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Crypto Hedge Funds Face Tax Uncertainty

With US government scrutiny focusing in on cryptocurrencies, hedge funds face tense uncertainty due to the unclear tax regulations regarding digital currency assets.

Trying to play by the rules

With billions of dollars on the line, cryptocurrency hedge fund managers face a challenge when trying to fully comply with tax laws just as individual investors do. Their jobs required them to maximize profits while minimizing liabilities, but with few guidelines regulating their holdings, there is a lack of direction for this to take place in a fully legal manner.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is attempting to keep up with the pace of innovation with regulations, last month announcing that the large business and international division would focus on cryptocurrency audits in the coming year. Bigger tax bills and penalties have been threatened by the government department when the rules come in.

Clay Littlefield, a tax attorney for Alston & Bird in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Forbes that there is indeed a lot of uncertainty considering how the IRS will treat cryptocurrencies in the near future. Littlefield acknowledged that while there is plenty of analogies that can be placed on circumstances, there is not a lot of solid legal framework for investors to reference.

Why the lack of clarity?

There are several key factors that have contributed to this uncertain climate. Most crucially, regulatory bodies such as the IRS have been slow in laying out their full positions on digital currency.

Karl Walli, senior counsel at the Treasury Department’s office of tax policy earlier this year told tax professionals there is a ”long list” of issues the IRS needs to address, adding that planned new tax laws would increase the efficiency of comprehending all these problems. Walli said: “There’s no way in this environment that we’re going to be able to put out guidance on the majority of those issues.”

In 2014, the IRS settled on considering crypto as property, not currency, meaning that investors, miners and those earning wages in Bitcoin would be required to report profits and losses as is required with property. The market was dominated at this time by small investors; hedge funds trading in cryptocurrency has created problematic issues for the concept of crypto as property which has yet to be addressed.

Ultimately, funds may well end up owing more in taxes than their current estimations, dependent on the IRS’s decision.  David Shakow, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania Law School assumes that the lack of guidance right now may well provide a solid defense for hedge funds, regardless of future implementations.

For now, however, offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands have begun to attract big investors looking to avoid the necessity of following the unclear US tax regulation, although operations investing in cryptocurrencies for a foreign investor have not yet been legitimized by the IRS as non-taxable by the US.

 

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