IRS sends warning to cryptocurrency holders: report taxes or go to jail

  • The new Operation Hidden Treasure focuses on identifying people who fail to report crypto income.
  • The IRS sends a warning to the tax evader that it is watching.
  • Several arrests have been made concerning tax evasion in the United States.

Tax evasion in the virtual currency industry has continued to cause headaches for tax collectors globally. The situation is worrying in the United States, leading to the latest collaboration between the Internal Revenue Service (RSI) and the Director of Fraud Enforcement, Damon Rowe.

Operation Hidden Treasure takes off

The two offices have mutually agreed to work hand in hand to track virtual currency tax evasion in an exercise dubbed "Operation Hidden Treasure." According to a statement made by the IRS during a presentation at the Federal Bar Association, the team will include Criminal Investigation experts.

The agents are trained in cryptocurrency and virtual currency tracking, focusing on the taxpayer who does not include crypto when filing tax returns. Carolyn Schenck, the current head of the National Fraud Counsel & Assistance Division Counsel for the Office of Cheif Counsel, stressed that the main idea is "to get ahead of the game."

Operation Hidden treasure hopes to achieve its goal by searching for "tax evasion signatures." The agents will structure transactions in additions of not more than $10,000 through "the use of nominees, shell corps." In other words, "getting on and off the chain."

The operation has been structured in a way that allows the IRS to collaborate with specialist vendors in "analyzing blockchain and de-anonymizing [crypto] transactions to track, find, and work to seize crypto in 'both a civil and a criminal setting.'"

What is tax evasion?

Tax evasion occurs in main ways, evasion of assessment and evasion of payment. Evasion of assessment is widespread and entails willful omission of income from tax. A report by the Cyber Digital Task For outlines that it is an offense "not reporting business income received in cryptocurrency, not reporting wages paid in cryptocurrency, or using cryptocurrency to facilitate false invoice schemes designed to reduce business income are examples of evasion of assessments fraudulently."

Can you to jail for evading virtual currency tax?

Several people in the US have been charged with cryptocurrency tax evasion. For instance, a cryptocurrency founder, Amir Bruno Elmaani, also known as Bruno Block, was charged with two accounts of federal tax evasion in December.

According to the charge sheet, Elmaani earned an income of millions of dollars while selling cryptoassets. However, he went ahead to use dubious schemes to hide from the IRS. His tax evasion history dates back to 2017 when he sold Pearl Tokens running on Oyster Protocol's platform in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO).

Elmaani was arrested on December 8, 2020, in West Virginia and is still in federal custody. Besides being charged in a court of law, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) moved forward with a separate civil action case against Elmaani. According to the lawsuit, Elmaani violated the Securities Act's registration and antifraud provisions in the US.

Crypto tax evasion is still rampant despite the sensitization by the IRS. The taxman in a past report said that roughly 900 people out of 120 million reported crypto capital gains between 2013 and 2015.

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