What To Do With Cryptocurrency Losses

Matthew Erskine December 5, 2022

What To Do With Cryptocurrency Losses

Investors nursing losses from cryptocurrencies might wonder what they can do to reduce some of the pain. The author of this article has some ideas – they are linked to tax.

The stunning collapse and losses of FTX, which a few days ago declared bankruptcy in the US, has rattled the cryptocurrency sector and forced a new round of navel gazing in the wider financial sector. Investigations continue into what went wrong, and where responsibility lies. (See a related article here.) What can advisors do for clients who have lost money? 

In this article, regular writer Matthew Erskine, managing partner at his law firm, Erskine & Erskine, briefly considers some ideas.

The editors are pleased to share these views; the usual editorial disclaimers apply. Email

FTX filing for bankruptcy joins the line of failed cryptocurrencies and their platforms in 2022. Even such market dominant cryptocurrencies as bitcoin and Ethereum have lost an impressive amount of value this year. Many people and organizations are now holding cryptocurrencies which are either worthless or are worth only a small fraction of what they were purchased for. Some of these cryptocurrencies may recover their value but it may take years. Others may not or investors might not be able wait that long. Is there anything you can do? Yes, there is and it is called tax loss harvesting. 

The tax code allows investors to offset realized capital gains against realized capital losses and, if you do not have enough realized capital gains to offset the realized capital losses this year, you can take up to $3,000 against your ordinary income as a deduction, then carry the losses forward on your tax return and use them as an offset for future realized capital gains. 

To qualify for this tax harvesting you must meet the proper conditions. First, the cryptocurrency must be held in a taxable investment account, not in an IRA or other Qualified Deferred Compensation account. Second, you must actually sell the cryptocurrency. Some cryptocurrencies still have a small value, and some platforms will, for a fee, buy the cryptocurrency from you for zero value. Next, you must have actually realized capital gains in 2022, or after if you carry the losses forward.  Finally, you need to correctly report the loss to the IRS. 

You report losses on cryptocurrency on Form 8949 “Sales and other Dispositions of Capital Assets.” To complete form 8949 you will need the name of the cryptocurrency, the date you purchased it, the cost basis (usually the purchase price), the date you sold it, the sale price and the net gain or loss on the transaction. It is likely that the exchange or broker involved in the sale will issue you a 1099 in early 2023 with some of this information on it. Once you have done so, you will need to transfer that information to Schedule D of your income tax return.  

So, you can take advantage of your losses, however painful, if you can find capital assets that have appreciated and you can sell. Keep in mind, however, that if you die holding cryptocurrency or any other capital assets that show a loss, you will lose that loss since the asset will receive a new, stepped up, cost basis as of the date of your death.      

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