What is a Utility Token And Its Tax Implications?

by
Brihasi Dey
Reviewed by
min read
Last updated:

With the continuous expansion of cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin, we have seen an explosion of altcoins, each with its own unique characteristics and use cases.

Some of these digital assets serve as a new form of digital currency, while others stand as speculative tools amidst the ongoing cryptocurrency boom. However, for those seeking an altcoin with a genuine use case, utility tokens come to the fore.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the world of utility tokens: discussing what exactly utility tokens are, why they hold such significance in the blockchain ecosystem and their tax implications.

What Are Utility Tokens?

Utility tokens are a type of “pre-mined” token issued on a blockchain of a project to serve a specific purpose within the project’s ecosystem. They are usually created by developers all at once and are distributed to investors during the initial coin offering (ICO) to fund the development of the blockchain project.

These tokens are not created as a form of investment but rather as a user pass to exclusive benefits once the project is developed.

Some examples of utility tokens include:

  • Binance Coin (BNB) is mostly used to pay trading fees on the Binance exchanges. In return, users get exclusive discount offers for using their native token instead of other cryptocurrencies.
  • ADA, the native token of the Cardano blockchain, is a utility token used to pay transaction fees on the blockchain.
  • The ERC-20 token standard is most commonly used for creating utility tokens on the Ethereum blockchain used to pay for different products or services.
  • Virtual Cards - the world's first virtual payment card that offers true anonymity to its users. Unlike many other virtual cards out there that are tied to bank accounts or require loads of personal information to activate, Virtual Card keeps things simple and secure. While some virtual cards allow for cryptocurrency transactions and come with linked crypto wallets, they often go against the very essence of decentralized blockchain technology. By directly linking a virtual card to a person's identity and financial data, these cards undermine one of crypto's key freedoms and advantages. Certain virtual cards offer rewards such as native tokens based on the blockchain technology it's built on or Crypto for every purchase you make, Example Nexo. With Virtual Card Anonymous, you can enjoy the convenience of virtual payments without sacrificing your privacy.

How Do Utility Tokens Work?

Utility tokens work as digital assets that grant holders the right to participate in an existing or future product or service of a blockchain project. This can include access to premium features, the ability to vote on system upgrades, or the right to use a platform's services.

The value of utility tokens is often determined by supply and demand dynamics. As the demand for the product or service offered by the platform increases, the value of the utility tokens used on that platform can increase. 

It's important to note that holding a utility token does not equate to holding equity in the company that issues the token. 

Instead, it provides access to specific functions of the project or platform. These tokens represent a user-centric asset that aims to enable and enhance the user experience within a given platform.

Common Use Cases of Utility Tokens

Here are some of the most common use cases of the utility tokens in a blockchain network:

Utility Tokens in DeFi

In DeFi, utility tokens often grant access to services like lending, borrowing, or yield farming. When users engage in these activities, they're likely triggering a taxable event. Every transaction involving a change in the token's ownership can be taxable and should be recorded accurately for tax purposes.

Utility Tokens in Gaming Industry

Gaming platforms use utility tokens for purchasing in-game assets, unlocking special features, and more. These tokens can often be traded for other cryptocurrencies or even fiat currencies.

Utility Tokens in Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms employ utility tokens to incentivize content creation, moderation, and other participatory actions. They can also be used in governance and decision-making in decentralized online communities.

Utility Tokens in Supply Chain Management

Supply chains utilize utility tokens to track products, reward eco-friendly practices, or streamline operations. Remember tokens used for business operations can have tax implications, such as deductible business expenses or capital gains/losses.

Utility Tokens vs. Security Tokens: Understanding the Key Differences

The key differentiation between utility tokens and security tokens lies in their intended purpose. 

Utility tokens are specifically designed to serve a functional role within a particular platform or ecosystem. They do not represent an investment in a company or project and do not grant ownership rights or claims on the issuer's revenue or assets. Their primary purpose is to enable and facilitate operations within a blockchain system.

Security tokens represent an investment in a project and confer ownership rights, much like traditional securities. Holders may be entitled to dividends, profit sharing, or voting rights.

These are digital assets that derive their value from an external, tradable asset and are subject to federal security regulations. Utility tokens, on the other hand, are less heavily regulated than security tokens.

Use Cases: Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

Utility Tokens: They serve as a gateway to access, use, or participate in a specific blockchain platform or network. 

Security Tokens: They serve as digital representations of traditional securities like stocks, bonds, or real estate. They can be used to automate compliance processes, fractionalize ownership, or improve liquidity.

Tax Implications: Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

Utility Tokens: The tax treatment for utility tokens can be complex, as it depends on how they are used. If a utility token is bought and sold for a profit, it could be subject to capital gains tax. If it's received as payment for goods or services, it can be treated as income.

Security Tokens: As investments, security tokens are typically subject to capital gains tax when they are sold. If they pay dividends, those will be taxed as income.

Issues and challenges with utility tokens

Utility tokens have lots of great functionality, but they aren’t without their challenges as well. 

Here are a few things to consider.

An image of people exchanging money for utility tokens

Regulatory challenges

Regulatory norms around utility tokens are still evolving and can vary greatly between jurisdictions. This regulatory uncertainty can lead to unexpected legal and tax implications.

Potential for scams

Many utility tokens remain unregulated. However, being unregulated comes with its own issues, including scam potential. There have been many cases of scammers creating tokens and ICOs just to make quick money before vanishing. This is commonly referred to as a rug pull in the crypto community.

High transaction fees

Many utility tokens are ERC-20 tokens that run on the Ethereum blockchain. Ether gas fees can be very high, as much as $50 or more for a transaction. The Ethereum team is working on a solution to help reduce gas prices. But in the meantime, prices may only get more expensive as more people enter the cryptocurrency space.

Lack of decision-making

Utility token holders may not get to provide feedback or vote on the project's direction. All of the decisions may be centralized in the hands of founders and developers. Compare this against security tokens, which act like shares in a company and allow the holder to have a lot more say over the future of the project.

Success is tied to the overall project

A utility token is only useful if there’s a larger project for it to exist as a part of. If a project doesn’t succeed, then its utility token will lose all of its value. There can also be liquidity problems when a project doesn’t have the funds needed for continued development.

Tax Implications of Utility Tokens

In most cases, utility tokens do not have distinct tax consequences compared to other types of cryptocurrency assets. Generally, they are subject to the same tax treatment as any other crypto asset in your jurisdiction. However, this may evolve over time.

While utility tokens are primarily designed for functionality rather than profit-making, you may be subject to capital gains tax if you dispose of them for a profit. 

Disposal of your utility tokens may be:

  • Exchanging them for another crypto
  • Selling it for fiat
  • Purchasing goods or services using the crypto

Acquisition of utility tokens may trigger VAT at the level of the buyer, depending on your jurisdiction and the characterization of your transaction.

If you are uncertain about the tax treatment of transactions involving utility tokens in your specific jurisdiction, it is advisable to consult a local tax professional. 

How can Kryptos help?

Kryptos offers a comprehensive solution for managing crypto transactions, including utility tokens, with a focus on accurate tax reporting. 

Our software allows you to import transaction data from various sources and seamlessly reconcile them for tax purposes.

When it comes to utility tokens, our platform goes the extra mile by auto-categorizing transactions whenever possible. This feature ensures that the specific tax implications related to utility tokens are correctly applied. 

Report your utility tokens in just a few clicks and ensure legal compliance to avoid paying extra taxes. To get started, Sign Up Now.

FAQs

1. What is a Token vs. Utility Token?

Tokens in the cryptocurrency world are a type of digital asset that can be traded. They are built on existing blockchains, like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain. Tokens can be divided into various categories, among which utility tokens are a primary one. While a token is a general term, a utility token refers to a specific type of token that provides users with access to a product or service in a blockchain ecosystem. They don't signify ownership in a company, unlike security tokens, but grant user rights within a platform.

2. Why Buy Utility Tokens?

Individuals buy utility tokens for several reasons. Primarily, they are purchased to access, use, or participate in a specific blockchain platform or network. They can also be bought for speculative purposes, where individuals hope the token's value will increase over time. 

3. How Do Utility Tokens Make Money?

The value of utility tokens can increase or decrease based on supply and demand dynamics in the market. Investors can make money if the value of the tokens they hold appreciates over time. This could happen if the platform becomes popular, driving up demand for the tokens, or if the supply of tokens decreases.

4. Are Utility Tokens Taxed?

Yes, utility tokens can be subject to tax. Most tax jurisdictions treat cryptocurrencies, including utility tokens, as property. This means that buying, selling, or trading utility tokens can trigger a taxable event, typically treated as capital gains or losses. Income tax might also apply if the tokens are received as income. Tax laws vary greatly by jurisdiction, so it's important to consult with a tax professional or use a specialized tool like Kryptos.

5. What Is the Best Utility Token?

The "best" utility token depends on individual goals and risk tolerance. Some popular utility tokens include Binance Coin (BNB), and Uniswap's UNI. It's crucial to conduct thorough research and consider factors like the project's use case, team, tokenomics, and community before investing.

6. Are Utility Tokens Fungible?

Utility tokens can be either fungible or non-fungible, depending on their design. Fungible tokens are interchangeable with each other (like currency notes), while non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique and can't be interchanged on a one-for-one basis. Most utility tokens are fungible, ensuring smooth and equal exchange within the ecosystem.

7. What Are the Benefits of Utility Tokens?

Utility tokens offer numerous benefits. They incentivize participation in a blockchain ecosystem and can unlock special features or services. They also democratize access to specific services and allow global participation. Utility tokens can also serve as a fundraising mechanism for developers and act as an internal currency for the ecosystem, promoting transactional efficiency. For investors, they provide a potential opportunity for financial gain if the token's value appreciates.

All content on Kryptos serves general informational purposes only. It's not intended to replace any professional advice from licensed accountants, attorneys, or certified financial and tax professionals. The information is completed to the best of our knowledge and we at Kryptos do not claim either correctness or accuracy of the same. Before taking any tax position / stance, you should always consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice from the professionals. Kryptos is not liable for any loss caused from the use of, or by placing reliance on, the information on this website. Kryptos disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy or adequacy of any positions taken by you in your tax returns. Thank you for being part of our community, and we're excited to continue guiding you on your crypto journey!

How we reviewed this article

Written by
Brihasi Dey

Social Media Manager, Content Writer, Strategist, and Marketer - An IT graduate well versed in SaaS, AI, & Web3, assisting Tech and Blockchain brands in scaling with Content.

Reviewed by

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What is a Utility Token And Its Tax Implications?

By
Brihasi Dey
On

With the continuous expansion of cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin, we have seen an explosion of altcoins, each with its own unique characteristics and use cases.

Some of these digital assets serve as a new form of digital currency, while others stand as speculative tools amidst the ongoing cryptocurrency boom. However, for those seeking an altcoin with a genuine use case, utility tokens come to the fore.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve deep into the world of utility tokens: discussing what exactly utility tokens are, why they hold such significance in the blockchain ecosystem and their tax implications.

What Are Utility Tokens?

Utility tokens are a type of “pre-mined” token issued on a blockchain of a project to serve a specific purpose within the project’s ecosystem. They are usually created by developers all at once and are distributed to investors during the initial coin offering (ICO) to fund the development of the blockchain project.

These tokens are not created as a form of investment but rather as a user pass to exclusive benefits once the project is developed.

Some examples of utility tokens include:

  • Binance Coin (BNB) is mostly used to pay trading fees on the Binance exchanges. In return, users get exclusive discount offers for using their native token instead of other cryptocurrencies.
  • ADA, the native token of the Cardano blockchain, is a utility token used to pay transaction fees on the blockchain.
  • The ERC-20 token standard is most commonly used for creating utility tokens on the Ethereum blockchain used to pay for different products or services.
  • Virtual Cards - the world's first virtual payment card that offers true anonymity to its users. Unlike many other virtual cards out there that are tied to bank accounts or require loads of personal information to activate, Virtual Card keeps things simple and secure. While some virtual cards allow for cryptocurrency transactions and come with linked crypto wallets, they often go against the very essence of decentralized blockchain technology. By directly linking a virtual card to a person's identity and financial data, these cards undermine one of crypto's key freedoms and advantages. Certain virtual cards offer rewards such as native tokens based on the blockchain technology it's built on or Crypto for every purchase you make, Example Nexo. With Virtual Card Anonymous, you can enjoy the convenience of virtual payments without sacrificing your privacy.

How Do Utility Tokens Work?

Utility tokens work as digital assets that grant holders the right to participate in an existing or future product or service of a blockchain project. This can include access to premium features, the ability to vote on system upgrades, or the right to use a platform's services.

The value of utility tokens is often determined by supply and demand dynamics. As the demand for the product or service offered by the platform increases, the value of the utility tokens used on that platform can increase. 

It's important to note that holding a utility token does not equate to holding equity in the company that issues the token. 

Instead, it provides access to specific functions of the project or platform. These tokens represent a user-centric asset that aims to enable and enhance the user experience within a given platform.

Common Use Cases of Utility Tokens

Here are some of the most common use cases of the utility tokens in a blockchain network:

Utility Tokens in DeFi

In DeFi, utility tokens often grant access to services like lending, borrowing, or yield farming. When users engage in these activities, they're likely triggering a taxable event. Every transaction involving a change in the token's ownership can be taxable and should be recorded accurately for tax purposes.

Utility Tokens in Gaming Industry

Gaming platforms use utility tokens for purchasing in-game assets, unlocking special features, and more. These tokens can often be traded for other cryptocurrencies or even fiat currencies.

Utility Tokens in Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms employ utility tokens to incentivize content creation, moderation, and other participatory actions. They can also be used in governance and decision-making in decentralized online communities.

Utility Tokens in Supply Chain Management

Supply chains utilize utility tokens to track products, reward eco-friendly practices, or streamline operations. Remember tokens used for business operations can have tax implications, such as deductible business expenses or capital gains/losses.

Utility Tokens vs. Security Tokens: Understanding the Key Differences

The key differentiation between utility tokens and security tokens lies in their intended purpose. 

Utility tokens are specifically designed to serve a functional role within a particular platform or ecosystem. They do not represent an investment in a company or project and do not grant ownership rights or claims on the issuer's revenue or assets. Their primary purpose is to enable and facilitate operations within a blockchain system.

Security tokens represent an investment in a project and confer ownership rights, much like traditional securities. Holders may be entitled to dividends, profit sharing, or voting rights.

These are digital assets that derive their value from an external, tradable asset and are subject to federal security regulations. Utility tokens, on the other hand, are less heavily regulated than security tokens.

Use Cases: Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

Utility Tokens: They serve as a gateway to access, use, or participate in a specific blockchain platform or network. 

Security Tokens: They serve as digital representations of traditional securities like stocks, bonds, or real estate. They can be used to automate compliance processes, fractionalize ownership, or improve liquidity.

Tax Implications: Utility Tokens vs Security Tokens

Utility Tokens: The tax treatment for utility tokens can be complex, as it depends on how they are used. If a utility token is bought and sold for a profit, it could be subject to capital gains tax. If it's received as payment for goods or services, it can be treated as income.

Security Tokens: As investments, security tokens are typically subject to capital gains tax when they are sold. If they pay dividends, those will be taxed as income.

Issues and challenges with utility tokens

Utility tokens have lots of great functionality, but they aren’t without their challenges as well. 

Here are a few things to consider.

An image of people exchanging money for utility tokens

Regulatory challenges

Regulatory norms around utility tokens are still evolving and can vary greatly between jurisdictions. This regulatory uncertainty can lead to unexpected legal and tax implications.

Potential for scams

Many utility tokens remain unregulated. However, being unregulated comes with its own issues, including scam potential. There have been many cases of scammers creating tokens and ICOs just to make quick money before vanishing. This is commonly referred to as a rug pull in the crypto community.

High transaction fees

Many utility tokens are ERC-20 tokens that run on the Ethereum blockchain. Ether gas fees can be very high, as much as $50 or more for a transaction. The Ethereum team is working on a solution to help reduce gas prices. But in the meantime, prices may only get more expensive as more people enter the cryptocurrency space.

Lack of decision-making

Utility token holders may not get to provide feedback or vote on the project's direction. All of the decisions may be centralized in the hands of founders and developers. Compare this against security tokens, which act like shares in a company and allow the holder to have a lot more say over the future of the project.

Success is tied to the overall project

A utility token is only useful if there’s a larger project for it to exist as a part of. If a project doesn’t succeed, then its utility token will lose all of its value. There can also be liquidity problems when a project doesn’t have the funds needed for continued development.

Tax Implications of Utility Tokens

In most cases, utility tokens do not have distinct tax consequences compared to other types of cryptocurrency assets. Generally, they are subject to the same tax treatment as any other crypto asset in your jurisdiction. However, this may evolve over time.

While utility tokens are primarily designed for functionality rather than profit-making, you may be subject to capital gains tax if you dispose of them for a profit. 

Disposal of your utility tokens may be:

  • Exchanging them for another crypto
  • Selling it for fiat
  • Purchasing goods or services using the crypto

Acquisition of utility tokens may trigger VAT at the level of the buyer, depending on your jurisdiction and the characterization of your transaction.

If you are uncertain about the tax treatment of transactions involving utility tokens in your specific jurisdiction, it is advisable to consult a local tax professional. 

How can Kryptos help?

Kryptos offers a comprehensive solution for managing crypto transactions, including utility tokens, with a focus on accurate tax reporting. 

Our software allows you to import transaction data from various sources and seamlessly reconcile them for tax purposes.

When it comes to utility tokens, our platform goes the extra mile by auto-categorizing transactions whenever possible. This feature ensures that the specific tax implications related to utility tokens are correctly applied. 

Report your utility tokens in just a few clicks and ensure legal compliance to avoid paying extra taxes. To get started, Sign Up Now.

FAQs

1. What is a Token vs. Utility Token?

Tokens in the cryptocurrency world are a type of digital asset that can be traded. They are built on existing blockchains, like Ethereum or Binance Smart Chain. Tokens can be divided into various categories, among which utility tokens are a primary one. While a token is a general term, a utility token refers to a specific type of token that provides users with access to a product or service in a blockchain ecosystem. They don't signify ownership in a company, unlike security tokens, but grant user rights within a platform.

2. Why Buy Utility Tokens?

Individuals buy utility tokens for several reasons. Primarily, they are purchased to access, use, or participate in a specific blockchain platform or network. They can also be bought for speculative purposes, where individuals hope the token's value will increase over time. 

3. How Do Utility Tokens Make Money?

The value of utility tokens can increase or decrease based on supply and demand dynamics in the market. Investors can make money if the value of the tokens they hold appreciates over time. This could happen if the platform becomes popular, driving up demand for the tokens, or if the supply of tokens decreases.

4. Are Utility Tokens Taxed?

Yes, utility tokens can be subject to tax. Most tax jurisdictions treat cryptocurrencies, including utility tokens, as property. This means that buying, selling, or trading utility tokens can trigger a taxable event, typically treated as capital gains or losses. Income tax might also apply if the tokens are received as income. Tax laws vary greatly by jurisdiction, so it's important to consult with a tax professional or use a specialized tool like Kryptos.

5. What Is the Best Utility Token?

The "best" utility token depends on individual goals and risk tolerance. Some popular utility tokens include Binance Coin (BNB), and Uniswap's UNI. It's crucial to conduct thorough research and consider factors like the project's use case, team, tokenomics, and community before investing.

6. Are Utility Tokens Fungible?

Utility tokens can be either fungible or non-fungible, depending on their design. Fungible tokens are interchangeable with each other (like currency notes), while non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are unique and can't be interchanged on a one-for-one basis. Most utility tokens are fungible, ensuring smooth and equal exchange within the ecosystem.

7. What Are the Benefits of Utility Tokens?

Utility tokens offer numerous benefits. They incentivize participation in a blockchain ecosystem and can unlock special features or services. They also democratize access to specific services and allow global participation. Utility tokens can also serve as a fundraising mechanism for developers and act as an internal currency for the ecosystem, promoting transactional efficiency. For investors, they provide a potential opportunity for financial gain if the token's value appreciates.

All content on Kryptos serves general informational purposes only. It's not intended to replace any professional advice from licensed accountants, attorneys, or certified financial and tax professionals. The information is completed to the best of our knowledge and we at Kryptos do not claim either correctness or accuracy of the same. Before taking any tax position / stance, you should always consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice from the professionals. Kryptos is not liable for any loss caused from the use of, or by placing reliance on, the information on this website. Kryptos disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy or adequacy of any positions taken by you in your tax returns. Thank you for being part of our community, and we're excited to continue guiding you on your crypto journey!

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