Crowdfunding: a new resource with developing tax rules

IRS Chief Counsel recently examined the tax treatment of crowdfunding activities in a new information letter (Information Letter 2016-36). Crowdfunding is a relatively recent phenomenon, used by an individual or entity to raise funds through small individual contributions from a large number of people. The guidance notes that the income tax consequences to a taxpayer of a crowdfunding effort depend on all the facts and circumstances surrounding that effort.

In general, Chief Counsel determined, crowdfunding revenues are included in the recipient’s gross income. Code Sec. 61(a) generally provides that gross income includes all income from whatever source derived. However, there are some benefits that a taxpayer receives that are excluded from income because they do not meet the definition of gross income or because a specific exclusion exists.

Chief Counsel observed that money received without an offsetting liability, such as a repayment obligation, that is neither a capital contribution to an entity in exchange for a capital interest in the entity, nor a gift, is included in income. The facts and circumstance surrounding the receipt of crowdfunding revenue must be considered to determine it is income.

Chief Counsel concluded that crowdfunding revenues generally are included in income if they are not (1) loans that must be repaid; (2) capital contributed to an entity in exchange for an equity interest in the entity; or (3) gifts made out of detached generosity and without any “quid pro quo.” Crowdfunding revenues also must generally be included in income to the extent they are received for services rendered or are gains from the sale of property.

Chief Counsel also examined constructive receipt rules in relation to crowdfunding. Income, although not actually reduced to a taxpayer’s possession, is constructively received in the tax year during which it is credited to the taxpayer’s account, set apart for the taxpayer, or otherwise made available. Further, although income is not constructively received if the taxpayer’s control of the income is subject to substantial limitations or restrictions, a self-imposed restriction on the availability of income does not legally defer recognition of that income, Chief Counsel noted.

These are only the specific issues that Chief Counsel addressed in Information Letter 2016-36. As the crowdfunding space develops, more guidance is likely to follow.

Written by

Steve Moss, CPA is a partner at Holden Moss CPAs and loves helping businesses and their owners grow to be the very best they can be. Our other offices include Raleigh, Oxford and Warrenton.

We are a little different at Holden Moss CPAs. While we still provide traditional tax and accounting services, years ago we realized many clients wanted help in running their businesses and were hungry for ideas, solutions, strategy, and execution. In response, we expanded our skill set and joined Ran One, a global network of business consulting firms. Our membership with Ran One gives us access to proprietary resources and analytical software to help our clients grow, become more profitable and valuable, and have the lifestyle they desire.

Now, blended into the fabric of our normal tax and accounting needs, we are focused on our clients’ businesses in a very different way. While our approach is not right for everyone, for those whom it is, incredible results may be obtained. Whether you have a new, or established, business, or for those in transition of selling or retiring, or for those who simply need to develop an exit strategy or succession plan, our unique approach to client service may be the edge you need.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply


< !-- {/literal} END JIVOSITE CODE -->