Donors gave away $22 million in bitcoin in 2017: Fidelity

  • From January through November this year, givers donated $11 million in the popular cryptocurrency.
  • That total has doubled since the start of December.
  • One bitcoin is currently valued at more than $17,000.
In this photo illustration, a visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin in front of a Bitcoin chart is displayed on November 30, 2017 in Paris, France.
Chesnot | Getty Images

Bitcoin holders are taking advantage of higher prices and year-end tax planning to give away millions of dollars in the cryptocurrency.

In 2017 through November, givers donated $11 million in bitcoin to Fidelity Charitable, earmarking the cash for their donor-advised funds. Those are accounts that you can fund with highly appreciated assets, and use over time for making grants to charities.

Since the beginning of December, charitable bitcoin holders have doubled that amount — and have now given $22 million of the cryptocurrency so far through 2017.

"People are getting smarter about donating appreciated assets, and bitcoin is the epitome of appreciated assets this year." -Matt Nash, Fidelity Charitable

Fidelity doesn't hold cryptocurrency donations. Rather, it processes the gifts through Coinbase, a currency exchange company, and then deposits the cash after conversion into benefactors' donor-advised funds.

"This is giving season, after all, starting in late November and running through Dec. 31," said Matt Nash, senior vice president of donor engagement at Fidelity Charitable.

"People are getting smarter about donating appreciated assets, and bitcoin is the epitome of appreciated assets this year," he said.

Here's why donating bitcoin is a clever tax play this year.

Spiking values

Bitcoin has experienced a meteoric rise in value over the last couple of weeks. One unit of the cryptocurrency is valued at more than $17,000 as of Dec. 15.

Bitcoin holders may be on the hook for steep capital gains taxes if they were to cash out of the cryptocurrency now, particularly if they acquired their holdings back in 2010 when one bitcoin was worth less than a dollar.

Give it away

Investors can make gifts of their bitcoin to a donor-advised fund, collect a charitable giving deduction for their 2017 taxes, and then make grants when they are ready.

This way, donors can also avoid the capital gains bite they'd incur if they sold their bitcoin.

Generally, the deduction for charitable contributions is limited to 50 percent of adjusted gross income. If your gift surpasses that limit, you can use the excess amount of the deduction over the course of five years.

For those who are worried about the GOP tax overhaul: Both the House and Senate bills will keep the charitable deduction, but fewer taxpayers will likely use it.

About 49 million taxpayers, or 28 percent, currently itemize, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. If the tax bill is approved with a near doubling of the standard deduction, it's likely even fewer taxpayers would do so.

Fidelity is accepting bitcoin donations for 2017 up until Dec. 22, as it takes two to four days to perform due diligence on these gifts.

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