The IRS has several tools in its arsenal to encourage compliance and audit and enforce those it believes are failing to comply. One of the most powerful tools is the John Doe summons. A regular IRS summons seeks information on a specific taxpayer. However, a John Doe summons, as the name implies, involves a group of taxpayers that the IRS cannot identify by name – yet. Judicial approval is required, but the approval is ex parte (i.e. opposing parties are not notified or can respond before the court rules). The IRS has used this tool to find tax shelter participants by summonsing the promoters, and most famously foreign banks like UBS, for foreign bank account holders. The next target, cryptocurrency investors.
The IRS already successfully received thousands of names of account holders from the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange. Many taxpayers, who received letters from Coinbase about the disclosure, came forward and disclosed assets in their accounts.
The IRS has now secured permission to issue a John Doe summons for cryptocurrency records on payments using a technology company called Circle and another popular cryptocurrency exchange – Kraken. This is all part of what the IRS has called, in public speeches, a “treasure hunt” for unreported cryptocurrency. If you have unreported cryptocurrency transactions, here’s what you should know.
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