March 2018

Cryptocurrencies: Trader Tax Status Benefits And Section 475 Issues

March 14, 2018 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Active cryptocurrency (coin) traders can qualify for trader tax status (TTS) to deduct trading business expenses and home-office deductions. TTS is essential in 2018: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended investment expenses, and the IRS does not permit employee benefit plan deductions on investment income. A TTS trader can write off health insurance premiums and retirement plan contributions by trading in an S-Corp with officer compensation.

The benefits of Section 475
There’s an additional critical tax benefit with TTS: Electing Section 475 mark-to-market accounting (MTM) on securities and/or commodities. Section 475 turns capital gains and losses into ordinary gains and losses thereby avoiding the $3,000 capital-loss limitation and wash-sale loss adjustments on securities (this is what I like to call “tax-loss insurance”). Many coin traders incurred substantial trading losses in Q1 2018, and they would prefer ordinary loss treatment to offset wage and other income. Unfortunately, most coin traders will be stuck with significant capital-loss carryforwards and higher tax liabilities.

There are benefits to 475 income, too. The new tax law ushered in a 20% pass-through deduction on qualified business income (Section 199A), which likely includes Section 475 ordinary income, but excludes capital gains. Trading is a specified service activity, requiring the owner to have taxable income under a threshold of $315,000 (married) or $157,500 (other taxpayers). There is a phase-out range above the limit of $100,000 (married) and $50,000 (other taxpayers).

The IRS says cryptocurrency is intangible property
In March 2014, the IRS issued long-awaited guidance declaring coin “intangible property,” before regulators thoroughly assessed coin. Section 475 is for securities and commodities and does not mention intangible property. An AICPA task force on virtual currency asked the IRS for further guidance (AICPA letter), including if coin traders could use Section 475. The IRS has not yet replied. When an investor holds cryptocurrencies as a capital asset, they should report short-term vs. long-term capital gains and losses on Form 8949. (See Cryptocurrency Traders Owe Massive Taxes For 2017.)

SEC and CFTC weigh in
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently stated Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) might be securities offerings, which most likely need to register with the SEC. It further said coins or tokens might be securities, even if the ICO calls them something else. According to an SEC statement, “If a platform offers trading of digital assets that are securities and operates as an “exchange,” as defined by the federal securities laws, then the platform must register with the SEC as a national securities exchange or be exempt from registration.” (See SEC ICO information.)

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) defined cryptocurrencies as commodities in 2015. During a March 7, 2018, CNBC interview, Commissioner Brian Quintenz said the CFTC has enforcement authority, but not oversight authority, over cryptocurrencies traded in the spot market on coin exchanges. The CFTC has enforcement and oversight authority for derivatives traded on commodities exchanges, like Bitcoin futures.

Also on March 7, 2018, a U.S. district judge in New York ruled in favor of the CFTC, stating “virtual currencies can be regulated by CFTC as a commodity.” (See Cryptos Are Commodities, Rules US Judge In CFTC Case.)

Will the IRS change its mind?
There is a long-shot possibility the IRS could change its tune to treat cryptocurrency as a security and or a commodity as a result of recent actions from the SEC and CFTC, including the statements mentioned above. Then coin might fit into the definition of securities and/or commodities in Section 475. Until and unless the IRS updates its guidance, coin is intangible property, which is not listed in Section 475.

If you incurred substantial trading losses in cryptocurrencies in Q1 2018, and you qualify for TTS, you might want to consider making a protective 2018 Section 475 election on securities and commodities by April 17, 2018 (or by March 15 for partnerships and S-Corps). The IRS has a significant workload drafting regulations for the new tax law, and with limited resources, I don’t expect it to update coin guidance shortly.

There is a side effect of making a 475 election on commodities: If you also trade Section 1256 contracts, you surrender the lower 60/40 capital gains rates. Perhaps, you only trade coin and don’t care about Section 1256 contracts. If coin is deemed a commodity for tax purposes, it’s still likely not a Section 1256 contract unless it lists on a CFTC-registered qualified board or exchange (QBE). Coin exchanges or marketplaces are currently not QBE.

Section 475 provides for the proper segregation of investment positions on a contemporaneous basis, which means when you buy the position. If you have a substantial loss in coin that you’ve held onto for months before the sale, the IRS will likely consider it a capital loss on an investment position.

Bitcoin futures
Bitcoin futures trade on the CME and CBOE exchanges. The product appears to be a regulated futures contract (RFC) trading on a U.S. commodities exchange, meeting the tax definition of a Section 1256 contract. That means it also fits the description of a commodity in Section 475.

Section 1256 contracts have lower 60/40 capital gains tax rates, meaning 60% (including day trades) are taxed at the lower long-term capital gains rate, and 40% are taxed at the short-term rate, which is the ordinary tax rate. Section 1256 is mark-to-market accounting, reporting unrealized gains and losses at year-end.

TTS traders usually elect 475 on securities only to retain these lower rates on Section 1256 contracts. A Section 1256 loss carryback election applies the loss against Section 1256 gains in the three prior tax years, and unused amounts are carried forward.

If a TTS trader has a substantial loss in Bitcoin futures, he or she should consider making a 2018 Section 475 election on commodities for ordinary loss treatment. (See Consider 475 Election By Tax Deadline To Save Thousands.)

Cryptocurrency investment trusts
According to Grayscale’s website, the company is “the sponsor of Bitcoin Investment Trust, Bitcoin Cash Investment Trust, Ethereum Investment Trust, Ethereum Classic Investment Trust, Litecoin Investment Trust, XRP Investment Trust and Zcash Investment Trust. The trusts are private investment vehicles, are NOT registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.” The Grayscale cryptocurrency investment trusts list on OTC markets.

According to its prospectus, Bitcoin Investment Trust is a Grantor Trust, a publicly traded trust (PTT). “Treatment of an interest in a grantor trust holding crypto assets means that you have to look through the trust envelope to the underlying positions,” says New York tax attorney Roger Lorence JD.

It’s similar to other PTTs; like the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) with long-term capital gains using the collectibles tax rate applicable to precious metals. With the look-through rule, the cryptocurrency investment trusts are subject to taxation as intangible property.

Excess business losses
The new tax law limits current year business losses to $500,000 (married) and $250,000 (other taxpayers) starting in 2018. The excess business loss carries forward as a net operating loss (NOL). In 2017, there wasn’t a limit, and taxpayers could carryback NOLs two tax years and/or forward 20 years. Section 475 losses often generated immediate tax refunds from NOL carryback returns. At least NOL carryforwards are better than capital loss carryovers.

Several coin traders face a tax trap
They had massive capital gains in 2017 and had not yet paid the IRS and state their 2017 taxes owed. Meanwhile, in Q1 2018, their coin portfolios significantly declined in value, and they incurred substantial trading losses. They now face a significant tax problem: They need to sell cryptocurrencies to raise cash to pay their 2017 tax liabilities due by April 17, 2018. That would leave many of them with little coin left to continue trading. They may choose to file their automatic extensions without tax payment or a small payment and incur a late-payment penalty of 0.5% per month by the extension due date of Oct. 15, 2018. They are banking on coin prices increasing and thereby generating trading gains by Oct. 15. It reminds me of trading on margin; only the bank (in this case, tax authorities) cannot force a sale now. (See Tax Extensions: 12 Tips To Save You Money.)

A Section 475 election is not a savior in this situation: Section 475 turns 2018 capital losses into ordinary losses on TTS positions, but the IRS no longer allows NOL carryback refunds. In prior years, a trader with this problem could hold the IRS at bay, promising to file an NOL carryback refund claim to offset taxes owed for 2017.

Mining inventory vs. capital assets
When a miner receives coin, it’s revenue. The net income after mining expenses is ordinary income and self-employment income. If the miner converts that coin from mining inventory to a capital asset, subsequent sales or exchanges of that coin are capital gains and losses, not ordinary income or loss. Most coin accounting programs assume a conversion to capital asset treatment takes place. However, a miner may not intend to convert coin to a capital asset, and instead leave the coin in inventory. A subsequent sale or exchange would then be an ordinary gain or loss as part of the mining business.

How to qualify for trader tax status
Are you unsure if you are eligible for TTS? Here are the GreenTraderTax golden rules for qualification based on an analysis of trader tax court cases and years of tax compliance experience.

- Volume: three to four trades per day. Don’t count when the coin exchange breaks down an order into multiple executions.
- Frequency: trade executions on 75% of available trading days. If you trade five days per week, you should have trade orders executed on close to four days per week.
- Holding period: The Endicott court required an average holding period of fewer than 31 days.
- Hours: at least four hours per day, including on research and administration.
- Taxable account size: material to net worth, and at least $15,000 during the year.
-Intention to make a primary or supplemental living. You can have another job or business, too.
- Operations: one or more trading computers with multiple monitors and a dedicated home office.
- Automation: You can count the volume and frequency of a self-created automated trading system, algorithms or bots. If you license the automation from another party, it doesn’t count.
- A trade copying service, using outside investment managers and retirement plan accounts don’t count for TTS.

If you qualify for TTS, claim it by using business expense treatment rather than investment expenses. TTS does not require an election, but 475 does.

In 1997, Congress recognized the growth of online trading when it expanded Section 475 from dealers to traders in securities and commodities. It was when I created GreenTraderTax, urging clients and followers in chat rooms to elect 475 for free tax-loss insurance. When the tech bubble burst in 2000, those that followed my advice were happy to get significant tax refunds on their ordinary business losses with NOL carrybacks. I wish Section 475 were openly available to all TTS coin traders now.

Darren Neuschwander CPA contributed to this blog post.

 


Tax Extensions: 12 Tips To Save You Money

March 5, 2018 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

Individual tax returns for 2017 are due April 17, 2018, however, most active traders aren’t ready to file on time. Some brokers issue corrected 1099Bs right up to the deadline, or even beyond. Many partnerships and S-Corps file extensions by March 15, 2018, and don’t issue Schedule K-1s to investors until after April 17. Many securities traders struggle with accounting for wash sale loss adjustments.

The good news is traders don’t have to rush completion of their tax returns by April 17. They should take advantage of a simple one-page automatic extension along with payment of taxes owed to the IRS and state. Most active traders file extensions, and it’s helpful to them on many fronts.

Tip 1: Get a six-month extension of time
Request an automatic six-month extension of time to file individual federal and state income tax returns by Oct. 15, 2018. Form 4868 instructions point out how easy it is to get this automatic extension — no reason is required. It’s an extension of time to file a complete tax return, not an extension of time to pay taxes owed. Estimate and report what you think you owe for 2017 based on your tax information received.

Tip 2: Avoid penalties from the IRS and state for being late
Learn how IRS and state late-filing and late-payment penalties apply so you can avoid or reduce them to your satisfaction. 2017 Form 4868 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) page two states:

“Late Payment Penalty. The late payment penalty is usually ½ of 1% of any tax (other than estimated tax) not paid by April 17, 2018. It is charged for each month or part of a month the tax is unpaid. The maximum penalty is 25%. The late payment penalty won’t be charged if you can show reasonable cause for not paying on time. Attach a statement to your return fully explaining the reason. Don’t attach the statement to Form 4868. You’re considered to have reasonable cause for the period covered by this automatic extension if both of the following requirements have been met. 1. At least 90% of the total tax on your 2017 return is paid on or before the regular due date of your return through withholding, estimated tax payments, or payments made with Form 4868. 2. The remaining balance is paid with your return.

Late Filing Penalty. A late filing penalty is usually charged if your return is filed after the due date (including extensions). The penalty is usually 5% of the amount due for each month or part of a month your return is late. The maximum penalty is 25%. If your return is more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is $210 (adjusted for inflation) or the balance of the tax due on your return, whichever is smaller. You might not owe the penalty if you have a reasonable explanation for filing late. Attach a statement to your return fully explaining your reason for filing late. Don’t attach the statement to Form 4868.”

Tip 3: File an automatic extension even if you cannot pay
Even if you can’t pay what you estimate you owe, make sure to file the automatic extension form on time by April 17, 2018. It should help avoid the late-filing penalty, which is ten times more than the late-payment penalty. So if you can’t pay in full, you should file your tax return or extension and pay as much as you can.

An example of late-payment and late-filing penalties: Assume your 2017 tax liability estimate is $50,000. Suppose you file an extension by April 17, 2018, but cannot pay any of your tax balance due. You file your actual tax return on the extended due date of Oct. 15, 2018, with full payment. A late-payment penalty applies because you did not pay 90% of your tax liability on April 17, 2018. The late-payment penalty is $1,500 (six months late x 0.5% per month x $50,000). Some traders view a late-payment penalty like a 6% margin loan.

By simply filing the extension on time in the above example, you avoided a late-filing penalty of $11,250 (six months late x 5% per month [25% maximum], less late-payment penalty factor of 2.5% = 22.5%; 22.5% x $50,000 = $11,250). Interest is also charged on taxes paid after April 17, 2018.

Tip 4: Add a payment cushion for Q1 2018 estimated taxes due
Traders with 2018 year-to-date trading gains and significant tax liability in the past year should consider making quarterly estimated tax payments this year to avoid underestimated tax penalties.

I recommend the following strategy for traders and business owners: Overpay your 2017 tax extension on April 17, 2018, and plan to apply an overpayment credit toward Q1 2018 estimated taxes. Most traders don’t make estimated tax payments until Q3 and or Q4 when they have more precise trading results. Why pay estimated taxes for Q1 and Q2 if you incur substantial trading losses later in the year?

It’s a better idea to pay an extra amount for the extension to set yourself up for three good choices: A cushion on 2017 if you underestimated your taxes, an overpayment credit toward 2018 taxes, or a tax refund for 2017 if no 2018 estimated taxes are due.

Tip 5: Consider a 2018 Section 475 MTM election
Traders eligible for trader tax status should consider attaching a 2018 Section 475 election statement to their 2017 tax return or extension. These are due by April 17, 2018, for individuals and corporations and March 15 for partnerships and S-Corps. Section 475 turns capital gains and losses into ordinary gains and losses, thereby avoiding the capital-loss limitation and wash-sale loss adjustments on securities (i.e., tax-loss insurance). Furthermore, the 20% pass-through deduction on qualified business income subject to taxable income limitations applies to Section 475 income. (Read Consider 475 Election By Tax Deadline To Save Thousands and How To Become Eligible For Trader Tax Status Benefits.)

Tip 6: File when it’s more convenient for you
Sophisticated and wealthy taxpayers know the “real” tax deadline is Oct. 15, 2018, for individuals and Sept. 17, 2018, for pass-through entities, including partnership and S-Corp tax returns. Pass-through entities file tax extensions by March 15, 2018. (See March 15 Is Tax Deadline For S-Corp And Partnership Extensions And Elections.)

You don’t have to wait until the last few days of the extension period like most wealthy taxpayers. Try to file your tax return in the summer months.

Tip 7: Be conservative with tax payments
I’ve always advised clients to be aggressive but legal with tax-return filings and look conservative with cash (tax money). Impress the IRS with your patience on overpayment credits and demonstrate you’re not hungry and perhaps overly aggressive to generate tax refunds. It’s a wise strategy for traders to apply overpayment credits toward estimated taxes owed on current-year trading income. You want to look like you’re going to be successful in the current tax year.

The additional time helps build tax positions like qualification for trader tax status in 2017 and 2018. It may open opportunities for new ideas on tax savings. A rushed return does not. For example, a significant trading gain or loss during the summer of 2018 could affect some decision-making about your 2017 tax return.

Tip 8: Get more time to fund qualified retirement plans
The extension also pushes back the deadline for paying money into qualified retirement plans including a Solo 401(k), SEP IRA and defined benefit plan. The deadline for 2017 IRA contributions is April 17, 2018. If you did a Roth IRA conversion in 2017, the extension adds six months of time to recharacterize (unwind) the conversion. That may come in handy if the stock market drops in Q2 and Q3 2018.

Tip 9: Respect the policies of your accountants
Your accountant can prepare extension forms quickly for a nominal additional cost related to that job. There are no fees from the IRS or state for filing extensions. Be sure to give your accountant tax information received and estimates for missing data.

Your accountant begins your tax compliance (preparation) engagement, and he or she cuts it off when seeing a solid draft to use for extension filing purposes. Your accountant will wait for final tax information to arrive after April 17, 2018. Think of the extension as a half-time break. It’s not procrastination; accountants want tax returns finished.

Please don’t overwhelm your tax preparer the last few weeks and days before April 17 with minor details in a rush to file a complete tax return. Accounting firms with high standards of quality have internal deadlines for receiving tax information for completing tax returns. It’s unwise to pressure your accountant, which could lead to mistakes or oversights in a rush to file a complete return at the last minute. That doesn’t serve anyone well.

Tip 10: Securities traders should focus on trade accounting
It doesn’t matter if your capital loss is $50,000 or $75,000 at extension time: Either way, you’ll be reporting a capital loss limitation of $3,000 against other income. In this case, don’t get bogged down with trade accounting and reconciliation with Form 1099Bs until after April 17. The capital loss carryover impacts your decision to elect Section 475 MTM for 2018 by April 17, 2018, but an estimate is sufficient.

Consider wash-sale loss rules on securities: If you know these adjustments won’t change your $3,000 capital loss limitation, you can proceed with your extension filing. But if you suspect wash-sale loss adjustments could lead to reporting capital gains rather than losses, or if you aren’t sure of your capital gains amount, focus your efforts on trade accounting before April 17. (Consider our trade accounting service.)

Section 1256 contract traders can rely on the one-page 1099B showing aggregate profit or loss. Forex traders can depend on the broker’s online tax reports. Wash sales don’t apply to Section 1256 contracts and forex. Cryptocurrency traders should use coin trade accounting programs to generate Form 8949.

Tip 11: Don’t overlook state extensions and payments
Some states don’t require an automatic extension for overpaid returns; they accept the federal extension. If you owe state taxes, you need to file a state extension with payment. States tend to be less accommodating than the IRS in abating penalties, so it’s usually wise to cover your state taxes first if you’re short on cash. Check the extension rules in your state.

Tip 12: U.S. residents abroad should learn the particular rules
U.S. citizens or aliens residing overseas are allowed an automatic two-month extension until June 15, 2018, to file their tax return and pay any amount due without requesting an extension. (See Form 4868 page 2, and the IRS website.)

Bonus Tip: FinCEN grants permanent automatic extensions for FBARs
Over a year ago, “The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced that, to implement the new due date for FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), of April 15 (April 18 for 2017), it will automatically grant all taxpayers filing the form a six-month extension every year to Oct. 15 (which will be Oct. 16, 2017, because Oct. 15 is a Sunday). FinCEN explained that this six-month extension will be automatic each year and that taxpayers do not have to request extensions,” per Journal of Accountancy.

Cryptocurrency (coin) is not currency; the IRS labels it “intangible property.” IRS flow charts for what’s reportable on FBAR and or Form 8938 (Statement of Foreign Financial Assets) indicate that intangible property is not reportable on those forms. Some tax attorneys suggest including cryptocurrency held on foreign coin exchanges on FBAR forms to play it safe. FinCEN officials said they are not expecting to see cryptocurrency (“virtual currency”) reported on FBARs for 2017. If a U.S. resident sells cryptocurrency for currency and holds that currency on a foreign coin exchange, that currency is reportable on FBAR. FinCEN recently raised its significant penalty amounts for failure to file FBAR to keep pace with inflation.

 

 

 


March 15 Is Tax Deadline For S-Corp And Partnership Extensions And Elections

March 3, 2018 | By: Robert A. Green, CPA | Read it on

March 15, 2018, is the deadline for filing 2017 S-Corp and partnership tax returns, or extensions, 2018 S-Corp elections, and 2018 Section 475 elections. Don’t miss any of these tax filings or elections; it could cost you.

2017 S-Corp and partnership tax extensions
Extensions are easy to prepare and e-file for S-Corps and partnerships since they pass through income and loss to the owner, usually an individual. Pass-through entities are tax-filers, but not taxpayers. 2017 individual and calendar-year C-Corp tax returns or extensions with taxes owed are due April 17, 2018.

Some states have S-Corp franchise taxes, excise taxes, or minimum taxes, and payments are usually due with the extensions by March 15.  LLCs filing as a partnership may have minimum taxes or annual reports due with the extension by March 15.

2017 S-Corp and partnership extensions give six additional months to file a tax return, by Sep. 17, 2018.

The IRS late filing penalty regime for S-Corps and partnerships is similar. The IRS assesses $200 per owner, per month, for a maximum of 12 months. Taxpayers may request penalty abatement based on reasonable cause. Ignoring the extension deadline is not reasonable cause. There is also a $260 penalty for failure to furnish a Schedule K-1 to an owner on time, and the penalty is higher if intentionally disregarded. States assess penalties and interest, often based on payments due.

2018 S-Corp elections
Traders qualifying for trader tax status and interested in employee benefit plan deductions, including health insurance and retirement plan deductions, probably need an S-Corp. They should consider a 2018 S-Corp election for an existing trading entity, due by March 15, 2018, or form a new entity and file an S-Corp election within 75 days of inception. Most states accept the federal S-Corp election, but a few states do not; they require a separate S-Corp election filing by March 15. If you overlooked filing a 2017 S-Corp election by March 15, 2017 and intended to elect S-Corp tax treatment as of that date, you may qualify for IRS relief. (See Late Election Relief.)

2018 Section 475 MTM elections for S-Corps and partnerships
Traders, eligible for trader tax status, should consider attaching a 2018 Section 475 election statement to their 2017 tax return or extension due by March 15, 2018, for partnerships and S-Corps, or by April 17, for individuals and corporations. Section 475 turns capital gains and losses into ordinary gains and losses thereby avoiding the capital loss limitation and wash sale loss adjustments (tax loss insurance). There are also benefits to 475 income: The 20% pass-through deduction on qualified business income subject to taxable income limitations. (Read Consider 475 Election By Tax Deadline To Save Thousands.)

If a trader wants to revoke a prior year Section 475 election, a revocation election statement is due by March 15, 2018. (See New IRS Rules Allow Free And Easy Section 475 Revocation.)

Tax compliance services
Green, Neuschwander & Manning LLC offers tax compliance services to traders, which include tax preparation and tax planning. If you haven’t signed up yet for our entity and individual service, do so immediately, so we can prepare your extensions and consider the above elections on time. Alternatively, discuss the above matters with Robert A. Green, CPA in a consultation.

 


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