Germany cryptocurrency tax: Introduction
In an eagerly anticipated announcement, the German Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) has clarified its view on the taxation of cryptocurrencies.
In addition to the position on the buying and selling of crypto, the guidance also sets out the position on activities such as mining, staking, lending, and other transactions.
The nature of cryptocurrencies
The German tax man has determined that units of cryptocurrencies are economic goods. These ‘goods’ are attributable to the owner as the holder of the private key.
In cases where the wallet and private key is managed by a third party provider (such as Coinbase or Binance) then the asset is attributable to the beneficial owner of the cryptoassets.
Key issue: Private activity v commercial activity
Like many jurisdictions, the key issue for determining the tax position on any profits generated is whether the transactions take place through personal activity or in the conduct of a commercial activity.
In this regard, the BMF has confirmed that investors who hold their cryptocurrency as personal assets can sell them free of tax as long as they hold the assets for at least one year.
This is welcome as, in previous missives, the BMF had stated that the holding period was ten years for private investors.
This one-year period does not apply if the cryptocurrency is held as business assets.
Again, as per other jurisdctions, in many cases the distinction between commercial and private activity might be a blurred one and is an area ripe for dispute.
It should be noted that if cryptocurrencies are held by a domestic corporation such as a GmbH then the income is always considered to be commercial.
Mining and Forging activities
The authorities have also set out the position for other blockchain activities including:
- Mining in a proof of work consensus mechanism; and
- Forging in a proof of stake consensus mechanism
It seems to be the case that the German tax authorities will assume that such activity is commercial in nature.
The block creation leads to an acquisition (not to a production!) of the asset, which has to be recognized at the market price at the time of acquisition (profit-increasing). Only at the time of the realization of the proceeds from a future sale are any acquisition costs to be deducted from the profit.
Only the staking (without taking over the block creation), as well as, if applicable, the participation in mining and staking pools or a cloud mining service may again fall within the scope of private asset management. However, again, this depends on the individual case.
The authorities has also set out its view on the acquisition of cryptocurrencies received by private investors in the context of airdrops. Here, the receipt of the new tokens may be taxable where the recipient of the airdrop has dome something in return for the airdrop.
Perhaps surprisingly, the authority considers it sufficient for this purpose that the recipient is required to provide contact details on an online form.
Where nothing is done in return for the airdrop then there are no tax consequences (although German gift taxes might be in point on the receipt).
Conclusion - Germany Cryptocurrency tax
Of course, this additional clarity is helpful. Of course, the fact that an private investor can dispose of assets free of tax after 12 months is very welcome for relevant investors.
It remains to be seen whether there will be further missives from the German tax authorities that include their position regarding Non‑Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and other types of assets and activities.
If you have any queries about this article, German cryptocurrency tax, or the matters discussed more generally, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
The content of this article is provided for educational and information purposes only. It is not intended, and should not be construed, as tax or legal advice. We recommend you seek formal tax and legal advice before taking, or refraining from, any action based on the contents of this article
For further resource on crypto assets please see www.cryptotaxdegens.com.