Coinbase, one of the largest digital currency exchange companies in the world, will likely be asked to provide the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with transactional data and other information on all U.S. customers who used its services over a three-year period. Using what is known as a “John Doe” summons, the IRS has formally requested permission from a federal court to seek extensive information on all “United States persons who, at any time during the period January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2015, conducted transactions in a convertible virtual currency” through Coinbase.
If the summons is served as approved by a federal court this week, Coinbase will face the substantial burden of producing a long list of customer-related and other records. However, this data production will only be the first step in a process that may ultimately impact accountholders whose information is turned over to the IRS. The accountholders (corporate and individual) may become subject to IRS audits and potentially fines if there are any unpaid taxes related to their virtual currency transactions.
While the action states that it is civil in nature, the IRS is clearly seeking customer information to open separate investigations of potential tax avoidance, which could become criminal cases in certain circumstances. The information that is collected in this investigation may also be used in other investigations undertaken by IRS itself or any other part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, including the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Other digital currency exchangers and their customers could also become targets in similar actions, either directly or potentially as a result of information collected from this summons, or in follow-on investigations. Even noncustomer receivers of virtual currency could become the subjects of investigation. Continue Reading