UK Tax Dept Confuses Crypto Investors in DeFi and Staking Earnings Pursuit

Britain’s revenue department has turned its eyes to earnings from decentralized finance (DeFi) and staking as it seeks more tax regulations on the crypto ecosystem.

On Feb 2, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) updated its guidance on the taxation of earnings from DeFi and staking networks. 

The guidance is far from clear, however, with complications over whether gains from lending or staking are considered as capital or revenue. The department admitted that it was not possible to “set out all the circumstances in which a lender/liquidity provider earns a return” from DeFi and staking activities, adding:  

“The nature of the return received by the lender/liquidity provider will depend on how the transaction is structured.”

An ‘inconsistant approach’

According to the U.K.’s digital assets trade association, CryptoUK, the new guidance changes the classification of DeFi and staking. There are a number of factors deciding whether a return is classified as revenue or capital, it added.

These include whether the investor was aware of the returns when the agreement was entered, whether the yield is paid periodically or on return of the collateral, and the period of the lending term. If the crypto asset is staked or lent on a protocol it may be classified as a “disposal” by the HMRC for tax purposes.

CryptoUK interpreted it as meaning that the transaction will be subject to Capital Gains Tax reporting at the moment the token leaves the user’s wallet, even though control still lies with the user.

Executive director of CryptoUK, Ian Taylor, said that HMRC treats crypto assets as property for tax purposes, adding:

“This inconsistent approach by HMRC creates friction adds undue reporting requirements for the consumer, and creates tax compliance confusion. Stock lending is not taxed in the same way,”

The new guidance gave a couple of confusing examples on how users can determine the nature of their earnings. If a hypothetical return of 5% per annum was already agreed to it would be considered a revenue receipt, however, if gains are unknown and speculative, it could be a capital receipt.

More tax clarification needed

Taylor continued “We need a clear and holistic regulatory framework for crypto assets in the UK and a consistent whole of government approach, with joined-up thinking across all agencies and departments when it comes to developing the UK approach to crypto asset regulation and taxation.”

He added that the organization will be engaging with HMRC for further clarification on U.K. crypto regulations. Last month, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) cracked down on crypto advertising as the government tightens its leash on the industry.


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