I don’t know about other countries (I promise to investigate though!), but US traders are definitely required to pay taxes for foreign exchange profits. It sucks, but that’s the law, so unless you are planning to move to Europe or Middle East, you should continue reading!
US forex traders can choose to be taxed under the tax rules of regular commodities (IRC Section 1256 contracts). Another options is to be taxed under the special rules (IRC Section 988 – Treatment of Certain Foreign Currency Transactions)
Good thing about Section 1256 for forex traders is that when you report your capital gains on IRS Form 6781 (Gains and Losses from Section 1256 Contracts and Straddles) you have the right to split your capital gains on Schedule D using a 60% / 40% split. What the hell is this split??
- 60% of the capital gains are taxed at the lower capital gains rate (currently 15%)
- the remaining 40% at the ordinary capital gains rate (as high as 35%).
What about Section 988? What is it and how to deal with it?
With Section 988 the gains and losses from forex are treated as interest income or expense and get taxed accordingly. There is no 60/40 split and, to make things even more complicated, since forex traders deal with daily exchange rate changes, the trading activity also falls under the provisions of Section 988. However, IRS isn’t THAT evil – daily exchange rate changes can be considered part of a forex trader’s assets, a normal part of your business. So IRS gives you an option of rejecting (OPTING OUT) of Section 988 and tax your gains under lovely 60/40 split of Section 1256.
How to get rid of (or OPT OUT) Section 988?
There is no need to file anything with IRS to opt out Section 988. However, you are required to do file “internally” before you even start trading for real. What do I mean by internally? You have to keep records about the fact that you are opting out of Section 988.
Majority of forex traders wait a year or so to see what kind of profit they get from forex trading and only then claim that they opt out of IRS 988. The last time I checked IRS can’t really check whether a forex trader opt out Section 988 at the beginning of his trading activities or later on, and therefore IRS still let this trick pass.
How to pay your forex taxes?
US forex trader will get 1099 forms from his US-based forex broker at the end of the year. If your forex broker is based in another country you still have to get the reports and forms from your accounts and get some professional tax advice.
Forex trading is becoming more and more popular and eventually IRS will catch up with some new regulations. Meanwhile, try to enjoy the advantages of the current tax requirements on forex trading. And here is my advice - don’t try to skip taxes!