What is cashback?

Some large providers (such as crypto.com) offer users a cashback card, which is like a debit card, and can be used to make purchases of goods and services in fiat from most retailers (ie for your groceries, buying a car or a TV).

Cashback rewards are received in cryptoassets (ie in CRO/MCO on crypto.com) for using the cashback card, based on the amount of purchases made with the card.

The user needs to add funds to the cashback card before it can be used to make purchases. Some users top up the card with fiat sterling from this bank account. However some users top up their cashback card with cryptoassets and in this situation they are making a disposal of their cryptoassets for tax purposes when they top up the card.

Tax treatment of cashback

Income Tax

If the taxpayer is a ‘financial trader’ in cryptoassets or the cashback is received in the course of another trade, these cashback rewards will be treated as taxable trading income per their guidance at BIM100210.

There is no HMRC guidance on the tax treatment of cashback rewards received in cryptoassets, however there is guidance at BIM100210 and Statement of Practice 4/97 on the receipt of cashback in general and this is likely to apply.

HMRC state at point 20 of Statement of Practice 4/97 "A sum, however described, which is received by an ordinary retail customer as consideration for the purchase by the customer of goods or services should not be regarded as a taxable receipt in computing profits under Case VI. This is the case whether the payer is the provider of the goods or services or another party with an economic interest in ensuring the transaction takes place."

If this HMRC guidance is also applied to cryptoasset cashback rewards, it means that cashback rewards are not taxable income, where they are not received in the course of a trade.

Capital Gains Tax

Acquisition cost

There is no HMRC guidance on the acquisition cost of non-taxable airdrops, therefore this remains an area of uncertainty.

It could be argued the acquisition cost is Nil, or the acquisition cost could be the market value of the tokens at the date of receipt, depending on the circumstances - see below.

If the smart contract is executed and the airdropped tokens are issued into one public address and then later they are transferred to the recipient it may be possible to argue that the acquisition cost of the airdropped tokens is the sterling market value at the date of receipt, but only if it can be argued that a ‘bargain made otherwise than at arm's length’. There is uncertainty as to whether or not a ‘bargain is made otherwise than at arm's length’ or not, when it is available to everyone. If it is not a bargain otherwise than at arm’s length, the CGT acquisition cost of the airdropped tokens would be Nil.

If when the smart contract is executed, the airdropped tokens are issued directly to the recipient, it will be Nil acquisition cost. As there is no corresponding disposal, the market value rule at Section 17 TCGA 1992 is disapplied and the actual amount paid for the airdrop (ie Nil) is the CGT acquisition cost where it is lower than the market value at the date of receipt).

This acquisition cost is to be deducted from the disposal proceeds of a later disposal of those tokens received as a cashback reward (which is subject to capital gains tax).

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