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IRS steps up efforts to target U.S. taxpayers who failed to report and pay taxes on cryptocurrency transactions

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The IRS continues to chase U.S. taxpayers who failed to report and pay taxes on cryptocurrency transactions with a new court order allowing a summons for customer records.

The agency will issue a so-called “John Doe summons” requiring M.Y. Safra Bank to turn over crypto transaction data for SFOX, a digital currency prime broker that used the bank, with more than 175,000 users and over $12 billion in transactions since 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

It’s not the first IRS summons for crypto records, but it’s unusual because the broker seems to be “quite small,” signaling the possibility of more to come, said Andrew Gordon, tax attorney, CPA and president of Gordon Law Group in Skokie, Illinois. 

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“The IRS has indicated this is a very high priority for them.” Gordon added.

While the first summons for crypto tax records triggered IRS letters for unreported income and unpaid taxes, the response took a few years, said Matt Metras, an enrolled agent and cryptocurrency tax specialist at MDM Financial Services in Rochester, New York.

“I’m curious to see what happens with all this data they’re collecting,” said Metras, noting that the IRS may try to match it with investors’ tax returns.

Confusion about crypto tax reporting persists

Since 2019, there’s been a question about “virtual currency” on the front page of the tax return, asking filers to disclose their taxable crypto activity.  

However, there’s still uncertainty about how to answer the question, explained Yu-Ting Wang, vice chair of the virtual currency task force for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

The organization submitted comments to the IRS about the question in late August, asking for revisions to the query and clearer instructions with examples before the agency finalizes the 2022 tax return, she said. 

The IRS has indicated this is a very high priority for them.

Andrew Gordon

President of Gordon Law Grou

In 2021, Congress passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, with a provision requiring annual tax reporting from digital currency brokers starting in 2023.

The measure may bring in nearly $28 billion over a decade, according to a 2021 estimate from the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

But tax professionals are still seeking guidance on the definition of “broker” to know which companies must comply, Wang said.

What to do if you haven’t been compliant

Regardless of which companies report activity to the IRS, experts say crypto investors must be proactive.

If you haven’t reported cryptocurrency income on past tax returns, you should speak with a tax professional with digital currency expertise, Wang suggested.

“It is much better to come forward and file an amendment than to let the IRS audit you — or potentially even worse, for not reporting crypto,” Gordon said.

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