Cryptocurrency Forks: Accounting and Tax Considerations

The cryptocurrency world is rapidly evolving, and one of the most intriguing phenomena in this domain is the occurrence of cryptocurrency forks.

5 March 2024
Cryptocurrency Forks: Accounting and Tax Considerations

The cryptocurrency world is rapidly evolving, and one of the most intriguing phenomena in this domain is the occurrence of cryptocurrency forks. A fork, in the context of blockchain technology, refers to a situation where a single cryptocurrency splits into two. This bifurcation can fundamentally alter the trajectory of the currency, and it naturally carries significant accounting and tax implications. This article delves into these implications, exploring how individuals and businesses should navigate the complex landscape of cryptocurrency forks.

Understanding Cryptocurrency Forks

A cryptocurrency fork occurs when there is a divergence in the blockchain protocol. Forks are generally of two types: soft forks and hard forks. A soft fork is backward-compatible, meaning the new rules can still operate under the old ruleset. In contrast, a hard fork is not backward-compatible and results in a permanent divergence from the original blockchain. This often leads to the creation of a new cryptocurrency.

Accounting Considerations for Cryptocurrency Forks

The accounting for cryptocurrency forks primarily revolves around the recognition and valuation of the new cryptocurrencies (tokens) that arise from these events. Under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), there’s a lack of explicit guidance on accounting for cryptocurrencies. Hence, entities often resort to existing frameworks like IAS 38 ‘Intangible Assets’ or IAS 2 ‘Inventories’, depending on their business model.

  1. Recognition: The critical point of contention in accounting for forked cryptocurrencies is the recognition event. Should the new tokens be recognized when the fork occurs, or when the entity gains control over them? The answer typically depends on the entity’s ability to exercise control over the new cryptocurrency and its capacity to bring economic benefits to the entity.
  2. Valuation: After recognition, the next step is the valuation of the new cryptocurrency. This might be challenging due to the volatility and uncertainty of new cryptocurrencies' value. Entities might use the fair value as of the fork date, considering the market prices on active exchanges.
  3. Presentation and Disclosure: Clear presentation and disclosure in financial statements are crucial. Entities should disclose the nature of the assets, valuation techniques, and the impact of forks on their financial position and performance.

Tax Considerations for Cryptocurrency Forks

Cryptocurrency forks also pose complex tax challenges, as tax laws in many jurisdictions are still catching up with the realities of digital currencies.

  1. Taxable Events: In some jurisdictions, the receipt of new cryptocurrency tokens due to a fork could be considered a taxable event. The key issue is determining the tax point - the exact moment when the individual or entity has dominion and control over the new tokens.
  2. Cost Basis Determination: Establishing the cost basis of the new tokens can be problematic. Taxpayers may be required to allocate the cost basis of the original cryptocurrency between the two post-fork currencies, based on their relative fair market values.
  3. Capital Gains and Income Recognition: The character of the income - whether it is a capital gain or ordinary income - can depend on several factors, including the taxpayer’s activities and the purpose for holding the cryptocurrencies.

Regulatory Landscape and Compliance

The regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies, including forked tokens, is continuously evolving. Businesses and individuals should stay informed about the regulations in their respective jurisdictions. Compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws, along with adhering to reporting requirements set by tax authorities, is imperative.


Cryptocurrency forks are not merely technical events in the blockchain sphere; they carry significant accounting and tax implications. Navigating these implications requires a thorough understanding of the principles of accounting and taxation, along with a keen eye on the evolving regulatory framework. Entities and individuals should seek professional advice to ensure compliance and to make the most of the opportunities presented by these unique events in the cryptocurrency world.

As the cryptocurrency domain continues to mature, we can expect more clarity and guidance from both accounting standards setters and tax authorities. Until then, a cautious and well-informed approach remains the best course of action for dealing with the complexities introduced by cryptocurrency forks.