Cryptoassets held by individuals: What amounts to a disposal for capital gains tax purposes

09 August 2022

HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) continues to update and expand its guidance on the taxation of cryptoassets held by individuals. In this series, we will explore various tax topics relevant to individuals buying, holding and disposing of cryptoassets. This third article in the series considers what amounts to a “disposal” for capital gains tax purposes.

What constitutes a “disposal” for capital gains tax purposes is highly fact dependent, especially when considering transactions involving cryptoassets, since such disposals could take place in a wide variety of circumstances. Cryptoassets would typically be treated as disposed of when an individual:

  • sells tokens;
  • exchanges tokens for a different type of token;
  • uses tokens to pay for goods or services; and
  • makes gifts of tokens.

The above list is not exhaustive.

On the other hand, HMRC recognises that no disposal would take place if an individual retains beneficial ownership of the cryptoassets throughout the transaction, for example, by moving tokens between public addresses that the individual beneficially controls, which is commonly described as moving tokens between wallets.

HMRC has confirmed in its guidance that it would not regard using a mixer, tumbler or similar service as a disposal when an individual puts token A into the transaction and receives the same token A in return. However, using a mixer, tumbler or similar service would result in a disposal taking place if an individual puts token A into the transaction and receives token B in return.

In its guidance, HMRC does not express a view on whether transactions which involve transferring tokens between distributed ledgers would result in a disposal for capital gains tax purposes. In HMRC’s view, the answer would depend on the specific facts.

It should be noted that the usual capital gain tax reliefs and exemptions would, where relevant, apply equally to gains arising from disposals involving cryptoassets.

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Jargon Buster

Agency Database