The idea of comma-separated values (CSV) files has existed since the early 1980s. Storing tabular data in plain text makes it easy for humans to create and machines to parse. So, while we have access to more complex formats now, CSV remains a popular data format because it works well with everything from Microsoft Excel to SQL databases.
In this article, you’ll learn how to organize your crypto transactions into a CSV format, making it easy for any accountant or accounting program to consume.
What is a CSV File?
A CSV file is a plain text file that uses commas to separate (or delimit) data. However, some CSV files contain other delimiters, such as a semicolon (;) or pipe character (|).
You can create CSVs by hand or using popular spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. But remember that CSV only supports a single tab, so saving a multi-tab Excel document as a CSV will keep the current tab. You must generate multiple CSV documents for each tab to account for your data.
Here’s an example of how the actual file might look:
Bob Smith,[email protected],123-1234
John Doe,[email protected],456-4567
Jane Jones,[email protected],789-7890
CSV files make it easy to export data from one source and import it into another without worrying about file formats or custom configurations. So, for example, you can export crypto transactions from multiple exchanges and import them into your accounting software without worrying about custom file formats for each exchange.
But, of course, the generic nature of a CSV file means there are many possibilities for differences. For example, some may not have any header row (defining the columns), and others may use quotation marks to surround each data point. As a result, the files may need a little clean-up before importing into the following application.
Why Crypto Traders May Need CSVs
There are several possible scenarios:
- You use an exchange without an API integration providing access to your transactions and don’t want to pull them manually.
- You lost your wallet and need to recreate the transactions.
- You use a crypto exchange or token your accounting software doesn’t support with API integration.
CSV files allow you to bring these transaction histories into your accounting software and complete taxes. For example, you may need to import transactions via CSV into ZenLedger in these circumstances to compute your tax obligations correctly. And the same may be true for your accountant or other tax software.
You might also use CSV files for non-tax purposes like analyzing trade data. Either way, it’s helpful to have access to readily exported and imported data between various applications and tools you may use daily.
How to Structure Crypto Transactions
There’s no standard for formatting crypto transactions in a CSV file. But you’ll need some information to complete Form 8949 and other tax documents. So, that’s a good start for building your CSV files.
ZenLedger requires the following columns when importing transactions into our crypto tax platform:
- Timestamp – The transaction time in UTC (time in London).
- Type – The transaction type (buy, sell, trade, receive or send).
- IN Amount – The amount you receive.
- IN Currency – The type of currency you receive.
- OUT Amount – The amount you sent.
- OUT Currency – The type of currency you sent.
- Fee Amount – The amount you paid in fees.
- Fee Currency – The currency you paid fees in.
- Exchange (optional) – The exchange that processed the transaction.
- US-Based (Y/N) – Whether the exchange was U.S.-based.
You can learn more about how to format CSVs for ZenLedger here:
When building CSV files, remember that no program can automatically update the CSV file itself. So, you’ll need to save your CSVs regularly and upload them when you have new transactions. ZenLedger will only add new transactions from the file, but if you’re using another platform, make sure there are no duplicate transactions.
Finally, it’s best to standardize the formatting of CSV files to avoid any problems. Small changes in the formatting, like a different delimiter or an added quotation mark around data, can impact accuracy.
Automate the Process with ZenLedger
Crypto taxes can be a lot more challenging than typical stock transactions. While your stockbroker might send a Form 1099-B outlining your cost basis and other information, you may need to aggregate your crypto transactions from multiple sources and arrange them chronologically to complete your crypto taxes.
Fortunately, ZenLedger offers integration with the most popular wallets and exchanges, simplifying the process. Rather than dealing with large CSV files and spreadsheets, you can leverage the easy-to-use import interface to aggregate and analyze every transaction automatically. But if there’s an edge case, you can import CSV files, too.
After aggregating transactions, ZenLedger automatically populates Form 8949, Schedule D, and other crypto tax forms with the information you need to file. In the event of an audit, you can generate a unified accounting document to defend yourself with accurate data.
Finally, in addition to tax preparation, ZenLedger can help you track your crypto holdings across wallets and exchanges in a single location and even identify opportunities to harvest tax losses.
The Bottom Line
Comma-separated value (CSV) files are a popular way to format and send data across platforms. In the crypto world, these files can help import transactions into tax software regardless of the technology the exchange, wallet, or tax software relies on. As a result, it’s worth taking the time to understand how they work to avoid costly mistakes.
If you’re interested in streamlining your taxes, ZenLedger integrates with hundreds of wallets and exchanges to aggregate transactions and compute your tax obligations. And in exotic cases, ZenLedger’s CSV import makes it easy to ensure all of your transactions appear, eliminating the need to reconcile hardware wallets or other exchanges separately.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as professional advice. Please seek independent legal, financial, tax, or other advice specific to your particular situation.