What are digital assets and at what amount does a digital asset become taxable income? In an era defined by technological innovation and digital transformation, the concept of wealth has evolved beyond traditional currencies and assets. The rise of digital assets, ranging from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) representing digital art and collectibles, has captured the imagination of investors, creators, and enthusiasts worldwide. 

As these digital treasures become more prevalent in our financial portfolios, a crucial question emerges: what are digital assets and how are they treated for tax filing purposes? 

At Steward Ingram & Cooper PLLC, a trusted Raleigh-based CPA firm, we recognize the importance of understanding the tax implications of digital assets. Join us as we navigate the complex tax landscape of digital assets so you remain compliant and reduce your taxable income when possible.

what are digital assets

What are Digital Assets? 5 Examples of Digital Assets

In the age of the internet and digital innovation, the concept of assets has expanded far beyond the physical realm, with many asking themselves, “What are digital assets and how do they affect tax filing?” Digital assets are intangible but hold substantial value, often manifesting in the form of data, code, or cryptographic tokens. They are defined by their uniqueness, scarcity, and the ability to be securely owned and transferred on blockchain technology.


Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are perhaps the most well-known digital assets. These decentralized digital currencies use cryptography to secure transactions and control the creation of new units.

Digital Tokens

Beyond cryptocurrencies, digital tokens are used to represent a wide array of assets and utilities within blockchain ecosystems. These tokens can represent ownership of a project, access to a platform, or even voting rights within a decentralized organization.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Non-fungible tokens are digital assets that are entirely unique and indivisible. They have gained massive popularity in the art, entertainment, and gaming industries, where they are used to represent ownership of digital art, collectibles, music, and virtual real estate.

Smart Contracts

Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code. They automatically execute actions when predetermined conditions are met, often used in decentralized applications (DApps) and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) platforms.

Digital Collectibles

These include virtual items, skins, and accessories in video games or virtual worlds like Fortnite, Decentraland, or Axie Infinity. Gamers and collectors trade and sell these digital assets for real-world value.

What are Digital Assets for Tax Purposes?

One of the key challenges in dealing with digital assets for tax purposes is determining how they should be classified. The classification of digital assets has a significant impact on how they are taxed and what reporting requirements apply. So, what are digital assets when it comes to tax matters?

Digital Assets as Property

what are digital assets when it comes to tax matters

For tax purposes, many countries, including the United States, classify digital assets as property rather than traditional currency. This means that each transaction involving digital assets, such as buying, selling, or trading, may trigger a capital gain or loss event, similar to buying and selling stocks or real estate. 

Key points regarding digital assets classified as property include:

  • Capital Gains Tax: Profits made from the sale or exchange of digital assets are typically subject to capital gains tax. The tax rate depends on the duration of ownership (short-term or long-term), but learn how to calculate your short-term or long-term capital gains tax with our guidelines.
  • Record-keeping: Taxpayers must keep meticulous records of all transactions, including dates, amounts, and the fair market value of the assets at the time of the transaction.

Digital Assets as Currency

Some jurisdictions treat certain digital assets, particularly cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as virtual currencies or digital equivalents of traditional money. In such cases, digital assets are considered a medium of exchange and not subject to capital gains tax when used for everyday transactions. 

Key points regarding digital assets classified as currency include:

  • Income Tax: Instead of capital gains tax, transactions using digital assets as a currency may be subject to income tax, just like receiving payment in any other currency.
  • Thresholds: Some tax authorities have thresholds for reporting income from digital asset transactions. Transactions below a certain value may not need to be reported.

Digital Assets as Investment

In some instances, digital assets may be classified as investments, particularly when they are held with the intent to generate income or profit over time. This classification can impact how gains and losses are treated for tax purposes. 

Key points regarding digital assets classified as investments include:

  • Investment Income: Gains from holding and trading digital assets as investments may be subject to specific investment income tax rates or reporting requirements.
  • Self-Directed IRAs: Some individuals invest in digital assets through self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), which offer tax advantages, but come with their own set of rules and regulations.

What are Digital Assets in the Eyes of the IRS?

Now that we’ve answered “What are digital assets for tax matters?”, let’s discuss digital assets in the eyes of the IRS. In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided guidance on the taxation of digital assets. The IRS treats cryptocurrencies as property for federal tax purposes. This means that individuals and businesses must report all cryptocurrency transactions, including buying, selling, and receiving payments, on their tax returns.

Form 1099

Cryptocurrency exchanges and payment processors may issue Form 1099-K or 1099-B to users, summarizing their cryptocurrency transactions. However, taxpayers are still responsible for accurate reporting, and discrepancies may trigger an audit by the IRS.

Cryptocurrency Reporting

The IRS has incorporated a question about cryptocurrency transactions on the front page of Form 1040, emphasizing the importance of accurate reporting.

Digital Assets and Income Tax Filing

In the context of tax filing, whether digital assets are recorded as taxable income depends on specific transactions and activities involving those assets. Digital assets are subject to taxation in various ways, and the treatment can differ based on your state’s tax laws and the nature of your digital asset activities. 

Receipt of Digital Assets as Payment

If you receive digital assets as payment for goods or services, the fair market value of the received assets is generally considered income and should be reported on your tax return. This applies to businesses and individuals.

Mining and Staking

When you mine or stake digital assets and receive rewards or newly created tokens, these rewards are often considered income at their fair market value when received.

Capital Gains

Profits from buying and selling digital assets, including trading and investment, may be subject to capital gains tax. The tax treatment (short-term vs. long-term) depends on how long you hold the asset before selling it.

Interest and Dividends

Earnings from lending or holding digital assets that generate interest or dividends are generally treated as income and may be subject to income tax.

Gifts and Inheritance

In some jurisdictions, receiving digital assets as gifts or through inheritance may have different tax consequences. Gift tax or inheritance tax may apply in certain cases.

Using Digital Assets for Purchases

Using digital assets to make purchases may be considered a taxable event in some locations, potentially triggering capital gains or losses based on the difference between the cost basis and the purchase price.

Working with a CPA Firm for Digital Asset Taxation

As the tax regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies and other digital assets continue to evolve, seeking professional guidance becomes increasingly important. Consulting a certified public accounting firm with expertise in digital asset taxation, such as Steward Ingram & Cooper PLLC, offers a multitude of benefits. 

Experience and Knowledge in Tax Compliance

Digital asset taxation is a complex and rapidly changing field, and staying current with tax laws and regulations is challenging. CPA firms such as Steward Ingram & Cooper PLLC dedicate themselves to continuous education and training to ensure they are up to date with the latest developments in digital asset taxation. 

Tailored Tax Planning

CPA firms are skilled in crafting personalized tax strategies to minimize your tax liability. They assess your unique financial situation, digital asset portfolio, and investment goals to develop a tax plan that aligns with your objectives. 

Comprehensive Record-Keeping

CPA firms emphasize the importance of maintaining meticulous records of your digital asset transactions, ensuring that you have a clear audit trail in case of IRS scrutiny. Their guidance on bookkeeping practices simplifies the process and provides you with peace of mind.

Risk Mitigation

Working with a CPA firm can help mitigate risks associated with incorrect reporting or misinterpretation of tax regulations. Their guidance ensures that your financial activities comply with the law and stand up to scrutiny.

Minimized Tax Liability

CPA firms use their expertise to identify tax-efficient strategies that minimize your tax liability. This includes tactics like tax-loss harvesting, structuring business activities for tax advantages, and leveraging tax-advantaged accounts. 

Ongoing Support

Digital asset taxation doesn’t stop at annual tax filing– it’s an ongoing process. CPA firms provide continuous support and guidance throughout the year. Whether you have questions about specific transactions, tax implications of new investments, or changes in tax laws, they are there to assist you at every step.

Contact Our Raleigh CPAs for Digital Asset Tax Prep and Filing Services

Ready to tackle your digital asset tax preparation and filing with confidence? Contact our team of Raleigh CPAs at Steward Ingram & Cooper PLLC today. 

Our CPA firm has knowledge of digital asset taxation and provides tailored solutions to help you optimize your tax strategy while ensuring full compliance with evolving tax regulations. Whether you’re an individual investor or a business involved in the digital asset space, we are here to assist you every step of the way. We can always assist you and answer, “What is a digital asset?” so you can ensure your tax return is compliant.

Contact us today by calling us at  (919) 872-0866 or filling out the form below to get started. 

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