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South Korea Crypto Tax Guide 2024

Pratibha Tiwari
Reviewed by
Pratibha Tiwari
min read
Last updated:

Global crypto adoption has skyrocketed in recent years despite the inflation-induced market slump and authorities across the globe are confronted with the challenge of regulating the space with strict guidelines to protect investors and preventing malpractices while maintaining an open ecosystem for cryptocurrencies to thrive.

South Korea is no exception. The country has always been at the forefront when it comes to adopting and implementing new technologies. According to a recent report published by the National Tax Service (NTS) of South Korea, crypto assets account for 70% of the total overseas assets adding up to almost $100 million dollars.

Since crypto assets are neither viewed as a currency nor as a financial asset, crypto transactions are mostly tax-free in the country. The regulators have recently announced that the new set of guidelines for crypto taxation which were scheduled for 2024, will now be enforced in 2025 due to the lack of a proper regulatory framework. 

However, there are guidelines that dictate the operative prerequisites for crypto exchanges and taxation of certain crypto transactions. The article aims to summarise the current regulatory landscape around cryptocurrencies in South Korea while taking a look at what the future of crypto would look like in the country.

Latest Updates/Guidelines

Electronic Financial Transactions Act

Virtual Asset User Protection Act

Anti-Money Laundering Regulations

Is Crypto Legal in South Korea?

Like most other countries in the world, South Korea doesn’t consider crypto to be legal tender and while the regulations around crypto taxations are still being deliberated, it is likely that the authorities will not grant legal tender to crypto assets. Because doing so would mean making all crypto transactions tax-exempt.

Cryptocurrencies are currently being regulated under Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and securities regulations enforced by the Financial Services Commission (FSC). Crypto service providers follow guidelines rather than laws, and these guidelines are vital for understanding the cryptocurrency landscape. South Korea's regulatory approach has evolved, with recent moves to deregulate the industry, including the legalisation of security tokens and a shift in stance towards Initial Coin Offerings.

Key legislation includes the Electronic Financial Transactions Act, defining cryptocurrencies as "electronic assets" and specifying rules for their use, and the Act on Reporting and Use of Specific Financial Information, requiring financial institutions to report suspicious crypto-related transactions. South Korea plans to introduce comprehensive cryptocurrency legislation in 2025 through the Digital Asset Basic Act (DABA), creating a favourable environment and a two-lane regulatory framework for ICOs. This proactive approach aims to protect crypto investors and solidify South Korea's position as a regional leader in cryptocurrency adoption and regulation.

Can the NTS Track Your Crypto Transactions?

Crypto exchanges in South Korea are subject to several regulations, which have been implemented to enhance transparency and security within the cryptocurrency market. One significant regulation mandates that traders link their cryptocurrency trading accounts to real-name bank accounts. This means that users must have a bank account with the same financial institution as their cryptocurrency exchange. 

In addition to real-name bank accounts, South Korean crypto service providers are required to implement enhanced Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CTF) processes based on a risk-based strategy. This involves conducting customer due diligence and reporting suspicious transactions. These requirements are aimed at preventing illicit activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing, bolstering the integrity of the cryptocurrency market.

To further strengthen cybersecurity, crypto companies are obligated to obtain a certificate from the Korea Internet & Security Agency for an Information Security Management System (ISMS). This certification ensures that these companies have robust cybersecurity measures in place to protect user data from potential cyber threats.

Moreover, crypto service providers are mandated to provide the financial intelligence unit with various pieces of information, including the company's details and bank account information. This facilitates regulatory oversight and helps authorities monitor transactions and activities on cryptocurrency exchanges.

So as far as tracking crypto transactions goes, the NTS has enough resources at its disposal to easily track individual crypto transactions and identify any suspicious transactions.

How are Crypto Transactions Taxed Currently?

The taxation of cryptocurrencies in South Korea is dynamic and depends on their use. When individuals sell cryptocurrencies held as investments, they may be subject to capital gains tax, with rates of 20% for individuals and 22% for corporations. If cryptocurrencies are used as a means of payment for goods or services, they may be subject to value-added tax (VAT) at a rate of 10%.

Note that these rates will be changed and a blanket tax rate of 20% will be introduced in 2025 when the new set of regulations will be enforced.

Future of the Crypto Regulatory Landscape in South Korea

South Korean authorities are taking significant steps to protect cryptocurrency investors. The approval of the Virtual Asset User Protection Act is a pivotal move towards ensuring investor safety. This legislation requires crypto service providers to implement robust security measures, including the safeguarding of user assets and holdings of insurance. The provision of real-name bank accounts for traders and maintaining transaction records enhances transparency and accountability within the crypto ecosystem. 

Moreover, penalties for activities like price manipulation and false promotion of crypto assets demonstrate the commitment to maintaining market integrity. These measures aim to build trust and confidence among investors, essential for the healthy growth of the crypto market.

The future of cryptocurrency in South Korea appears promising yet cautiously regulated. The government acknowledges the importance of fostering innovation while ensuring consumer protection. The forthcoming Digital Asset Basic Act (DABA) is expected to provide a comprehensive legal framework for the cryptocurrency sector. It will establish clear rules for virtual asset providers, covering areas like listing, disclosure, business qualifications, and advertisement regulation.

The changing regulatory environment aims to find an equilibrium between security and innovation. It acknowledges that too many regulations can act as a barrier to crypto adoption, while a lack of concrete regulations can create uncertainty and unrest. South Korea's emphasis on safeguarding investors and promoting cautious expansion positions it as an exciting hub for the cryptocurrency's future. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How are capital gains from cryptocurrencies taxed in South Korea? 

Capital gains from cryptocurrencies are taxed in South Korea when they are sold. Individuals are subject to a 20% capital gains tax rate, while corporations face a rate of 22%.

2. What is the VAT rate for cryptocurrencies used for payments in South Korea?

 Cryptocurrencies used for payments are subject to a 10% value-added tax (VAT) in South Korea.

3. What is the impact of the Digital Asset Basic Act on cryptocurrency taxation in South Korea? 

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has deferred taxation on crypto investment gains until the Digital Asset Basic Act is enacted. Once it becomes law, the new rules will impose a 20% tax on crypto gains exceeding $2,100 per year.

4. How does the transparent nature of blockchain technology affect cryptocurrency taxation in South Korea? 

The transparent nature of blockchain technology makes cryptocurrency transactions traceable. Individuals and businesses must consider the tax implications of holding and trading cryptocurrencies in South Korea.

5. How does South Korea adapt its cryptocurrency tax policies to the changing landscape?

The South Korean government is revising its cryptocurrency tax policies in response to evolving circumstances. This adaptability reflects the dynamic nature of the cryptocurrency market and its regulatory environment.