Growing interest in cryptocurrencies by unsophisticated investors is likely to attract the intense scrutiny of the Australian Taxation Office, says HLB Mann Judd.
Cryptocurrency is a key surveillance area for the tax office – it is engaging in external consultation in a bid to monitor tax compliance and ensure general awareness of the associated tax obligations.
"The ATO is meeting with key advisers including tax experts and lawyers who have an interest in cryptocurrencies, to explore common queries from clients, practical issues and the tax implications arising from cryptocurrency transactions. This will help inform the ATO’s strategy for supporting the community in understanding their tax obligations, including any further advice and guidance required," said an ATO spokesperson.
HLB Mann Judd’s tax consulting partner Peter Bembrick told InvestorDaily sister publication Accountants Daily accountants should expect the legislative and regulatory framework to be significantly firmed up.
Mr Bembrick also believes clients will have little chance of escaping ATO surveillance, given the traceability of data in cryptocurrency transactions.
This is particularly concerning for those who don’t understand that cryptocurrencies with characteristics similar to bitcoin are an asset for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes, as per the ATO’s update last year.
“Accodex has observed a spike in inquiries in recent months. Most of them are speculators that have made significant capital gains. I am also seeing a lot of unsolicited advice being handed out by non tax agents with respect to taxation of these gains in internet forums,” chief executive of Accodex Chris Hooper said.
Accountants and administrators alike are finding a notable spike in client inquiries about cryptocurrencies, often translating into trading. Often, these clients are not experienced investors.
“A lot of inquiries we get are from people that have never invested before and have relatively small holdings,” Mr Hooper said.
Similarly, superannuation administrators like Intello have seen a “significant” increase in inquiries from advisers, who are querying how to respond to their clients about the appropriateness of cryptocurrency for a super fund.
Intello executive director Kris Kitto said the FOMO (fear of missing out) in the market is notable – even in the advised space – likening it to the technology bubble of 2001 that followed a period of intense speculation and growth in internet-based companies, many of which went bust.
“It’s very much speculative at this stage, it’s not an investment. It’s more akin to gambling. There are too many unknowns, and we don’t think it’s a good strategic fit within superannuation,” Mr Kitto said.
“You don’t really know what stage of the investment cycle you’re at until it’s over.”