SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


At Bitcoin’s peak in November 2013, there were 93,000 global transactions made in a single day. These users purchased everyday items such as personal services, food, and real estate. This alone suggests that Bitcoin is not primarily used as a long-term investment tool, but rather is used as a currency and a vehicle for global transactions. Congress and the IRS should regulate it accordingly. Representative Stockman’s Virtual Currency Reform Act offered an attempt to negate the IRS decision and officially classify Bitcoin and other virtual currencies as currency instead of property. A tax reclassification would alleviate typical users’ many inconveniences caused by burdensome accounting and tax reporting. A reclassification would also allow and encourage the use of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies because imposing a sales tax on transactions similar to everyday currencies is a small change that most users would not find prohibitive or restrictive. While it is evident that there needs to be some form of IRS taxation of virtual currencies, attempting to classify Bitcoin according to existing tax principles is challenging and ineffective.

Although this is new technology and subsequently uncharted territory for many doctrines of law, the technology should be embraced and encouraged to prosper. For example, typical sales tax on transactions made on the internet are currently an unsolved dilemma. It gets even trickier trying to throw virtual currencies into the mix. Between complex tax law, jurisdictional issues, and the constant globalization of our economy, challenging legal questions will arise. Classifying certain Bitcoin transactions for a sales tax instead of a capital gains and losses tax is the first step in the right direction toward answering these difficult questions and encouraging the use of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies to further global trade in the future.