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Biden Administration Proposals Will Greatly Enhance IRS’ Ability to Identify Cryptocurrency Transactions

The Biden Administration and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continue to focus heavily on cryptocurrency tax enforcement issues. On May 20, 2021, the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released the American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda, a 22-page report detailing tax compliance measures that are to be included as part of US President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. The report sets forth a number of initiatives designed to “close the tax gap,” identify the underreporting of tax liabilities and detect tax evasion. These measures, which are part of an $80 billion proposal for the IRS, would significantly enhance the agencies’ ability to address the challenges involved with finding taxes that result from virtual currency transactions.

The Treasury’s report notes that “[c]ryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion.” To address this issue, the Biden Administration is proposing “additional resources for the IRS to address the growth of cryptoassets.”

Most notably, the Biden Administration is proposing enhanced reporting requirements for domestic and foreign financial accounts that specifically address cryptocurrency. Financial institutions, including “cryptoasset exchange accounts and payment service accounts that accept cryptocurrencies” would be required to submit third-party annual reports of all “gross inflows and outflows” from business and personal accounts to the IRS using a form similar to the IRS 1099-INT. Additionally, “businesses that receive cryptoassets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would be reported on” in a manner similar to how cash transactions are reported on Currency Transaction Reports. These new reporting requirements would dramatically increase the IRS’ ability to identify and detect unreported cryptocurrency transactions.

The report also reemphasizes the need to devote additional funding to the IRS. The Biden Administration is seeking $80 billion in additional funding so that the Treasury and IRS can, among other things, hire “new specialized enforcement staff” and “revitalize[e] the IRS’s examination of large corporations, partnerships, and global high-wealth and high-income individuals.”

Additionally, the Biden Administration plans to overhaul the IRS’ IT systems and capabilities. These IT enhancements are designed to “help support a staff capable of deploying new analytical techniques” and “developing machine learning capabilities [that] will enable the IRS to leverage the information it collects to better identify tax returns for compliance review.” Given the inherent difficulties in identifying cryptocurrency users who have failed to comply with the internal revenue laws, increased data collection and analytics capabilities would be invaluable for the IRS.

The IRS has already been ramping up its cryptocurrency tax enforcement efforts by issuing John Doe summons to various cryptocurrency exchanges, working with industry experts and foreign law enforcement. If implemented, the American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda would provide the IRS with extensive new tools and resources for these ongoing enforcement activities.

Practice Point: If you have engaged in cryptocurrency transactions, now is the time to analyze whether you have any civil or criminal exposure and prepare for a government inquiry by gathering all of your transaction records. For [...]

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Skip Jail and Clean Up Your Tax Problems

If you have knowingly failed to report income or claimed deductions you know you are not entitled to, or just decided not to file your tax returns and pay the tax owed, you may be liable for civil penalties and even jail time for criminal tax evasion. Taxpayers with civil and criminal tax exposure may want to fix their past mistakes but are afraid of what will happen if they “come clean.” So, the majority of offenders keep offending year after year. But did you know there is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) program that can help taxpayers get out of that “evasion” cycle, and clean up past tax issues, usually without criminal liability?

The IRS has a longstanding program through which taxpayers can make voluntary disclosures of tax underreporting and tax criminal evasion. Such disclosures may help taxpayers limit their criminal exposure, although disclosure does not automatically guarantee immunity from criminal prosecution.

The latest iteration of the voluntary disclosure program is known as the Voluntary Disclosure Practice (VDP). (Here is a link to the IRS’s VDP program description.) Under the terms of the program, a taxpayer must submit Part I of Form 14457, Voluntary Disclosure Practice Preclearance Request and Application, which contains basic identifying and procedural information necessary to determine if the taxpayer is eligible to participate in the VDP program. The IRS uses this information to verify that the taxpayer is not already under criminal investigation, which is a bar to entering into the VDP program. Once the taxpayer has been “precleared,” the taxpayer must submit Part II of Form 14457, which seeks detailed information regarding the nature of the tax reporting failures and the associated unpaid tax liabilities. If the taxpayer is approved to participate in the VDP program, the taxpayer’s case is transferred to the appropriate IRS civil division for examination. Ultimately, the taxpayer must cooperate with the IRS to determine its correct tax liability and must make good faith arrangements to pay all unpaid liabilities, including interest and penalties. Typically, this will include the filing of corrected tax returns for six years; the payment of the correct tax and interest for those returns; and the payment of enhanced penalties for one tax year.

The current version of Form 14457 was released in April 2020. On July 14, 2020, Carolyn A. Schenck, the National Fraud Counsel for the IRS Fraud Enforcement Program, stated that the IRS is planning to issue additional instructions for Form 14457 to provide further guidance on the mechanics of the VDP. Conforming additions will be made to the Internal Revenue Manual.

Practice Point: The risk of criminal prosecution for tax offenses is increasing due to significant improvements in IRS enforcement strategies. IRS commissioner Charles Rettig was formerly in private practice defending taxpayers and has implemented significant changes in IRS programs and leadership. There is an unprecedented degree of coordination among the enforcement divisions and emphasis on preventing tax fraud, with Eric Hylton, previous deputy [...]

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Finally the IRS Clarifies Its Position on Cryptocurrency

It took five years, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has finally released some guidance on the taxation of cryptocurrencies! On October 9, 2019, the IRS released Revenue Ruling 2019-24 and several “frequently asked questions” (and answers) which deal with some (but not all) of the federal income tax issues involved with cryptocurrencies.

Over the years, we have reported on the issues involved with cryptocurrencies, including the potential controversies that have ensued because of a lack of guidance.

The new guidance is welcomed by tax professionals and taxpayers. The guidance adopts traditional tax principles to deal with some of the unique aspects of cryptocurrencies. For example, the guidance addresses the tax treatment of so-called “hard forks” and whether the value of the “fork” which is “airdropped” into the taxpayer’s wallet constitutes taxable income.

Practice Point: Cryptocurrencies are a brave new world for most of us. Having thoughtful, current guidance is helpful to tax professionals and taxpayers, and will (hopefully) lead to better and more efficient administration of our tax system.




Kovel Protections Upheld | Government Loses Aggressive Arguments for Waiver of Privilege for Controversy Advice

On October 27, the US District Court for the District of Minnesota issued an opinion in United States v. Adams, No. 0:17-cr-00064-DWF-KMM (D. Minn. Oct. 27, 2018), addressing attorney-client privilege issues relevant to accountants working alongside tax attorneys. The court adopted a narrow, nuanced view of the waiver that applies when the taxpayer discloses an accountant’s work to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filing an amended return.

In Adams, the taxpayer is facing a 17 count superseding indictment in which the government alleges he spearheaded a scheme to defraud investors in two companies and to embezzle corporate funds for his personal benefit. In late 2017, the government added three counts of tax evasion to the indictment, alleging that amended returns the taxpayer filed in late 2011 for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 tax years were willfully false under IRC § 7206(1).

The addition of the tax evasion charges is significant for the government’s arguments for waiver of privilege and work-product protection. It appears that the taxpayer filed the amended returns at issue in late 2011 under advice of counsel, working with the taxpayer’s accountant under a Kovel arrangement. (We have previously discussed the scope of Kovel protections here.) In our experience, filing of amended returns in advance of a criminal investigation or trial is one potential strategy to demonstrate good faith and lack of criminal intent and, if combined with payment, amended returns may have the added benefit of reducing the tax loss at issue in a criminal case. Of course, every case is different, but it appears this may have been the strategy at work in Adams. (more…)




The IRS May Be Coming for Your Bitcoins

If you have traded Bitcoin or other crypto-currencies, you probably know that their taxation may be as uncertain as your potential for reward or loss. Since 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has publicized how it believes these investments should be treated for US federal income tax purposes. If you have failed to report your virtual currency transaction, the result in Coinbase, a recent IRS “John Doe” summons enforcement case, should convince you that it is time to ensure you are compliant with tax laws. The IRS may be coming for your Bitcoins!

IRS Guidance – Bitcoins Are Property

In IRS Notice 2014-21, 2014-16 IRB 938, the IRS explained that so-called “virtual currencies” that can be exchanged for traditional currency are “property” for federal income tax purposes. As such, a taxpayer must report gain or loss on its sale or exchange, measured against the taxpayer’s cost to purchase the virtual currency. In the notice, the IRS also made clear that “virtual currencies” are not currency for Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 988 purposes. (more…)




Former Tax Court Judge Diane L. Kroupa Sentenced in Connection with Tax Evasion Matter

We have previously blogged on the criminal tax proceedings related to former US Tax Court Judge Kroupa (see here and here). In October 2016, Judge Kroupa pleaded guilty to multiple tax criminal charges related to her tax returns and interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. Based on sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence was between 30‒37 months. Judge Kroupa and the government submitted filings on the appropriate sentence, in which Judge Kroupa provided detailed reasons why she believed the court should impose a sentence of 20 months imprisonment. These filings can be found here and here. According to a report in today’s BNA Daily Tax Report, the court sentenced Judge Kroupa to 34 months in prison and ordered her to pay $457,000 in restitution, which is owed jointly with her former husband. She was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. Judge Kroupa’s former husband was sentenced to 24 months in prison and one year of supervised release.




Former Tax Court Judge Pleads Guilty to Tax Crimes

Following up on our prior coverage (see here), former US Tax Court Judge Diane L. Kroupa pleaded guilty on Friday to multiple tax criminal charges related to her tax returns and interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. The government stipulated during the hearing that all charges except defrauding the United States would be dropped if Kroupa agreed to be sentenced on the fraud charge. Based on sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence is between 30-37 months, although the judge may ultimately sentence Kroupa to more or less time. A copy of the Change of Plea Hearing can be found here.




Former Tax Court Judge Indicted for Tax Evasion

On April 4, 2016, the US Attorney for the District of Minnesota announced a federal grand jury indictment charging former US Tax Court Judge Diane L. Kroupa and her husband with conspiring to evade the assessment of taxes. In a multi-count indictment, both were charged with conspiracy, tax evasion, making and subscribing false tax returns and obstruction of an IRS audit. According to the indictment and documents filed in court, Kroupa and her husband fraudulently claimed personal expenses as business deductions, failed to report income from a land sale, and falsely claimed financial insolvency. They also allegedly concealed certain documents from their taxpayer preparer and an IRS agent during an audit, and caused misleading documents to be delivered to the IRS. The indictment alleges that between 2004 and 2010, Kroupa and her husband purposely understated their taxable income by approximately $1 million and the amount of tax owed by at least $400,000.

Judge Kroupa was appointed to the Tax Court in June 2003, and retired from the court in June 2014. While she was on the bench, Kroupa was very active—the Tax Court’s website indicates that she authored 234 opinions, including 31 division or “T.C.” opinions, 180 “memorandum” opinions, and 23 “summary” opinions. Some of her more notable opinions were Canal Corp., Bank of NY Mellon, BMC Software, Samueli and Eaton.

Here is a link to a press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice: Former United States Tax Court Judge and Husband Indicted for Conspiracy to Commit Tax Evasion and Obstruction of an IRS Audit.




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