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Infrastructure Bill Provision Expands Cryptocurrency Reporting Requirements

On August 1, 2021, the US Senate unveiled the draft text of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bill), a highly anticipated $1 trillion infrastructure package negotiated by the White House and a bipartisan group of senators. As discussed below, the Bill includes a provision (Section 80603) that, if enacted in its current form, would amend the Internal Revenue Code (Code) to extend certain reporting requirements for transactions involving digital assets, including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether and other forms of digital tokens. The provision, which would generally go into effect on January 1, 2023, is intended to address a “tax gap” resulting from the underreporting of cryptocurrency transactions.

BROKER REPORTING

Code Section 6045 generally imposes reporting requirements on “every person doing business as a broker” with respect to sales affected by the broker on behalf of its clients. Under current law, such reporting is currently limited to sales of corporate stock, interests in trusts and partnerships, debt obligations, certain commodities and various associated derivatives. Pursuant to regulations, such sales are reported by the broker on Form 1099-B and the information required to be reported includes identifying information about the taxpayer and the property sold, the sale date and gross proceeds of the sale—and only with respect to the sale of a “covered security,” the adjusted basis of the property sold and the character of the gain or loss on the sale (i.e., long- or short-term capital gain).

For purposes of 1099-B reporting, a “broker” is defined to include a “dealer, a barter exchange, and any other person who (for a consideration) regularly acts as a middleman with respect to property or services.” A typical example of a broker subject to 1099-B reporting is a brokerage firm that facilitates transactions for customers in stocks, bonds and/or commodities.

The Bill expands the definition of a broker to include “any person who (for consideration) is responsible for regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person.” Unless otherwise provided by the US Department of the Treasury’s regulations, a “digital asset” means “any digital representation of value which is recorded on a cryptographically secured distributed ledger or any similar technology as specified by [Treasury].” A cryptocurrency exchange would be considered a broker under this language.

The “basis” reporting under Section 6045 only applies to “covered securities.” Under current law, the term covered securities generally includes corporate stock shares, debt obligations, certain designated commodities (and derivatives thereof) and other financial instruments. The Bill would expand the definition of covered securities to include any “digital asset.” Accordingly, brokers subject to Section 6045 will be required to report the adjusted basis and the character of the gain or loss upon the sale of digital assets, including utility tokens, stablecoins and asset-backed tokens.

BROKER-TO-BROKER AND BROKER-TO-NON-BROKER TRANSFER REPORTING

Under current law, Code Section 6045A imposes additional reporting requirements that are generally applicable to the transfer of covered securities by one broker to another. Specifically, the transferor broker must [...]

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Key Takeaways | Cryptocurrency Global Tax Enforcement: What Investors and Companies in the Industry Need to Know NOW

During a recent program discussing the latest government enforcement efforts related to cryptocurrency, we spoke with Gary Alford, one of the leading Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents in their crypto enforcement efforts, Perry Carbone, Chief of the White Plains Office (US Attorney’s Office – SDNY) and Andy Cole, former Director of Specialist Investigations at HM Revenue & Customs in the United Kingdom, about how investors and companies in the virtual currency industry should address enforcement actions. Below are key takeaways from the conversation.

ENHANCED ENFORCEMENT – UNITED STATES

  • The time to act is now. The IRS and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are collecting virtual currency data at a rapid pace while simultaneously moving forward with tax enforcement cases. The IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) revamped its operations to “do more with less” using new technology that will move investigations at a faster pace.
  • The IRS joined its civil and criminal units through Operation Hidden Treasure and is also working with outside experts in the field—along with specially-trained IRS agents—to pursue tax enforcement and asset seizure. This is a key agenda item for the US Department of the Treasury and is not going away any time soon.
  • The IRS and the DOJ expect taxpayers to comply voluntarily with all tax obligations. Despite these recent developments, US taxpayers have limited guidance from the IRS. Engaging with professionals in the space to evaluate the options available to taxpayers is crucial to assessing and ensuring compliance with cryptocurrency taxation.

INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS

  • Global collaboration is nothing new, but it is now on the rise. Agencies around the world are enhancing their cross-border information and resource sharing to investigate tax crimes efficiently and effectively. The J5, an important component of this global collaboration, is prepared to pool some of the world’s most sophisticated data analytical tools so that intelligence can be screened, searched and/or identified.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its governing body will likely start requiring cryptocurrency exchanges to collect customer due diligence information. The window of anonymity around cryptocurrency transactions has closed rapidly in recent years.
  • The global Common Reporting Standard (CRS) has been in force since 2017. Under the CRS, tax authorities of over 100 countries (including most of the traditional “tax havens”) automatically exchange tax, account and payment information with each other in order to assist in tax collection and enforcement action.

FOR INDIVIDUALS

  • Moving forward, the “knowledge and willfulness” element needed for criminal cases will be much easier for the DOJ to prove because the “virtual currency question” is now at the top of Form 1040. The prominent location of this question is “a game changer” for criminal tax prosecutions.
  • Cryptocurrency tax crimes are no longer “add on” charges to other criminal prosecutions, such as narcotics or fraud crimes. The DOJ expects to bring independent cryptocurrency criminal tax cases and take these prosecutions to “the next level,” including prosecutions of more routine tax matters.
  • Individuals serving as board members on behalf [...]

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Finding John Doe: IRS Steps up Enforcement Efforts to Take the Anonymity Out of Virtual Currency

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is stepping up its virtual currency enforcement, and taxpayers who have engaged in a cryptocurrency transaction should immediately assess any potential tax implications as the IRS has recently issued two John Doe summonses to popular exchanges. These are the first it has issued in about three years, sending a very clear signal that the IRS is ready to tackle what it believes to be a continuing noncompliance. A US Federal District Court in Massachusetts upheld the summons issued to Circle Internet Financial Inc., including the popular cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex, while a US Federal Court for the Northern District of California required the government to submit a response explaining its need for the information requested in its summons to Kraken. (See: In re Tax Liability of John Does, No. 21-cv-2201, ECF No. 8 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2021)).

Filed on April 14, 2021, the government’s response provided numerous examples of how the data received in the Coinbase summons required additional requests in order for the exchange to locate actual taxpayers. The response argued that the need for multiple follow-ups defeated the purpose of the summons. It also described how information in Kraken’s possession, such as accountholder telephone numbers and email addresses, will facilitate the IRS’s ability to utilize relevant cryptocurrency platform data in its possession that was received from other sources relating to foreign-based cryptocurrency exchanges. Noting the potential for abuse by an accountholder, the response provided an example of an individual falsifying their identity as the basis for its need for complete account history in order to catch these issues. In addition, the response stated, “[m]atching the IP addresses for Kraken users to IP addresses and other data points in the IRS’s information will allow the IRS to link substantive account information from multiple sources for a single individual taxpayer and make a more accurate initial determination of whether that individual is in compliance with the internal revenue laws.”

It remains to be seen how the court will react to the government’s response. What is clear, though, from the response and the accompanying affidavit is that the IRS has made significant progress in its analysis of this data and its ability to follow leads. As a result, now is the time for individuals involved in these transactions to consult a tax professional to determine if they have any tax liability or potential exposure, including criminal exposure. After the Coinbase summons, the IRS issued 10,000 letters to taxpayers regarding virtual currency transactions. In the wake of these summonses, and potentially others, it is only a matter of time before the IRS reaches out to thousands of other taxpayers.

It is also clear that the enforcement arm of the IRS is working very closely with its counterparts around the world. The need for email addresses and phone numbers mentioned above to use foreign data certainly drives this point home. Even more so, as a precursor of things to [...]

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Cryptocurrency May Be Subject to US Tax: Come Into Compliance Now

Lately, we have been frequently asked the question: “I file US tax returns and pay taxes here. Are my cryptocurrency transactions taxable or reportable in the US?”

The answer for US persons and US taxpayers most likely is “yes.” US persons are generally taxable on income earned worldwide, regardless of the manner in which that income is paid (e.g. currency (foreign or domestic) or property (tangible, intangible or virtual)). Thus, if you have bought, sold or exchanged cryptocurrency, those transactions could be subject to federal tax. If your cryptocurrency is held offshore, a number of offshore reporting obligations could also apply to these holdings.

Now is the right time to come forward and resolve any US compliance issues related to your cryptocurrency holdings. As we have seen in recent cases like the Coinbase summons enforcement proceeding (which we reported upon in several previous posts), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has stepped up its enforcement efforts regarding undisclosed interests in cryptocurrency worldwide.

How should you come forward? Following an IRS-attended conference earlier this year, comments began circulating that the IRS was considering the creation of a formal voluntary disclosure program for cryptocurrency transactions, similar to the now-ended Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. (We reported on that program numerous times, here.) Unfortunately, the IRS has now squashed this rumor, stating that “IRS is not contemplating a separate program related to offshore [virtual] currencies.” A domestic program was not even mentioned.

Despite this news, a number of disclosure options remain available for bringing your US and foreign cryptocurrency into compliance. The IRS’s longstanding voluntary disclosure policy remains in full force and effect. This policy acts to reduce or eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution related to nondisclosure of domestic or foreign taxable assets, and can provide avenues to reduce civil penalties as well. Further, the IRS’s Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures and Delinquent International Information Return Procedures are still active and may provide reduced (or no) penalties for US international tax non-compliance in appropriate cases.

Practice Point: Beyond the short answer of “yes, cryptocurrency is taxable,” a number of open questions regarding the taxation and reporting of cryptocurrency in the US remain. For example, determining what offshore crypto holdings are subject to FBAR and Form 8938 reporting remains complicated and unclear. Also, although tax reform has eliminated the use of Section 1031 exchanges to avoid currently being taxed for personal property like cryptocurrencies, the IRS’s position on exchanges that occurred prior to 2018 is still unknown. There are also open valuation questions, particularly for crypto accounts subject to access limitations like lock-up periods. The tax treatment of so-called hard and soft “forks” is also unclear. Finally, crypto exchanges are navigating a number of open reporting and compliance issues. If you have significant holdings in cryptocurrency, consult with a federal tax advisor who understands the tax aspects of this unique asset to [...]

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