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Bitcoin Payments Are Subject to UK Income Tax | International Tax News

On December 19, 2018, the UK officials confirmed that Bitcoin payments received by UK tax residents will be subject to UK taxation. The HMRC is now clear: digital currency is not a currency or money.

The exact purpose of a Bitcoin transaction seems to determine the exact tax treatment of it. For example, if you just own cryptocurrency like Bitcoin that you later sell, then the Bitcoin is treated as an investment asset; any subject such Bitcoin payments will be subject to the UK capital gain taxes. Similarly, if you mine Bitcoins on an occasional basis, then it is also taxed as a capital gain.

However, if the mining of Bitcoins rises to the level of doing business, then it would be treated as income gains as part of a financial trade and subject to ordinary income taxation.

Moreover, if a UK employee receives Bitcoin payments from his employer, these payments will be subject to UK payroll taxes. The amount to be taxed will be based on the “best reasonable estimate” of the value received. It also appears that the employer may need to recognize a capital gain in certain situations.

The most interesting guidance appears to be with respect to Bitcoins received and given away for free as well as stolen Bitcoins. If a Bitcoin received for free (rather than received a payment for a service), then it may actually be tax free. It is not clear what the cost-basis would be in such a Bitcoin.

Stolen Bitcoins do not appear to produce any tax consequences, because, paradoxically, HMRC appears to consider such Bitcoins as still owned by the same taxpayers. If a taxpayer forgets his password needed to access his Bitcoins, however, he may be able to claim a loss if he persuades HMRC that he will never remember the password. It is not clear at all how the taxpayer would be able to do so.

The recent HMRC guidance concerning Bitcoin payments is highly important and seems to be mostly aligned with that of the IRS in the United States. Sherayzen Law Office advises its clients on the US tax consequences of Bitcoin transactions. Contact Us Today to Schedule a Confidential Consultation!

Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme | FATCA International Tax Lawyer

Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax scheme is now at the center of the new war against offshore tax noncompliance. The IRS started this war on November 17, 2016, with the John Doe Summons petition against Coinbase, Inc., the largest US bitcoin exchanger. In this petition, the IRS Revenue Agent David Utzke details one variation of the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax scheme that seems to be the main target of the IRS battle against Coinbase. Let’s discuss it in more detail.

Traditional Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme

In the petition, the IRS first provided a description of a common traditional offshore abusive tax scheme based on a real-life example of “Taxpayer 1″. In this scheme, Taxpayer 1 retained the services of a foreign promoter who set up a controlled foreign corporation which was merely a shell corporation. The corporation first diverted the taxpayer’s income to a foreign brokerage account and, then, to a foreign bank account. After the funds were transferred to a foreign bank account, Taxpayer 1 was able to repatriate the funds as cash (US dollars) through an ATM machine.

Obviously, this scheme had a number of disadvantages. First, it was not cheap: Taxpayer 1 had to retain foreign attorneys and engage in various other regulatory expenses.

Second and most importantly, the entire scheme was done in US dollars and, hence, ran a relatively high risk of the IRS detection. If the IRS discovered the scheme, it would not be difficult to trace it directly to Taxpayer 1. The weakest point of the scheme was the repatriation in US dollars of the hidden income.

Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme

When Taxpayer 1 discovered bitcoins, he adopted a new model which I will call a Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme. The first two steps (i.e. the diversion of income) were the same – a controlled foreign shell corporation was set up and the funds were diverted to a foreign account.

The difference between the schemes was really in the repatriation process. Under the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme, the funds from a foreign account were moved to a bank which worked with a virtual currency exchanger (such as Coinbase), converted to bitcoins and placed in a virtual currency account. Then, the taxpayer used the bitcoins to anonymously purchase goods and services without ever converting the hidden income into US dollars. Under this process, Taxpayer 1 had hoped to avoid the IRS detection of the repatriation of funds.

Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme Protects the Taxpayer From IRS Detection During the Repatriation Process

The biggest advantage of the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme is its ability to protect a taxpayer from the IRS detection when he tries to repatriate the undisclosed income back to the United States. Since bitcoin ownership and purchases are done anonymously and without conversion to US dollars, the IRS may never be able to detect tax noncompliance.

Revenue Agent Utzke himself states in the petition that “because there is no third-party reporting of virtual currency transactions for tax purposes, the risk/reward ratio for a taxpayer in the virtual currency environment is extremely low, and the likelihood of underreporting is significant”.

Indeed, it appears that Taxpayer 1 was highly successful in his Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme. The discovery of that scheme was only made possible due to the voluntary disclosure of Taxpayer 1 to the IRS (most likely Taxpayer 1 prudently decided to enter the OVDP).

Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme Begins to Dominate Offshore Tax Noncompliance

These advantages of the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme led to its increasing popularity among noncompliant US taxpayers. In fact, it appears that the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme now dominates this market. Even Agent Utzke admitted that virtual currencies have now largely replaced “traditional abusive tax arrangements as the preferred method for tax evaders”. The John Doe Summons Against Coinbase is Aimed at the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme.

Given this fact, it is little surprise that the IRS decided to begin a war against abusive tax schemes involving virtual currencies and, especially, bitcoins. The John Doe Summons Petition against Coinbase is the first battle of this war against the Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme.

Given the IRS victory in its battle against Swiss banks, it is very likely that, in one form or another, the IRS will prevail against Coinbase and the virtual currency industry in general. This victory will result in the exposure of noncompliant US taxpayers who will then face a litany of draconian IRS penalties, including possibly criminal penalties and jail time.

Noncompliant US Taxpayer Engaged in a Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme Should Consider Voluntary Disclosure

Given this precarious legal environment and the significant risk of the IRS detection, noncompliant US taxpayers should consider doing a voluntary disclosure while they have the ability to do so. Once the IRS identifies noncompliant taxpayers and commences investigations against them, these taxpayers may lose forever the ability to do a voluntary disclosure to avoid criminal penalties and reduce civil penalties.

This is why these taxpayers urgently need to contact an international tax lawyer to consider their voluntary disclosure options.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Legal Help with Bitcoin Tax Noncompliance

If you are a US taxpayer who has engaged in a Bitcoin Offshore Abusive Tax Scheme or any other tax noncompliance involving bitcoins, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office for professional help as soon as possible. Our legal and accounting team has helped hundreds of US taxpayers with their voluntary disclosures and we can help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

IRS seeks Bitcoin Accountholder Data from Largest US Bitcoin Exchanger

On November 17, 2016, the IRS and the US Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) opened a new front against offshore tax evasion – bitcoin accountholder data. On that day, the DOJ filed a petition (accompanied by the IRS memorandum) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking permission to serve a John Doe Summons on bitcoin exchanger, Coinbase Inc. (“Coinbase”), in order to obtain bitcoin transaction records and bitcoin accountholder identities. Coinbase already indicated in its blog post that it will oppose the petition for the bitcoin account holder data in court based on the issues related to its customers’ privacy.

Bitcoin Background Information

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a payment system; its unique nature is in the fact that it is the first decentralized cryptocurrency. It is also the largest virtual currency on the market and the one that has been recognized by users and merchants in many countries (though others have banned it).

The Anonymity of the Bitcoin Accountholder Data Poses a Problem for the IRS

The IRS sees a big problem with bitcoins. While all of the bitcoin transactions are publicly recorded, the actual identity of a bitcoin owner is completely anonymous. The IRS memorandum in support of the John Doe Summons petition is expressly stating the IRS concerns regarding US taxpayers who do not report taxable income from bitcoin transactions and bitcoin trading. Additionally, the IRS (in its aforementioned memorandum) pointed out that bitcoins can be used for creation of non-existing deductions to reduce taxable income.

Offshore Tax Compliance is at the Heart of the IRS Attack on the Bitcoin Accountholder Data

Furthermore, it is no accident that the IRS memorandum that accompanied the DOJ petition was written by Mr. David Utzke, a senior revenue agent with the IRS’s offshore compliance initiatives program. This demonstrates that the IRS views the anonymity of the bitcoin accountholder data not merely a domestic, but also an offshore tax compliance issue. Mr. Utzke expressly states his concerns that bitcoin transactions now replace the more traditional abusive offshore tax schemes.

We also should remember that, in its Notice 2014-21, the IRS treats convertible virtual currency as property for federal tax purposes. This first means that a taxpayer must report any capital gains and losses on his tax returns even if the bitcoin sales occur overseas.

Moreover, this potentially means (though the IRS has not yet expressly stated so) that bitcoins purchased overseas are reportable foreign assets subject to potentially FATCA and FBAR requirements (depending on how they are held – bitcoin wallets can potentially be treated as foreign accounts). The other side of this conclusion is that a bitcoin held overseas may draw FBAR and Form 8938 penalties if it is not timely and properly disclosed. This is indirectly confirmed by Notice 2014-21 which specifically singles out penalties associated with the failure to file an information return under IRC Sections 6721 and 6722.

Sherayzen Law Office Can Help You With Your Bitcoin US Tax Compliance Issues

If you own bitcoins overseas and you have unreported bitcoin income, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office to help you with your US tax compliance as soon as possible. Time is of the essence; if your identity is disclosed to the IRS and the IRS commences an investigation, you may be precluded from conducting a voluntary disclosure with respect to your bitcoins. In this case, the IRS may impose its draconian tax penalties on unreported income and assets.

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!