DeFi Taxes in the USA: From Basics to Reporting [2024]

Navigate DeFi taxes in the USA with ease. Learn the basics, taxable events, and how to report with Blockpit's expert guide for 2024.

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Key Takeaways

  • DeFi transactions, including trading on DEXs, staking, and liquidity mining, are taxable events in the US, subject to either capital gains or income tax based on the nature of the transaction.
  • Understanding and accurately reporting DeFi activities is crucial for compliance, with tools like Blockpit simplifying the process by automating tax calculations and offering expert support.
  • The IRS has yet to release specific guidance for many DeFi activities, making it essential for investors to stay informed and consult professionals to navigate the complex tax landscape.
Written by
Florian Wimmer
Last Updated:
March 7, 2024
Chapter 1

Introduction to DeFi and Taxation Basics

Exploring the Foundations of DeFi and Key Tax Considerations.

<div fs-richtext-component="info-box" class="info-box"><div class="flex-info-card"><img src="" loading="eager" width="64" height="64" alt="" class="icon-info-box"><div fs-richtext-component="info-box-text" class="info-box-content"><p class="color-neutral-800">Starting January 1, 2024, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act requires reporting 10,000$+ crypto transactions to the IRS. Yet, the Treasury and IRS deferred digital asset reporting until new regulations are set, promising future guidance and public input on these rules. We keep you informed! </p></div></div></div>

Navigating the evolving landscape of DeFi taxes in the US has become crucial as the IRS sharpens its focus on crypto compliance. This guide delves into the tax implications of DeFi activities and offers insights on accurately reporting DeFi transactions. With the dynamic nature of regulatory changes, understanding these nuances is key. For comprehensive details, consult Blockpit's extensive US crypto tax guide, ensuring you stay ahead in your tax preparations.


Understanding DeFi in the USA

What is DeFi?

Decentralized Finance (DeFi) represents a revolutionary approach in the financial sector, boasting a total value locked (TVL) of approximately 93 billion USD as of March 2024, as reported by Defillama. 

This innovative system spans numerous decentralized applications (DApps) and blockchain protocols, offering a compelling alternative to traditional financial services. DeFi is characterized by its ability to operate without intermediaries, such as banks, to facilitate financial transactions. This is achieved through the use of smart contracts - self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code, ensuring a borderless, transparent, and unrestricted financial environment.

Overview of DeFi Taxation

In the US, interactions with DeFi protocols are taxable events, though the complexity of these transactions brings about some ambiguities regarding their tax treatment. Currently, there's no DeFi-specific guidance from the IRS, but basic tax rules still apply.

Profits from selling assets are considered capital gains, while cryptocurrencies received directly are categorized as income. The distinction depends on the transaction's nature—whether it's capital- or revenue-based.

Capital Gains Tax applies to spending, swapping, or trading crypto, reflecting the profit from selling an investment above its purchase price. On the other hand, activities perceived as generating income, such as staking or minting tokens, are subject to income tax. This framework aims to categorize DeFi transactions correctly, ensuring they're taxed appropriately as either capital gains for trades of appreciated crypto or as income for tokens received through DeFi activities.

Key Taxable Events in DeFi

Trading on Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs)

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

Trading on decentralized exchanges (DEXs) introduces a unique aspect of crypto taxation. On DEXs, you can buy, sell, or trade crypto tokens directly through automated market makers (AMMs), bypassing centralized platforms.

Every swap of digital assets, including crypto-to-crypto trades, is considered a taxable event by the IRS. Whether you're trading Bitcoin for Ethereum or stablecoins for another cryptocurrency, such transactions attract Capital Gains Tax (CGT). However, CGT doesn't apply when purchasing crypto with fiat currency like USD.

It's crucial to track your transactions carefully, as recording a loss in these trades can offset against your profits, potentially reducing your overall tax liability. Remember, every trade on a DEX has tax implications, emphasizing the need for meticulous record-keeping to ensure accurate tax reporting.

Staking Rewards and Taxes

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

Staking rewards in the world of cryptocurrency involve locking your assets in a smart contract to validate transactions and support the network, in return for token rewards. This activity is fundamental in several blockchain protocols like Ethereum, Cardano, and various Layer 2 solutions, each offering unique rewards and staking mechanisms.

The IRS hasn't issued specific guidance on staking taxation. Yet, the prevailing industry practice, aligned with IRS rules on similar income types, treats staking rewards as taxable income. This means the fair market value of the rewards at the time you receive them should be reported as income. Additionally, if you decide to swap these earned tokens, the transaction will trigger capital gains tax, calculated based on the difference between the tokens' acquisition cost and their value at the time of the trade. Essentially, staking rewards are taxed as income upon receipt and are subject to capital gains tax when exchanged.

Airdrops: Taxable Income

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div>

Airdrops in the DeFi ecosystem are a popular method used by new projects to reward early supporters and attract new users, often requiring recipients to meet certain criteria, such as holding a specific cryptocurrency or engaging with a dApp. When you receive tokens through an airdrop, the IRS taxes these as regular income, based on the market value of the assets at the time they're received, as clarified by Rev. Rul. 2019-24.

Furthermore, if you decide to trade or swap these airdropped tokens, you'll trigger a taxable event with Capital Gains Tax (CGT) applicable on any increase in value from the time you received them to when they were exchanged. Tools like Accointing can help manage and track airdrops, distinguishing legitimate ones from potential scams, ensuring accurate reporting and preventing double taxation on these digital assets.

Liquidity Mining and Tax Obligations

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div>

Liquidity mining introduces a unique tax scenario within the DeFi space. By contributing to liquidity pools on platforms like Uniswap and Curve, you earn LP tokens, which reflect your share and participation in the pool. These activities aren't just pivotal for enabling seamless trades but also offer you a way to accrue earnings, either through transaction fees or token rewards.

However, engaging in liquidity mining brings tax obligations. The IRS, while not providing specific guidelines for liquidity pool transactions, suggests that exchanging assets for LP tokens is taxable. This is because you're trading one type of asset for another, with the tax liability hinging on the value difference at the time of the exchange. Similarly, rewards from LP tokens are taxable upon receipt, akin to income from mining or staking.

Furthermore, reverting LP tokens back to the original assets constitutes another taxable event, requiring careful calculation of gains or losses based on the tax basis of the LP tokens versus the received assets' value. This process underscores the importance of detailed record-keeping for accurate tax reporting, considering the potential for impermanent losses which further complicates the tax implications of liquidity mining.

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Chapter 2

DeFi Operations and Their Tax Implications

Exploring Tax Implications of Lending, Borrowing, and other Key DeFi Activities.

Participating in DeFi Platforms

Transactions on Uniswap

Uniswap, a leading decentralized exchange, allows for cryptocurrency trades, liquidity pool contributions, and NFT transactions. Its V2 version introduced ERC-20 token pair trading with a constant product market maker model for stable token pricing. V3 further advanced this by enabling liquidity providers to specify price ranges, optimizing fund allocation and reducing slippage. Each Uniswap version caters to different trading strategies and preferences.

Is Switching from Uniswap V2 to V3 Taxable?

Regarding tax implications, transitioning between Uniswap V2 and V3 generally doesn't constitute a taxable event, as your asset holdings remain unchanged. However, the added functionalities in V3, like fee structuring and specified liquidity ranges, could potentially trigger capital gains taxes if the IRS views it as reallocating liquidity within specified price bands. It's essential to consider these aspects when engaging with Uniswap to ensure compliance with tax obligations.

Lending in DeFi

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div>

In DeFi, lending protocols like Aave, Compound, and MakerDAO enable users to lend their cryptocurrencies within liquidity pools, using crypto as collateral for loans. These platforms are favored for their simplicity, competitive interest rates, transparency, and security measures.

Lending your crypto into a pool isn't considered a taxable event. Yet, receiving a token that symbolizes your stake in the lending pool could be taxable, treated as exchanging one crypto asset for another, thus potentially incurring Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Additionally, interest earned on your lent assets is taxable. Any tokens received as interest or rewards for lending are subject to ordinary income tax. Should you trade these interest-earned tokens for other cryptocurrencies, it triggers a capital gains tax event. It's important to keep track of these transactions to ensure proper tax reporting and compliance.

Borrowing in DeFi

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-tax-free" class="tax-status-pills tax-free"><div>Tax Free</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-tax-free" class="tax-status-pills tax-free"><div>Tax Deductable</div></div>

In DeFi, borrowing allows individuals to obtain loans directly through smart contracts, using their crypto assets as collateral, without an intermediary. This process is supported by platforms such as Aave, Compound, and Oasis, operating on blockchains like Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain. Borrowers secure loans with collateral, typically valued higher than the loan amount to mitigate risk, pay interest, and repay the borrowed amount.

Borrowing cryptocurrency does not incur income taxes, and using crypto to repay a loan is not deductible as a business expense. However, if a position is liquidated, the loss can be used to offset other capital gains. Furthermore, tokens received as incentives for borrowing or from earnings on the borrowed funds are considered taxable income at their fair market value (FMV) upon receipt. Selling or exchanging these tokens later may result in capital gains tax based on any appreciation in value. For accurate tax reporting and compliance, consulting with a tax professional is recommended.

The Tax Landscape of Yield Farming

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div>

Yield farming offers a strategic approach to enhance your token earnings through lending or staking on DeFi platforms. By contributing crypto assets to a liquidity pool, you're rewarded based on your provided liquidity, leveraging smart contracts for potentially high returns. However, yield farming comes with risks such as impermanent loss and market volatility. Protocols like Beefy Finance and Convex are notable in this space.

Currently, specific tax regulations for yield farming remain undefined. Nonetheless, it's crucial to recognize that rewards received in the form of new cryptocurrencies are taxed as income, based on their value at receipt. Profits generated from yield farming activities are subject to capital gains tax. Whether you're enhancing your position for better yields or trading reward assets, these transactions are considered crypto-to-crypto trades, thus taxable under capital gains tax. To ensure compliance with tax obligations, consider consulting a tax professional for guidance on reporting your yield farming activities accurately.

Advanced Tax Considerations in DeFi

Taxation of DeFi Bridging

DeFi bridges facilitate interaction between different blockchain networks by locking assets on one chain and minting equivalent assets on another. This process expands DeFi's possibilities, with protocols like Hop connecting major blockchains. However, navigating the tax implications requires caution. Bridging—moving assets across chains—might be taxed as a crypto-to-crypto trade in some jurisdictions, considering the change in smart contracts, despite holding equivalent assets. Conversely, it could be viewed as a non-taxable transfer if the asset's market value remains unchanged.

Wrapping tokens for cross-chain transfers also triggers a taxable event. Given the complexity and variability in tax treatment, consulting with a cryptocurrency tax specialist is crucial for compliance. To streamline tracking and reporting of bridge transactions, leveraging crypto tax software like Blockpit ensures you manage DeFi activities efficiently and avoid potential tax complications.

DAO Participation and Taxes

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div>

Participating in Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) introduces you to a unique aspect of the crypto world, where operations are governed by smart contracts without centralized control. Members of DAOs like Maker DAO and Decred can earn rewards through governance, liquidity provision, or other contributions. It's important to understand that any tokens, including governance tokens or NFTs received from DAO activities, must be reported as income on your tax return. This applies whether the tokens are compensation for services or rewards for participation.

When you sell these tokens later, any profit made is subject to cryptocurrency capital gains tax. Therefore, actively managing and reporting your earnings from DAOs is crucial to ensure compliance with tax regulations. Remember, the tax implications of your participation can significantly impact your financial planning, so keep accurate records of all transactions and consult with a tax professional if necessary.

Synthetic Assets in the Tax Code

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

Synthetic assets, representing blockchain-based derivatives created via smart contracts, offer a unique financial instrument in the crypto space. These tokens, deriving their value from external price feeds or oracles, allow users to engage with the value of a diverse range of assets, from stocks to other cryptocurrencies, without directly holding the underlying asset. Protocols like Synthetix and UMA facilitate the creation and redemption of these assets, enabling users to deposit collateral and later retrieve it by returning the synthetic asset.

From a taxation perspective, the IRS categorizes synthetic assets as derivatives and thus treats them as property. This classification means that any transactions involving synthetic assets, including buying and selling them for a profit, are subject to capital gains tax. The tax implications can vary based on the specifics of each transaction, underscoring the importance of consulting with a tax professional experienced in cryptocurrency to ensure accurate reporting and compliance with tax regulations.

Margin Trading Taxes

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

In the realm of decentralized finance (DeFi), margin trading allows users to amplify their trading capabilities by borrowing funds. Utilizing smart contracts, margin trading platforms on blockchains like Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, and Solana determine how much users can borrow based on the collateral deposited. While options trading offers the ability to buy or sell assets at predetermined conditions, margin trading directly leverages borrowed funds to trade, presenting both opportunities for significant profits and risks of loss or liquidation depending on market movements.

Tax-wise, the IRS mandates the reporting of gains and losses from both options and margin trading as capital gains, except for trades executed as regulated contracts on regulated exchanges—a scenario unlikely in DeFi. Thus, profits from margin trading activities in DeFi are taxed under capital gains tax rules. Similarly, gains or losses from options trading are treated based on the execution or expiry of the option. It's crucial to meticulously record all trades and ensure accurate reporting on your tax return to prevent any legal or financial repercussions.

Futures Trading Taxes

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

In DeFi, futures and derivatives let users speculate on assets like Bitcoin or Ethereum through smart contracts. These tools, involving collateral for trading positions, adapt as asset prices change. Futures contracts enable bets on price movements, while derivatives' value comes from the asset's price. 

For tax purposes, profits or losses from these DeFi activities generally fall under capital gains tax. Exceptions exist for regulated futures contracts on recognized exchanges, not applicable to DeFi. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange's Bitcoin futures are treated under unique tax laws, including annual adjustments. It's vital to document transactions meticulously for accurate tax compliance in DeFi's futures and derivatives trading.


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Chapter 3

Special Topics and Tax Solutions in DeFi

Exploring Tax Implications of Wrapping, Play 2 Earn and other Advanced DeFi Activities.

Specific DeFi Tax Challenges

Rebasing Tokens: A Tax Perspective

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

Rebasing tokens dynamically adjust their supply to stabilize prices, with algorithms minting or burning tokens based on market conditions. This unique mechanism presents both opportunities and risks, including high volatility and potentially challenging liquidity for trading. Before diving into rebasing tokens like Ampleforth ($AMPL), it's crucial to thoroughly understand these aspects.

Tax treatment for rebasing tokens in the US remains unclarified by the IRS. Generally, when you sell rebasing tokens, any gains or losses may be subject to capital gains tax. The fungibility of these tokens means that their sale, alongside any market-driven adjustments in token supply, could impact your tax obligations. For detailed guidance on managing taxes for rebasing tokens, especially regarding adjustments in supply, consulting a tax professional is advised.

Wrapped Tokens and Their Tax Treatment

Wrapped tokens bridge assets between blockchains, allowing interaction with assets not native to a specific chain. They're issued by a custodian holding the underlying asset, enabling cross-chain interoperability crucial in the DeFi ecosystem. For example, Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) and RenBTC let Bitcoin interact on the Ethereum blockchain.

The tax treatment of wrapped tokens involves nuanced considerations. Trading wrapped tokens for other cryptocurrencies is seen as disposing of assets, subject to capital gains tax as a crypto-to-crypto trade. This is because wrapping often grants benefits beyond those of the original asset, like access to additional protocols.

The IRS has yet to clarify wrapped tokens' tax implications. Therefore, wrapping might not be considered a tax-neutral event. If you're engaging with wrapped tokens, it's essential to consult a tax professional to accurately navigate their tax implications, ensuring compliance with current tax laws while considering each transaction's unique aspects.

Insurance Protocols: Navigating Taxes

DeFi insurance protocols safeguard against risks like smart contract failures and hacking, offering coverage through pooled investor funds. When participating, users deposit into a smart contract to generate returns and provide coverage. In events like Oracle malfunctions or liquidity issues, those insured may receive payouts. Protocols like Nexus Mutual and InsurAce exemplify decentralized insurance, offering transparent, trustless coverage.

Tax treatment of DeFi insurance is intricate. Generally, insurance premiums might be deductible against investment income, depending on the policy type and premium amount. This deduction applies if the insurance payments are business-related. Given the complex nature of these protocols and the evolving tax landscape, consulting with a tax professional is crucial. They can guide you through potential deductions and ensure compliance with current regulations, helping you navigate the tax implications of DeFi insurance protocols effectively.

The Taxation of Flashloans

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div>

Flashloans present a unique tax scenario in the DeFi space. These loans, offered by protocols like Aave and Uniswap, let you borrow funds without collateral, using them for trading strategies within a single transaction. If you can't repay, the deal reverses, but you lose any gas fees paid. 

Despite their speed, flashloans are taxed like any other asset sale. If you profit from the sale of cryptocurrency assets acquired through a flashloan, those profits are subject to Capital Gains Tax. This means you must report any gains from these rapid transactions on your tax return, similar to more traditional trading activities. Remember, the swift nature of flashloans doesn't exempt you from tax obligations, underscoring the importance of tracking these transactions for accurate tax reporting.

Play 2 Earn Gaming and Tax Obligations

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-capital-gains-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Capital Gains Tax</div></div> <div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-income-tax" class="tax-status-pills"><div>Income Tax</div></div>

Play-to-earn (P2E) games in DeFi offer an innovative avenue for players to earn cryptocurrency through blockchain-based gaming. By engaging in activities like quests and puzzles, players accumulate tokens which can then be traded for cryptocurrencies or fiat. Some notable P2E games include Axie Infinity, where players manage creatures called Axies, and Star Atlas, a game set in space.

While the tax specifics for earnings from play-to-earn games are not yet clearly defined, it's essential to remember that these earnings may be taxable. If you receive new tokens through P2E games, the fair market value of those tokens on the day they're acquired typically determines your income tax liability. Additionally, any profits from selling or exchanging these earned tokens are subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT). As the DeFi gaming landscape continues to evolve, keeping abreast of potential tax obligations is crucial to ensuring compliance and avoiding unexpected tax bills.

Deducting Gas Fees on Your Tax Return

<div fs-richtext-component="tax-status-tax-free" class="tax-status-pills tax-free"><div>Tax Deductable</div></div>

When you're acquiring cryptocurrency, the gas fees you pay can be added to your cost basis, potentially reducing your tax liability when you sell or exchange the asset. However, it's important to note that not all gas fees are deductible. Only those directly related to the purchase of a cryptocurrency asset can be included in your cost basis. For gas fees that don't clearly tie to acquiring an asset, current tax guidelines don't consider them deductible. This distinction can significantly impact your tax calculations.

Given the complexity of determining which gas fees are deductible, consulting a tax advisor is advisable. A professional can help clarify which of your gas fees can be factored into your cost basis and which cannot. This guidance is crucial, especially if you've incurred substantial gas fees, to ensure you're accurately reporting your taxes and optimizing potential deductions.

Simplifying DeFi Tax Reporting

Navigating DeFi taxes becomes simpler with Blockpit's crypto tax software. Blockpit streamlines DeFi tax reporting with its wide range of integrations, making compiling crypto transactions effortless. Connect accounts via API, Public Key or upload data with supported CSV formats, and Blockpit calculates your taxes accurately, ensuring compliance. 

Blockpit doesn’t only simplify tax season but also offers expert support to finalize your tax submissions efficiently. Use Blockpit to ease your DeFi tax reporting, focusing more on your investments and less on tax complexities.

The Benefits of Crypto Tax Software Like Blockpit
The Benefits of Crypto Tax Software Like Blockpit
Table of content
Chapter 4

Your Blockpit Crypto Tax Report

Automate your tax return with the crypto tax calculator.

Optimize & File Your DeFi Taxes With Blockpit

Blockpit creates the most comprehensive crypto tax reports in PDF format. The report provides information about all your balances and transactions and can be used as proof of origin with banks or tax advisors. It contains all relevant transactions of your account in the selected tax year and shows details such as timestamp, amount, asset, costs and fees of the individual transactions.


Using Blockpit couldn’t be easier:

1. Import your transactions

Blockpit offers direct integrations for crypto exchanges, wallets and DeFi protocols. Automatically import your transactions via API integration, wallet address synchronization, or by manually uploading an Excel file. 

Discover all crypto integrations

2. Validate & Optimize

Blockpit offers smart insights and suggestions to optimize your tax report, fix issues, add missing values and to validate your transactions.

3. Generate your tax report

Generate your compliant tax report with the click of a button. Our tax engine calculates your tax report on the basis of the US tax framework.

Blockpit US Crypto Tax Report Overview
Blockpit US Crypto Tax Report Overview
Blockpit US Crypto Tax Report Form 1040
Blockpit US Crypto Tax Report Form 1040
Blockpit US Crypto Tax Report Gains and Losses Summary
Blockpit US Crypto Tax Report Gains and Losses Summary
Table of content


How Can You Profit from DeFi?

DeFi presents various opportunities for earning, such as lending, staking, yield farming, and liquidity mining. Each method carries unique risks and tax implications. It's essential to research thoroughly and consider professional advice from specialists like TokenTax during tax season.

What Should You Do If You Fall Victim to a DeFi Rug Pull Scam?

In the event of a loss from selling or trading your cryptocurrency, report it as you would any trade loss. However, if you still hold tokens that are inaccessible due to scams or liquidity issues, current tax laws do not allow for writing them off. Seeking detailed guidance from a tax advisor is recommended.

How Does the IRS Tax DeFi Transactions?

As of now, the IRS has not issued specific guidance for DeFi. However, existing cryptocurrency tax rules apply to DeFi transactions, subjecting your DeFi activities to potential income or capital gains tax.

Are Any DeFi Transactions Considered Non-Taxable?

Some DeFi transactions may be viewed as non-taxable by tax experts. TokenTax provides an option for users to classify such transactions as “Migration,” based on their tax professional’s interpretation, preventing the realization of capital gains or losses on the asset being wrapped.

Sources & References

All accessed on 03/01/2024

Update Log
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general information purposes only. The information was completed to the best of our knowledge and does not claim either correctness or accuracy. For detailed information on crypto regulations, we recommend contacting a certified legal advisor in the respective country.