HMRC and Crypto Currency

The taxation of cryptoassets is complex and may not be as intuitive as some might think. Do you know that buying an NFT can create a tax charge?

This can lead to an unexpectedletter from HMRC. There are two letters that you or your clients may receive: either an enquiry notice or a nudge letter. An enquiry letter is particularly unpleasant because HMRC will ask questions and expect answers. Less worrying are nudge letters, which are intended as a prompt to take action. This is not an enquiry and, whilst it is recommended to make sure all tax affairs are up to date, does not mean that HMRC always requires, or expects, a reply. Nudge letters are either targeted to a particular risk that needs to be corrected or are “educational” to identify common errors.

HMRC is now undertaking the second nudge campaign. A big surprise here is that HMRC has sent them by email’ Thus far, the number of emails sent is unclear, but HMRC does not just send a nudge to everyone. These target people they believe have cryptoassets so reviewing your tax affairs  is sensible as HMRC can track who does, or does not, amend their tax return.

Mistakes can be easily made, as not all cryptoasset owners are aware of the fact that crypto-to-crypto transactions are taxable. If there are concerns that tax has not been declared, then check the previous tax return and, if necessary, make a disclosure.

If there is a tax liability, it is best to come forward before HMRC opens an enquiry. The reason to make a disclosure is that the penalties can be lower, possibly even nil. This is because if HMRC subsequently opens an enquiry and finds an error, the failure to take action following a nudge letter could lead to higher penalties being charged (potentially up to 200% of the tax due).

Penalties are based on facts and circumstances, making it advisable to seek advice. Disclosures need to be carefully considered to ensure that a full disclosure has been made and all relevant information is provided in a timely manner. HMRC recently set up a new disclosure service for cryptoassets, so the focus on crypto is not going away. If there has been a deliberate understatement, then use the Contractual Disclosure Facility to provide some degree of protection from prosecution.

HMRC gathers information from a wide range of sources. It can pull information directly from cryptoasset exchanges and can also use international tax treaties to gather data. The recent announcement from HM Treasury highlights the push for tax transparency on cryptoassets. More than 50 jurisdictions have agreed to ratify, with HMRC receiving a large amount of information. Once added to Connect, HMRC’s data analysis tool, the tax authority will be able to match and risk assess taxpayers in the data.

The world of cryptoassets is becoming ever smaller and more visible. Disclosures remain a tricky business and it is always good practice for individuals to seek professional advice if they receive a nudge or enquiry letter.