Walkthrough of my own recent donation

2018 is almost over, and then end of the year I try to do some charitable giving. This year is no exception, and I’d like to walk you through a recent donation I made in cryptocurrency rather than cash, and explain why that was helpful to me from a tax standpoint.

Augur was one of the first blockchain-related projects that got me interested in cryptocurrency to begin with, and I have been a longtime holder of Rep, Augur’s token. I still really like Augur’s prospects, and want to continue holding Rep.

First of all, I have some cash on hand, and since I don’t really want to reduce my overall position in Rep, why would I donate the Rep instead of just donating the cash? Allow me to explain.

I’ve bought and sold Rep multiple times over the years, and the particular Rep that I donated had a tax basis of about $4; I’ll just use an even $4 for the sake of simplicity. For those who may not know, the tax basis is simply the price I bought Rep for, meaning that if I sell it for anything higher than $4, then I would owe capital gains tax on the difference- For example if I sold it for $7, I would owe taxes on the $3 I gained.

I took advantage of the recent upswing of the crypto market in general, and transferred 770 Rep to Blockchain Benevolence’s donation address. This transaction can be seen here for anyone interested. (It ended up as 769.9 because I forgot about the exchange fee for withdrawal.)

At the point that the transfer happened, Rep was trading for right around $9. Again for the sake of simplicity, I’ll call it an even $9.

So now allow me to explain the consequences of this:

1) Most importantly, Blockchain Benevolence received the donation, sold it for ETH which was transferred to coinbase, and then sold for dollars. These dollars will be sent on to cureblindness.org and be used to fund cataract surgeries. Cureblindness.org is my charity of choice; individual donors may choose a different charity if they so desire.
2) I am able to deduct $6,929 as an itemized deduction on my 2018 return ($9 x the 769.9 Rep).

3) Since I wanted to continue to hold the same amount of Rep, I can use my cash on hand to rebuy, only now my tax basis is somewhere north of $8 (current market price), a significant improvement over my original $4 basis.

Between the deduction and my step-up in basis, these are significant benefits!