GBTC Redemption Tax Looms: Can Grayscale’s Bitcoin ETF Charge Huge Fees And Retain Clients?

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Last updated Jan 16, 2024 | 10:40 AM UTC

Grayscale’s spot Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF) is set to cut fees along with the rest of the competition. However, there are still tricky tax concerns following the conversion of its Bitcoin Trust into an ETF.

GBTC capital concerns

There will be many who invested in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) before it converted to an ETF. Those investors will have most likely made significant gains on their investment, especially if they purchased between the years of 2019 and 2023. 

Now that spot Bitcoin ETFs have been approved in the United States, competitors who are looking to attract and retain investors are slashing their fees in a bid for some market advantage.

This has created a bit of a dilemma for Grayscale investors specifically, as numerous spot Bitcoin ETFs are offering significantly lower fees than that of Grayscale. But the tax implication, should they sell, could mean paying upward of 20% capital gains on taxes.

Cash redemptions

Typically, ETFs use in-kind redemptions, i.e. the ETF issuer exchanges the underlying securities of the fund with a market maker instead of cash transactions. The swapping of assets does not create a taxable event. 

With cash redemptions, fund managers are responsible for selling the securities and distributing the cash to shareholders, creating a taxable transaction.

The GBTC ETF has reduced its fees from 2% to 1.5%. Other firms such as Bitwise Bitcoin have fees as low as 0.2%, leaving many to wonder if Grayscale can maintain its lead over the pack.

GBTC investors may be reluctant to sell their shares, as the losses from capital gains taxes far outweigh the 1.5% in yearly fees, which will be a factor to consider when observing spot Bitcoin ETF trading volumes going forward.

With that said, Grayscale has previously explained the tax considerations in December 2023, explaining: “Unlike mutual funds and many other ETFs, substantially all spot commodity ETFs are structured as grantor trusts for tax purposes. The taxation of grantor trusts is not the same as the tax treatment for mutual funds, which may have capital gains or losses based on the mutual fund’s carrying value for sold assets that impact the fund’s shareholders.“

Largest spot Bitcoin ETF

Perhaps what sets Grayscale apart from the rest is that it has had a foothold in the Bitcoin market for a decade now having launched GBTC in 2013. It was the first Bitcoin investment product of its kind, and just two years later in 2015, the firm made history again after GBTC became the first publicly traded Bitcoin fund in the United States.

This has allowed the GBTC fund to accumulate a significant of assets under management (AUM) in the years preceding the ETF approval, which now positions it as the largest spot Bitcoin ETF in the world, with over $28billion in assets at launch.

Though fees may seem high, GBTC has been offered at a generously discounted rate over the past few years, which would go toward explaining their significant market share.

Whether or not this will affect the GBTC ETF balance sheets going forward is yet to be seen, and it is worth noting that a lot of the results will depend on how well Bitcoin, crypto, and these new spot Bitcoin ETFs perform going forward.

Moving ahead, Grayscale is seemingly hot on the heels of the crypto market having applied for a covered call Bitcoin ETF just a day after having its spot Bitcoin ETF approved. This would allow investors to place short-term calls across their long-term investment strategies, which could help Grayscale retain investor interest.

Written by

Eddie is a seasoned crypto writer and Bitcoin maximalist.