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加密货币基金很糟心:美国国税局要查税,却不给纳税指南

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加密货币基金很糟心:美国国税局要查税,却不给纳税指南

持有数十亿美元加密货币的数十家对冲基金不知道它们计算的应纳税款是否正确,这可能是一个大问题,因为美国当局已经表示税务部门将对投资机构的虚拟货币进行审查。

像个人纳税人一样,投资比特币、以太币和其他数字货币的机构投资者发现,很少有关于加密货币纳税的指导方针,即使有,也是含糊不清的。因此,许多基金试图在不知道具体法规的情况下尽量减少其法律责任。

在美国国家税务局(IRS)7月宣布虚拟货币将成为其对大型企业和国际分部的审计重点之后,税务问题成为了机构投资者头疼的大问题。新一批的加密基金可能需要缴纳更多的税款,甚至是罚款。

部分问题源于监管机构对虚拟货币做出明确定义的速度非常之慢。美国国税局认为它们是财产而不是货币。商品期货交易委员会(CFTC)表示加密货币是商品,如果美国国税局同意,可以提供一些税收优惠。

当美国国税局上个月将虚拟货币添加到其“合规运动”列表时,它表示未报告交易的纳税人应该更正他们的真实回报,但IRS没有考虑推行主动披露计划,这使得纳税人可以减少他们违法的刑事和民事责任。

2014年,美国国税局表示,虚拟货币通常被视为财产以用于税收目的。交易比特币的投资者需要以与其他财产相同的方式报告收益和损失,加密货币“矿工”和其他获得收益的人都要报告。当时,大多数比特币交易都是由小投资者完成的。在过去两年中,越来越多的对冲基金开始交易加密货币,由此引发了一系列新的问题,但美国国税局未出台相关解决方案。

即使在今年暴跌55%之后,比特币的市值也达到了1115亿美元。摩根士丹利估计,2017年投资公司推出了84个加密货币对冲基金,持有约20亿美元的虚拟货币。

离岸基金

许多对冲基金希望CFTC视多数虚拟货币为商品的观点能让更多人接受。过去的几年里,一些联邦法官也强调,应将加密货币视为商品。

基金通常在开曼群岛或其他低税收管辖区内为不居住在美国的投资者设立离岸工具。如果基金运作正常,交易商品、股票或其他证券的收入不需要填写美国纳税申报表,也不需要让外国投资者向美国政府纳税。加密基金似乎也这样认为,但IRS和法庭未给出明确回应。

其他投资公司试图重构资金结构,这样就不会在公司层面上纳税。豁免的要求之一是至少90%的基金收入来自某些类型的收入。虽然某些类型的交易不符合要求,但商品交易通常会通过测试。

今年或出台部分指导意见

税务专家在过去一年中一直在敦促联邦官员提供明确的说明,部分指导意见可能很快就会出台。美国财政部税务政策办公室高级法律顾问Karl Walli在6月份参加税务专业人士聚会时表示,美国国税局了解到有一长串需要解决的问题,财政部可能会在今年尽快公布一些细节。

如果基金的猜想和假设与美国国税局最终决定的结果相冲突,那么基金最终可能需要缴纳更多税款。但是,只要它们的假设是合理的,IRS就不太可能要求加密基金缴纳税收和利息之外的罚金,宾夕法尼亚大学法学院名誉教授David Shakow说。

Shakow说:

“正因为国税局没有发布任何指导,这实际上会为你采取的任何立场提供辩护。”

Bitcoin Investing Is Creating Tax Predicaments for Hedge FundsDozens of hedge funds investing billions of dollars in cryptocurrencies don't know if they're calculating their taxes correctly, which may be a problem now that U.S. authorities have said they're going to be scrutinizing virtual currencies.

Just like individual taxpayers, institutional investors that have plunged into Bitcoin, Ether and other digital currencies are finding there are few guidelines governing their holdings, and those that exist are murky. As a result, many funds have tried to minimize their liabilities without really knowing what the rules are.

That could all come to a head later this year, following an announcement by the Internal Revenue Service in July that virtual currencies would be a focus of audits for its large business and international division. The new batch of crypto funds could face bigger tax bills, or even penalties.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty about how the IRS will come down on virtual currency," said Clay Littlefield, a tax attorney for Alston & Bird in Charlotte, North Carolina. "There are some good arguments for why this analogy or that analogy should apply, but there's not a lot there."

Part of the problem stems from how slow regulators have been to define their views of virtual currencies. The IRS considers them to be property rather than currency. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission says they're commodities, which could open up some tax advantages if the IRS agrees.

When the IRS added virtual currencies to its list of "compliance campaigns" last month, it said taxpayers with unreported transactions should correct their returns but that it wasn't contemplating a voluntary disclosure program, which lets taxpayers limit their criminal and civil liabilities for breaking the rules.

In 2014, the IRS said virtual currencies would generally be treated as property for tax purposes. Investors who traded Bitcoin would need to report gains and losses the same way they would other property, as would cryptocurrency "miners" and others who got paid with it.

At that time, most Bitcoin trading was done by small investors. In the past two years, more hedge funds have started trading cryptocurrencies, creating a new set of issues that the IRS has still left unaddressed.

Even after plunging 55 percent this year, Bitcoin has a market capitalization of $111.5 billion. Morgan Stanley estimated that investment firms launched 84 cryptocurrency hedge funds in 2017, which hold about $2 billion-worth of virtual currencies.

Offshore Funds

The burgeoning interest is leading some tax firms to devote increasing resources to sorting out the tax issues created when a hedge fund buys virtual currencies.

Seward & Kissel, a New York law firm that focuses on hedge funds, started a cryptocurrency practice last year and now advises more than two dozen crypto funds, said Brett Cotler, one of the firm's tax attorneys.

Many hedge funds hope that the CFTC's view that many virtual currencies are commodities prevails. Some federal judges have also reinforced that the currencies should be treated as commodities over the last couple of years.

Funds often set up offshore vehicles in the Cayman Islands or other low-tax jurisdictions for investors who don't live in the U.S. If the fund is operated correctly, income from trading commodities, stocks or other securities won't trigger the need for a U.S. tax return or for foreign investors to pay U.S. taxes.

Funds that invest in cryptocurrencies on behalf of foreign investors are now acting as if that means they can avoid filing a U.S. tax return, but the IRS or courts haven't confirmed that position, Cotler said.

Other investment firms try to structure their funds so that they're not taxed at the corporate level. One of the requirements of the exemption is that at least 90 percent of the funds' earnings come from certain kinds of income. While some kinds of trading don't qualify, trading in commodities generally passes the test.

'Long List'

Tax experts have urged federal officials to provide clarity over the past year, and some guidance may be coming soon. Karl Walli, senior counsel at the Treasury Department's office of tax policy, told a gathering of tax professionals in June that the IRS understood there's a "long list" of issues to address, and that Treasury could release some details as soon as this year.

Still, he said the implementation of the new tax law would limit the resources needed to answer all outstanding questions.

"There's no way in this environment that we're going to be able to put out guidance on the majority of those issues," Walli said.

Funds could end up owing more taxes if their guesswork runs afoul of what the IRS ultimately decides. But as long as their assumption was reasonable, the agency is unlikely to pursue penalties beyond taxes and interest, said David Shakow, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

"The fact that they haven't issued guidance will certainly give a defense for whatever position you take," Shakow said.

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