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UK tax authority clarifies policy on Bitcoin

Exchanging or mining bitcoins is exempt from value-added tax (VAT), but accepting the virtual currency for goods and services is subject to it, the U.K.’s tax authority said Monday.

The guidance should give those handling bitcoins a bit more confidence about tax questions, as authorities around the world mull how the five-year-old virtual currency should be regulated.

The U.K.’s HM Revenue & Customs described in a brief how it views Bitcoin in light of four taxes: value-added tax, corporation tax, income tax and capital gains tax.

While Bitcoin miners and those exchanging it for British pounds or foreign currency are exempt from VAT, people selling goods in exchange for virtual currencies are required to collect it. VAT is charged for most goods and services in the U.K. at a rate of 20 percent.

When goods are sold for bitcoins, the amount of VAT to be paid will be calculated based on “the sterling value of the cryptocurrency at the point when the transaction takes place.”

The guidance is murky on whether other activities involving Bitcoin are subject to corporation tax, income tax or capital gains tax. Like any other activity, the agency said, it “depends on the activities and the parties involved,” and each case will be considered on its own.

It offered one scenario: “For example, gambling or betting wins are not taxable and gambling losses cannot be offset against other taxable profits.”

“For businesses which accept payment for goods or services in Bitcoin there is no change to when revenue is recognized or how taxable profits are calculated,” the agency wrote.

“We have not at this stage identified any need to consider bespoke rules,” it said.

The same goes for income tax. “The profits and losses of a company entering into transaction involving bitcoin would be reflected in accounts and taxable under normal corporation tax rules.”

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