File photo: INLSA
JOHANNESBURG - The South African Revenue Service (SARS) in a statement on Monday announced that it will continue to apply normal income tax rules to cryptocurrencies in the country.

Cryptocurrency (typified by Bitcoin) is an internet-based digital currency that exists almost wholly in the virtual realm. A growing number of proponents support its use as an alternative currency that can pay for goods and services much like conventional currencies.

In South Africa, the word “currency” is not defined in the Income Tax Act (the Act). Cryptocurrencies are neither official South African tender nor widely used and accepted in South Africa as a medium of payment or exchange. As such, cryptocurrencies are not regarded by SARS as a currency for income tax purposes or Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Instead, cryptocurrencies are regarded by SARS as assets of an intangible nature.

The revenue service says it expects affected taxpayers to declare cryptocurrency gains or losses as part of their taxable income.

"The onus is on taxpayers to declare all cryptocurrency-related taxable income in the tax year in which it is received or accrued. Failure to do so could result in interest and penalties," the statement read.

Taxpayers who are uncertain about specific transactions involving cryptocurrencies, depending on the nature of the transaction, have been urged to seek direction from SARS through channels such as Binding Private Rulings.

Following normal income tax rules, income received or accrued from cryptocurrency transactions can be taxed on revenue account under “gross income”. Alternatively such gains may be regarded as capital in nature, as spelt out in the Eighth Schedule to the Act for taxation under the CGT paradigm.

Determination of whether an accrual or receipt is revenue or capital in nature is tested under existing jurisprudence (of which there is no shortage).

Taxpayers are also entitled to claim expenses associated with cryptocurrency accruals or receipts, provided such expenditure is incurred in the production of the taxpayer’s income and for purposes of trade.

Value-Added Tax (VAT)

The 2018 annual budget review indicates that the VAT treatment of cryptocurrencies will be reviewed. Pending policy clarity in this regard, SARS will not require VAT registration as a vendor for purposes of the supply of cryptocurrencies.

The US federal government does not regulate cryptocurrencies, however the EU and UK have implemented strict regulations which demand transparency of information and shared data between markets and institutions.


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