What you should know about digital currency

What is digital currency?

Digital currency is virtual money that can be used to buy and sell goods or services on the Internet. Bitcoins are an example of digital currency. Bitcoins are not controlled by central banks or any country, and can be traded anonymously. Bitcoins can be bought and sold in return for traditional currency, and can also be transferred from one person to another.

Do tax rules apply when digital currency is used?

Yes. Where digital currency is used to pay for goods or services, the rules for barter transactions apply. A barter transaction occurs when any two persons agree to exchange goods or services and carry out that exchange without using legal currency. For example, paying for movies with digital currency is a barter transaction. The value of the movies purchased using digital currency must be included in the seller’s income for tax purposes. The amount to be included would be the value of the movies in Canadian dollars.

More information on the tax implications of barter transactions is available by consulting the Canada Revenue Agency’s Interpretation Bulletin IT-490, Barter Transactions.

Digital currency can also be bought or sold like a commodity. Any resulting gains or losses could be taxable income or capital for the taxpayer. Paragraphs 9 to 32 of Interpretation Bulletin IT-479R, Transactions in Securities, provide information that can help in determining whether transactions are income or capital in nature.

Should I be concerned about reporting requirements when using digital currency?

Not reporting income from domestic or foreign sources is illegal. Canadians should know that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is very active in pursuing cases of non-compliance, in order to ensure that the tax system remains fair for everyone.

If required, you should take this opportunity to correct your tax affairs through the CRA’s Voluntary Disclosures Program. For more information, go to www.cra.gc.ca/voluntarydisclosures.

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