US Court Issues Summons to Kraken for Information on Taxpayers

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In Brief
  • Court in California authorizes IRS to serve Kraken with a summons.

  • Specifically, transactions above $20,000.

  • Latest in a string of legal developments regarding cryptocurrency across the U.S.

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The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations building standards of transparency.

A United States federal court in the Northern District of California yesterday authorized the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to serve a John Doe summons on Payward Ventures Inc., the parent company of Kraken.

John Doe summons rose to notoriety in 2008 when they were used to combat Swiss banking secrecy laws. In 2008, UBS turned over the names of almost 4,500 holders of Swiss bank accounts to the IRS. This summons, unlike others, does not need to list the name of the taxpayer under investigation, as they are unknown to the IRS.

The court approved summons will demand that personal information on any U.S. taxpayer that traded at least $20,000 in cryptocurrency transactions between 2016 and 2020 is released. These records focus primarily on the San Francisco-based digital currency exchange, Kraken.

Crypto faces increased scrutiny

This latest development comes as cryptocurrencies are facing increased scrutiny across the U.S., with a swath of cases being taken by the SEC and the IRS. The SEC is currently engaged in a legal battle with Ripple, with the latter arguing the charge is null and void as their token, XRP, is a currency and not an investment contract.

Meanwhile, the IRS released statements recently to clarify taxation around cryptocurrency, in particular bitcoin (BTC) 2017 hard fork. Commissioner of the IRS Chuck Rettig had the following to say on the matter, and cryptocurrencies in general:

“There is no excuse for taxpayers continuing to fail to report the income earned and taxes due from virtual currency transactions.”

IRS guidance

This John Doe summons has serious ramifications for any U.S. taxpayers trading at or above the quantities mentioned. If the IRS is successful to the same effect as the 2008 John Doe summons served to UBS, then the ramifications for delinquent U.S. taxpayers could be huge.

The IRS guidance provides that cryptocurrencies that can be converted in fiat currencies are to be considered property for tax purposes, therefore they can be taxed accordingly on the gain or loss on the sale or exchange of them.


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Adam is working in London while studying for a self-paced MicroMasters in Data, Economics and Public Development online with MITx. Before this he studied at Trinity College Dublin where he first became interested in cryptocurrency and blockchain. First writing for a university publication on cryptocurrency in 2015, Adam has been writing about and following the crypto economy ever since.

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