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How To Write Off Crypto Losses On Your Taxes in the US and Canada?

Last Updated November 9, 2023 3:19 PM
Andrew Kamsky
Last Updated November 9, 2023 3:19 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Cryptocurrency is taxed as property, allowing strategic tax-loss harvesting to lower liabilities.
  • Accurate reporting of crypto transactions are required to avoid misreporting which may lead to penalties.
  • Understanding short-term vs. long-term crypto losses will optimize tax benefits for an investor.
  • Filing Form 8949 in the US and Schedule 3 in Canada is required for compliance.

Cryptocurrency taxation presents a complex landscape that can be difficult to navigate. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)  and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)  classify digital currencies as property and commodities, respectively, leading to distinct tax considerations for investors. This classification allows investors to use strategies like tax-loss harvesting or to avoid penalties for misreporting, which can have a substantial impact on their returns.

Understanding Crypto Losses

Understanding crypto losses is a good move for any investor in the crypto space to understand. A knowledge in this space enables investors to strategically navigate through tax liabilities, potentially reducing investor taxable income by offsetting gains with losses.

To begin, a crypto loss is realized when a digital asset is sold for less than its original purchase price. The realized decrease in value from the acquisition cost, when actualized through a sale or trade, constitutes a loss that can be reported for tax purposes. Essentially, it’s the opposite of a capital gain.

Two Primary Types Of Capital Losses

There are two primary types of capital losses recognized for tax purposes:

Short-Term Losses

Short-term losses occur upon the sale or exchange of a cryptocurrency that has been held for one year or less, and these are assessed and taxed at the standard income tax rate. 

Long-Term Losses 

Long-term losses result from the sale or exchange of an asset retained for more than one year. The tax treatment for long-term losses usually provides a more favorable rate for the investor, reflecting the incentive for long-term investment strategies.

What Is The Difference Between Short And Long Term Losses

It is important for investors to understand the differences between short-term and long-term losses, as this knowledge can be used to offset gains made, thereby potentially lowering their overall tax burden.

Understanding how to use losses to lower taxes is key. For instance, if the investor loses money on crypto held for a short time, it can reduce taxes on profit made from selling other crypto quickly. This can cut down on the total taxes you have to pay. Knowing the intricacies of this taxation rule is a smart move for anyone investing in crypto.

Legal Framework for Crypto Losses In The US

When reporting crypto transactions, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires the use of specific tax forms. 

Form 8949 

Form 8949 is used to list all capital transactions and to calculate the capital gains and losses for the tax year, which are then summarized on Schedule D of the individual’s tax return. These forms allow taxpayers to detail each cryptocurrency transaction, report the capital gain or loss, and calculate the tax liability. 

The meticulous reporting on these forms is critical for compliance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations and to ensure the accurate calculation of tax obligations related to cryptocurrency transactions.

Steps Involved To Fill Out Form 8949

To fill out Form 8949 for cryptocurrency transactions using Bitcoin as an example, follow these summarized steps below. It is important that the investor ensure that all information inputted into the form is accurate reflecting complete transaction history to comply with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. 

Form 8949
Form 8949

Export Transactions

Begin by exporting all Bitcoin transactions from exchanges, wallets, and other platforms. This usually can be done by downloading a CSV file from the wallet or exchange transaction history.

Calculate Gain/Loss

For each Bitcoin sale, the investor ought to take account of the details including; the description (e.g., 1 BTC), acquisition date, sale date, proceeds (sale price), cost basis (purchase price), and calculate said gain or loss.

Categorize Transactions

The investor next must sort transactions into two categories on Form 8949 being the; “Short-Term” for Bitcoin held less than a year, and “Long-Term” for Bitcoin held more than a year. This is important as long-term gains are taxed at a lower rate.

Select the Correct Checkbox

On Form 8949, the investor should choose the appropriate checkbox. Most likely, the investor will select box C if the investor did not receive a Form 1099-B from the exchange used.

Enter Disposal Details

Record the details of each Bitcoin disposal on separate lines in Form 8949 as per the information collected in Step 2. The investor should remember to report all sales and crypto-to-crypto transactions.

Report Net Gain/Loss on Schedule D

Finally, the investor should transfer the net gains or losses to Schedule D, categorized as “short-term” or “long-term” as recorded on Form 8949.

Seek Professional Assistance

As this process can be complicated, it is recommended to seek assistance from a tax professional.

Legal Framework for Crypto Losses in Canada

In Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) treats cryptocurrencies as commodities for taxation purposes. This approach has implications for the reporting and taxation of transactions involving cryptocurrency losses.

Cryptocurrencies are considered a commodity, and transactions are subject to the rules applied to barter transactions. This includes the exchange of cryptocurrency for goods, services, or other currencies. 

Below are some calculations that may be considered relevant to investors preparing crypto tax workings:

  • Calculation of adjusted cost base (ACB) for crypto assets: The ACB represents the cost of a cryptocurrency plus any associated costs to acquire it, such as fees and commissions. The ACB is crucial in determining the capital gain or loss upon disposition of the cryptocurrency.
  • How to declare crypto losses on taxes (Schedule 3): Crypto losses are reported on Schedule 3, which is used for reporting capital gains or losses from the disposition of capital properties.

Steps Involved to Declare Crypto Losses on Schedule 3

Schedule 3
Schedule 3

Record Keeping

Accurate and up-to-date records of all cryptocurrency transactions must be maintained, detailing purchase and sale dates, transaction amounts, and the Adjusted Cost Base (ACB).

Calculate Capital Gains or Losses

Calculations should be performed to ascertain the difference between the proceeds of disposition and the ACB, thereby determining the capital gain or loss for each transaction.

Categorize Transactions

Transactions are to be categorized into the current tax year or as carry forward losses where applicable.

Complete Schedule 3

Details of each transaction must be meticulously entered on Schedule 3, including descriptions, dates, proceeds of disposition, ACB, and the resulting gain or loss.

Net Gains and Losses

The sums of all transactions should be aggregated to ascertain the net capital gains or losses for the tax year.

File with Income Tax Return

Schedule 3 must be included with the tax return to report capital gains or losses to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Carry Forward Losses

Net capital losses may be carried back up to three years or carried forward indefinitely to be applied against capital gains in subsequent years.

Seek Professional Assistance

Given the intricacies of these calculations and the precision required for accurate reporting, engaging professional advice or employing tax software specifically designed for Canadian tax requirements is advisable. This ensures adherence to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines and correct processing of cryptocurrency transactions for tax purposes.

Common Pitfalls In Cryptocurrency Tax Reporting

When preparing tax documents, investors must be vigilant to avoid common mistakes that can lead to legal repercussions and financial losses, such as:

Inaccurate Reporting Of Income And Losses

A frequent error in tax filings is the misrepresentation of the value of cryptocurrency transactions. It is essential for all capital transactions to be reported with precision to reflect the correct amount of income and losses.

Omission Of Crypto-To-Crypto Trades

Each exchange of one cryptocurrency for another must be reported as a taxable event. Ignoring these transactions can lead to discrepancies in reported income and may attract penalties.

Non-Disclosure Of Theft Or Scam Losses

Losses incurred due to theft, fraud, or scams involving cryptocurrency must be reported. Neglecting to include these losses can result in an overstated tax obligation and a missed opportunity to claim a potential deduction.

Tax-loss Harvesting Strategy With Cryptocurrency

Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy used by savvy investors to lower their tax bill. This involves selling cryptocurrencies that are at a loss and using those losses to offset any capital gains taxes. 

By realizing a loss, investors can reduce their taxable income, as these losses are deductible against the gains. The timing of these sales is critical, with the end of the tax year being a particularly opportune moment to assess which assets to sell to maximize tax benefits.

Tax-loss harvesting is permitted in the United States. This strategy is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and can be particularly advantageous for investors in the volatile cryptocurrency market. When conducting tax-loss harvesting, it’s important to be mindful of the “wash sale” rule, which does not currently apply to cryptocurrencies as it does to stocks and securities. 

Allowing more flexibility for investors to repurchase the same digital asset without waiting for a 30-day period.


Investors choosing to navigate the tax landscape must ensure a keen awareness of how the IRS and CRA classify cryptocurrencies, and a strategic approach to leveraging potential tax benefits. 

Tax-loss harvesting emerges as a pivotal technique, allowing investors to reduce taxable income by offsetting it with losses, a method especially beneficial at the fiscal year’s end. 

In both the United States and Canada, the completion of tax forms such as Form 8949 and Schedule 3 is necessary for compliance and accurate representation of crypto transactions. 


How are cryptocurrency losses treated for tax purposes?

Cryptocurrency losses are treated as capital losses and can be used to offset capital gains, reducing overall tax liability in the US and Canada.

What are short-term and long-term crypto losses?

Short-term losses arise from selling crypto held for less than a year, while long-term losses are from sales of crypto held for longer than a year.

How do you report cryptocurrency on tax forms?

In the US, use Form 8949 to report each transaction and Schedule D to summarize capital gains and losses. In Canada, use Schedule 3.

Can you deduct crypto losses from income?

Yes, crypto losses can be deducted against capital gains, and excess losses may be carried forward to future years to offset future gains.

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