Singapore Won't Tax Airdrops or Hard Forks Under New Crypto Guidance

Singapore’s tax authority has clarified how it taxes the transaction of payment, utility and security tokens.

AccessTimeIconApr 20, 2020 at 4:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. UTC

Singapore’s tax authority will not take a cut of airdropped cryptocurrency so long as the recipient gets it for free, according to an income tax treatment guide published Friday.

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's (IRAS) e-tax guide fills in the tax gaps for so-called “digital tokens,” a catch-all for three crypto types: payment tokens, used to by goods and services; utility tokens, which represent a right to goods and services; and security tokens, or digital securities. Each has a new definition and corresponding tax treatment from the IRAS. 

Meant as a guide for consumers and businesses as well as issuers of initial coin offerings (ICO), the guide describes a fragmented approach for an industry still coming into form.

The tax guide also clarifies procedures for more obscure crypto events. For example, IRAS will not levy income taxes against airdropped payment tokens or those that come from a blockchain hard fork, which is a “windfall.” Like other payment tokens, nontraditionally delivered cryptos will nonetheless be taxable on transactions.

IRAS’ guide considers payment tokens such as bitcoin to be “intangible property” instead of legal tender. If a consumer pays in bitcoin he is engaging in “barter trade” for which the goods and services are taxed, not the payment token itself. The same goes for businesses that can value their goods’ tax burden against government-issued money metrics. 

Where things get tricky is determining the tax burden of a good or service with a value natively represented in crypto. A contractor who agrees to do a job for three bitcoins, for example, has no surefire way to calculate his tax because the IRAS has no “methodology to value payment tokens.”

The IRAS therefore mandates that taxpayers self-determine a “reasonable and verifiable” exchange rate from widely available services such as Coinbase and Binance.

Utility token transactions, conversely, are “unlikely” to trigger a taxable event for the user, whose acquisition of them as a right to future services “will be treated as prepayment.” In fact, utility tokens’ use will actually be deductible under the guide.

Security tokens operate under the same loose tax laws Asia’s tax haven applies to other securities. Singapore levies no capital gains tax on securities of any kind and sparingly taxes dividends depending on the issuer, leaving security tokens taxable only when classified as a “revenue asset.”

Singapore's investor-friendly tax scheme leaves security token ICO issuers with the entirety of their raised capital. Utility token ICO issuers are not so lucky. Their proceeds are effectively deferred revenue that is taxable as soon as they deliver the goods. Payment token ICO issuers need to pay right away, though the guide said such schemes are “uncommon.”

“An examination of the case facts may be required” for payment token ICOs, according to the guide.


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