Cryptocurrency John Doe Summons

Cryptocurrency John Doe Summons

Cryptocurrency John Doe Summons Reveals Crypto Fraud Identities

Cryptocurrency John Doe Summons Reveals Taxpayer Fraud Identities: The US Government continues to make cryptocurrency tax and reporting compliance a key enforcement priority. Recently, the District of Massachusetts affirmed the US Government’s request for a John Doe Summons to issue for Circle Internet Financial Inc., or its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliates, including Poloniex LLC (collectively “Circle”). The goal of the summons is to reveal the names of persons who entered into transactions on matters involving cryptocurrency.

IRC 7609(f)

    • (f) Additional requirement in the case of a John Doe summons Any summons described in subsection (c)(1) which does not identify the person with respect to whose liability the summons is issued may be served only after a court proceeding in which the Secretary establishes that—

      • (1) the summons relates to the investigation of a particular person or ascertainable group or class of persons

      • (2) there is a reasonable basis for believing that such person or group or class of persons may fail or may have failed to comply with any provision of any internal revenue law, and

      • (3) the information sought to be obtained from the examination of the records or testimony (and the identity of the person or persons with respect to whose liability the summons is issued) is not readily available from other sources.

      • The Secretary shall not issue any summons described in the preceding sentence unless the information sought to be obtained is narrowly tailored to information that pertains to the failure (or potential failure) of the person or group or class of persons referred to in paragraph (2) to comply with one or more provisions of the internal revenue law which have been identified for purposes of such paragraph.

What does this Mean?

It means that in certain situations in which there is an ongoing investigation and the government requires the ability to obtain information for individuals in which they do not yet have the specific name, the government may move for a John Doe summons — as long as there is a reasonable basis and there are not other readily available sources to retain information.

IRM 25.5.7.1.1 (06-04-2020) – John Doe Summons

A John Doe Summons is essentially a backdoor method of the US Government to obtain taxpayer information.

As provided by the IRM

      • There are times when the IRS must investigate violations, or potential violations, of internal revenue law by a person, group or class of persons without identifying a specific individual. A John Doe summons is a summons that does not identify the person with respect to whose liability the summons is issued. The Internal Revenue Code authorizes the IRS to issue a John Doe summons pursuant to an investigation of a specific, unidentified person or an ascertainable group or class of persons. See IRC 7609(f).

      • With a normal summons, the IRS seeks information about a specific taxpayer whose identity is known. In contrast, a John Doe summons allows the IRS to obtain the names, requested information and documents concerning all taxpayers in a certain group. A John Doe summons can be a useful tool when trying to obtain information like a list of investors in a certain tax shelter, owners of tax-exempt bonds, or account holders at a financial institution.

Court Authorizes Service of John Doe Summons Seeking Identities of U.S. Taxpayers Who Have Used Cryptocurrency

 As provided by the DOJ website:

      • A federal court in the District of Massachusetts entered an order today authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on Circle Internet Financial Inc., or its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliates, including Poloniex LLC (collectively “Circle”), seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted at least the equivalent of $20,000 in transactions in cryptocurrency during the years 2016 to 2020. The IRS is seeking the records of Americans who engaged in business with or through Circle, a digital currency exchanger headquartered in Boston.

      • “Those who transact with cryptocurrency must meet their tax obligations like any other taxpayer,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. Hubbert of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with the IRS to ensure that cryptocurrency owners are paying their fair share of taxes.”

      • “Tools like the John Doe summons authorized today send the clear message to U.S. taxpayers that the IRS is working to ensure that they are fully compliant in their use of virtual currency,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The John Doe summons is a step to enable the IRS to uncover those who are failing to properly report their virtual currency transactions. We will enforce the law where we find systemic noncompliance or fraud.”

      • Cryptocurrency, as generally defined, is a digital representation of value. Because transactions in cryptocurrencies can be difficult to trace and have an inherently pseudo-anonymous aspect, taxpayers may be using them to hide taxable income from the IRS. In the court’s order, U.S. Judge Richard G. Stearns found that there is a reasonable basis for believing that cryptocurrency users may have failed to comply with federal tax laws.

      • The court’s order grants the IRS permission to serve what is known as a “John Doe” summons on Circle. The United States’ petition does not allege that Circle has engaged in any wrongdoing in connection with its digital currency exchange business. Rather, according to the court’s order, the summons seeks information related to the IRS’s “investigation of an ascertainable group or class of persons” that the IRS has reasonable basis to believe “may have failed to comply with any provision of any internal revenue laws[.]”

      • According to the copy of the summons filed with the petition, the IRS is requesting that Circle produce records identifying the U.S. taxpayers described above, along with other documents relating to their cryptocurrency transactions.

      • The IRS issued guidance regarding the tax treatment of virtual currencies in IRS Notice 2014-21, which provides that virtual currencies that can be converted into traditional currency are property for tax purposes. The guidance explains that receipt of virtual currency as payment for goods or services is treated as income and that a taxpayer can have a gain or loss on the sale or exchange of a virtual currency, depending on the taxpayer’s cost to purchase the virtual currency (that is, the taxpayer’s tax basis).

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