The Best Cost Basis Method for Crypto

When it comes to managing your cryptocurrency investments, one important aspect to consider is determining the cost basis. The cost basis is the original value of an asset for tax and accounting purposes. It plays a crucial role in calculating any gains or losses when you sell or exchange your crypto assets. There are several methods to calculate the cost basis, and choosing the right one can have significant implications on your tax obligations and investment strategies.

1. First-In, First-Out (FIFO)

The First-In, First-Out (FIFO) method is one of the most commonly used cost basis methods. Under FIFO, the first tokens or coins you acquire are considered the first ones sold or exchanged. This method follows a chronological order, assuming that the oldest acquisitions are the first to be liquidated.

For example, if you bought 1 BTC in January 2020 and another 0.5 BTC in March 2021, selling 0.7 BTC in August 2021 would be calculated using the cost of the 1 BTC purchased in January 2020. FIFO can be advantageous when the value of your earliest acquisitions is lower, potentially resulting in lower taxable gains.

2. Last-In, First-Out (LIFO)

In contrast to FIFO, the Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) method assumes that the most recently acquired tokens or coins are the first ones sold or exchanged. LIFO relies on the idea that the assets acquired most recently have a higher cost basis.

Using the same example as above, if you adopted LIFO, the cost basis for selling 0.7 BTC in August 2021 would be calculated using the 0.5 BTC purchased in March 2021. LIFO can be beneficial when the value of your recent acquisitions is lower, potentially resulting in lower taxable gains.

3. Specific Identification

The Specific Identification method allows you to choose which tokens or coins are being sold or exchanged. This method involves individually identifying the cost basis of each asset. While it provides the most flexibility, it requires strict record-keeping and documentation to track the cost of specific units.

4. Average Cost

The Average Cost method calculates the cost basis by taking the total cost of all units and dividing it by the total number of units. This method is often viewed as a simple and straightforward approach, especially for those with multiple acquisitions and no specific identification of units.

5. High-Cost or Low-Cost

Another approach is to identify and sell or exchange the assets with the highest or lowest cost basis. This method allows you to strategically choose which assets to liquidate based on their cost, potentially optimizing your tax obligations and investment gains or losses.

Choosing the Right Method

Deciding which cost basis method to use for your crypto investments depends on various factors including your tax situation, investment strategy, and record-keeping capabilities. It is essential to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to determine the best method for your specific needs.


Understanding and selecting the appropriate cost basis method is crucial for accurately reporting your crypto investments and managing your tax liabilities. Whether you opt for FIFO, LIFO, specific identification, average cost, or high-cost/low-cost, each method has its advantages and considerations. By choosing wisely and keeping detailed records, you can ensure compliance with tax regulations and optimize your investment outcomes.

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