The anonymous nature of crypto-currencies creates the possibility for individuals to accumulate wealth that is concealed from tax agencies, creditors and spouses. With all the discussion about the progress IRS is making to get information on crypto-currency transactions and parties to those transactions, query how soon this will be commonplace and routine for divorce attorneys to search for these hidden treasures for their clients.
A Problem That Is Becoming More Widespread
Interest in tax compliance for past unreported crypto-currency transactions is on the rise. This is especially the case following the spike in the popularity of crypto-currencies last year. For an individual going through divorce who suspects his or her spouse having undisclosed crypto-currency holdings and transactions, your divorce attorney should include the appropriate language as part of the discovery process to make sure your divorce attorney has the right language and questions to ensure a partner discloses their crypto-currencies. As for the individual going through divorce who has undisclosed crypto-currency holdings and transactions, keep in mind that litigation tends to bring out into the open things that now the IRS will being able to see. So whether you are in a divorce, the stakes are high if you do not proactively address non-compliance in reporting crypto-currency transactions.
Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income
Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.
Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).
The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).
And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.
Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!
What Should You Do?
The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.
With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.
And now that like-exchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties. Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even it’s is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco & Bay Area (San Jose, Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.