Why IRS should adapt to Bitcoin and update its monitoring system

Why IRS should adapt to Bitcoin and update its monitoring system

  • January 17, 2017
  • /
  • Deepak Bharadwaz

The problem with disruptive technology is that many a times, it affects the legacy systems rooted deeply into the ecosystem. The existing systems can’t catch up with the developments and end up tainting the innovation. Over a period of time, eventually the system accommodates the technology; but the real fear is in not letting it hamper further innovation. This is exactly what is happening with Bitcoin and IRS in USA. Bitcoin is all set to transform the existing monetary system and IRS is struggling to still acknowledge Bitcoin as a currency or as an asset. Instead it has attacked major Bitcoin exchanges and indirectly accused Bitcoin Users of Tax Avoidance. Let’s look into what exactly happened and how IRS should probably go about monitoring cryptocurrencies:

Coinbase fights IRS summons:

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IRS issued guidance in March 2014 concerning income from bitcoin and “virtual currencies”. However, there has been no enforcement mechanism to ensure that bitcoin income is actually reported to the IRS. Having failed to create an enforcement mechanism, the IRS is taking a brute-force approach. The John Doe summons authorized on 30th November demands that Coinbase provide complete transaction records for all users between 1st January, 2013 and 31th December 2015. If the IRS succeeds in forcing Coinbase to turn over their records, this would be a massive invasion of privacy and guilt by association. Coinbase has filed to fight against these summons and the proceedings are underway.

Core of the problem:

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Most of the experts feel that the problem lies in reporting Bitcoin transactions. There is no exact mechanism to monitor the filings and hence the problem arises.    The reporting requirements aren’t exactly clear and compliance is very complicated. Buying and selling of a Bitcoin will result in a profitable or loss transaction. For bitcoin that was purchased or received on different dates, the value of each input comprising a transaction is subject to a gain or a loss. Reporting numerous transactions of this type requires upgraded technological framework. This framework has to accurately calculate the values necessary for reporting to the IRS adhering to compliance.

Possible solution for the problem:

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Experts believe that to counter this problem, IRS needs to first update its tax guidelines. Secondly, a software system or computer protocol needs to be developed so that any user or investor of cryptocurrency can compile a report at the end of the fiscal year. The report shows unrealized gains and losses from their entire virtual currency portfolio. This can be handed to accountants in a format that is easily understood and accurate. This can in due course of time evolve to become a national standard.