deloitte. He holds certifications from the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Private Directors Association, with knowledge of private company governance and effective risk management. He has extensive knowledge in the financial services sector, including asset management and insurance. Herb is a member of MHM’s Audit Methodology Steering Committee.
Contact Herb here
Tax Partner at Kreston Mexico City Office, Kreston FLS
Guillermo Narvaez is a Tax Partner at Kreston FLS Mexico City Office and the Technical Tax Director, Global Tax Group, Kreston Global and member of the International Fiscal Association (IFA). Guillermo is a tax expert on international taxation, corporate taxes, transfer pricing, mergers and acquisitions, corporate reorganisations and litigation.
Within international taxation, Guillermo specialises in the analysis and interpretation of treaties to avoid double taxation applied to international transactions.
Contact Guillermo here.
Global cryptocurrency accounting and tax standards
September 8, 2023
In a recent article exploring global cryptocurrency accounting and tax standards in Bloomberg Tax, Herbert M. Chain, Deputy Technical Director of Kreston Global Audit Group and Shareholder, Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., and Guillermo Narvaez, Technical Tax Director at Kreston Global Tax Group and Tax Partner, Kreston FLS, delve into the difficulties of codifying digital assets within the scope of existing accounting standards. You can read the full article on Bloomberg Tax, or read the summary below.
Cryptocurrency accounting and tax standards in the United States
On September 6 2023, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) approved new rules for accounting for cryptocurrencies. The standard requires crypto assets to be measured at fair value each reporting period, while also requiring enhanced disclosures for annual and interim reports. The rules will be effective for 2025 annual reports, but may be adopted for earlier periods. The FASB expects to formally issue the standard by year-end. On the taxation front, crypto assets are considered personal property, subject to capital gains tax. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service recently proposed new regulations set to come into effect in 2026, with a focus on simplifying tax filings and curbing evasion.
Global accounting and tax standards for cryptocurrency
The authors highlight that there is currently no unified global framework to govern cryptocurrencies due to the divergence in local criteria, with China, Japan, Canada and the EU offering no classification. The tax treatment varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, often classifying crypto as personal property, intangibles, or other asset classes for tax purposes. The lack of consensus extends to valuation models, though countries like the U.S., UK, and Australia propose fair value accounting.
Cryptocurrency regulatory challenges
When it comes to regulation, the global scene is diverse and regulators worldwide find themselves in a difficult position. Guidelines must be robust enough to address the inherent risks of this fast-evolving sector, without curbing its innovative potential. The urgency of these efforts has been underscored by recent setbacks in the crypto space, including the collapse of the FTX digital currency exchange platform. Such incidents have heightened concerns and accelerated regulatory initiatives.
In the United States, the government has released “The Administration’s Roadmap to Mitigate Cryptocurrencies’ Risks,” a comprehensive guide addressing issues surrounding protection and enforcement. Meanwhile, the European Union has made strides in creating a unified regulatory framework through its recently adopted Markets in Crypto Assets (MiCA) rules. Not to be left behind, Canada has also stepped into the regulatory arena by issuing its first set of federal guidelines.
As nations continue to take individualistic or collective strides, the onus remains on stakeholders to remain updated and adaptable, ensuring compliance while optimising opportunities.
Double taxation challenge for cross-border activity
Cross-border transactions of crypto assets also present unique tax implications. With no uniform classification of digital assets as currencies, existing double taxation treaties play a pivotal role in determining tax liability.
Navigating the maze of global tax and accounting rules for cryptocurrencies is not straightforward, but Double Tax Treaties (DTAs) offer some guidance. These treaties, modelled on a global standard, contain Articles 7 and 12, which help determine whether income from selling a crypto asset counts as a “business profit” or a “royalty.”
Establishing the application of Article 7 and Article 12
Article 7 applies when you Are making money from ongoing operations in another country, but only if you have a stable, permanent business there. Article 12 comes into play when you get paid for allowing, among others, the use of an intangible asset like a cryptocurrency.
Countries often hold back some tax right at the source when a royalty payment is involved. So, figuring out whether your crypto sale is a business profit or a royalty is crucial. Business profits are usually taxed in your home country unless you have a permanent operation in a foreign country. Royalties, on the other hand, can be taxed right where the payment originates.
Considering cryptos under Article 12
Cryptos are intangible, just like a piece of copyrighted software. However, there is debate around whether just using the software counts as “use of copyright,” which is what traditionally triggers a royalty tax. Typically, you would need to have in-depth control or rights over the software for it to be considered a royalty.
Think of it like this: If you buy off-the-shelf software, you are paying for the use of the software itself, not the underlying algorithms or any other intellectual property. Therefore, this payment is not considered a royalty. Likewise, if you are simply buying or selling cryptocurrencies, and not tapping into its underlying algorithm for further financial gains, it may not count as a royalty either.
What is the practical impact? If your crypto income is not a royalty, you might escape withholding tax in the other jurisdiction, as per Article 7. This is especially significant given crypto assets’ growing market capitalisation, which currently hovers around $1.2 trillion.
As cryptocurrencies continue to disrupt traditional financial systems and gain economic relevance, the regulatory landscape is ever-changing. Whether it is accounting standards or tax treatments, differences exist across countries—from complete bans to open-armed acceptance. It is crucial, then, to consult experts to understand how each jurisdiction treats crypto assets, as global policies are far from settled.
Boasting a global market cap nearing $1.2 trillion as of July 2023 (Rashi Maheshwari, Why Is the Crypto Market Rising Today?, Forbes Advisor), the crypto asset sector has entrenched itself as a mainstay in the financial landscape. This is even though it is still short of its 2021 zenith of nearly $3 trillion (Davis Chu and Victoria Schumacher, A Deep Dive Into Crypto Valuation, S&P Global). The crypto world is undeniably impactful but is still in a phase where policies and frameworks are very much a work in progress.
As the regulatory landscape for crypto assets is still developing, with very different positions being taken across jurisdictions. Accordingly, seeking expert advice from accounting and/or tax advisors is vital.
If you have questions about crypto assets, accounting and taxation challenges and would like to speak to an expert, please get in touch.