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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Virtual currency - recent tax matters


First - On 11/8/21, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report (dated 9/21/16) – Rising Use of Virtual Currencies Requires IRS to Take Additional Actions to Ensure Taxpayer Compliance. Per the release:

Alternative payment methods, such as convertible virtual currencies, have grown in popularity in recent years and have emerged for some people as a potential alternative to using traditional currencies like U.S. dollars.  Virtual currencies offer potential benefits over traditional currencies, including lower transaction fees and faster transfer of funds for services provided.  However, some virtual currencies are also popular because the identity of the parties involved is generally anonymous, leading to a greater possibility of their use in illegal transactions.  Recently, many types of virtual currencies have been created for use in lieu of currency issued by a government to purchase goods and services in the real economy.  The overall objective of this review was to evaluate the IRS’s strategy for addressing income produced through virtual currencies."

In the report, TIGTA recommends the following actions for the IRS:
“1) develop a coordinated virtual currency strategy that includes outcome goals, a description of how the agency intends to achieve those goals, and an action plan with a timeline for implementation;
2) provide updated guidance to reflect the necessary documentation requirements and tax treatments needed for the various uses of virtual currencies; and

3) revise third-party information reporting documents to identify the amounts of virtual currencies used in taxable transactions.”
TIGTA also notes that in Notice 2014-21, the IRS sought comments and received many, but has not issued any additional guidance. One of these letters was from the AICPA and listed ten areas where additional guidance would improve compliance and provide clarity (6/10/16 letter).

Second - Also this month, the IRS filed a petition in District Court to obtain two years of records (2014 and 2015) from Coinbase (U.S. v. John Doe, No. 3:16-cv-06658-JSC (ND CA 11/17/16)). The 16-page petition explains how virtual currency works and what Coinbase does. The IRS believes that some of its customers have not complied with the tax laws. See Stan Higgins, “The IRS is Seeking Data on Coinbase’s Bitcoin Customers,” CoinDesk, 11/18/16.

The IRS notes the following bitcoin usage: “As of January 2016, it was reported that more than 100,000 merchants globally were accepting bitcoin payments with businesses such as Overstock.com, Home Depot, DirectTV, Dell, Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia topping the list. By Fall 2016, the number of merchants is forecast to grow to 150,000. With bitcoin, a user can buy webhosting services, cars, homes, and even pizza and manicures. In 2015, there were 125,498 bitcoin transactions per day. Using the total bitcoins traded in 2015 and the 2015 bitcoin average price, I calculated the 2015 annualized transaction value in U.S. dollars to be $10,116,817,608.”

IRS concerns include no information reporting for the transactions, articles about people using bitcoin to avoid tax reporting, exchanging money for virtual currency through foreign banks, and use for crimes including money laundering.

Update - The District Court granted the summons on 11/30/16. Also see the US Department of Justice press release of 11/30/16.

For more on virtual currency and the blockchain, see my website.

What do you think? Any virtual currency tax issues you see?

2 comments:

Daniel said...

I always research on currencies ups and downs and i found Top 10 Strongest Currencies of the Globe By Price this will be useful for information

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