TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION

Office of Audit

Highlights

AS THE USE OF VIRTUAL CURRENCIES IN TAXABLE TRANSACTIONS BECOMES MORE COMMON,
ADDITIONAL ACTIONS ARE NEEDED TO ENSURE TAXPAYER COMPLIANCE

Final Report issued on September 21, 2016

Highlights of Reference Number:  2016-30-083 to the Internal Revenue Service Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement.

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS

Alternative payment methods, such as convertible virtual currencies, have grown in popularity in recent years and have emerged for some people as a potential alternative to using traditional currencies like U.S. dollars.  Virtual currencies offer potential benefits over traditional currencies, including lower transaction fees and faster transfer of funds for services provided.  However, some virtual currencies are also popular because the identity of the parties involved is generally anonymous, leading to a greater possibility of their use in illegal transactions.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT

Recently, many types of virtual currencies have been created for use in lieu of currency issued by a government to purchase goods and services in the real economy.  The overall objective of this review was to evaluate the IRS’s strategy for addressing income produced through virtual currencies.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND

Although the IRS issued Notice 2014-21, Virtual Currency Guidance, and established the Virtual Currency Issue Team, there has been little evidence of coordination between the responsible functions to identify and address, on a program level, potential taxpayer noncompliance issues for transactions involving virtual currencies.  None of the IRS operating divisions have developed any type of compliance initiatives or guidelines for conducting examinations or investigations specific to tax noncompliance related to virtual currencies.  In addition, it does not appear that any of the actions already taken by the IRS to address virtual currency tax noncompliance were coordinated to ensure that the IRS maintains a strategic approach to the tax implications of virtual currencies.

Although the IRS requested comments to Notice 2014-21 from the public, no actions were taken to address the comments received.  TIGTA reviewed all the comments and found several examples of information requested by the public that would be helpful in understanding how to comply with the tax reporting requirements when using or receiving virtual currencies.

In addition, third-party methods of reporting taxable transactions to the IRS do not separately identify transactions related to virtual currencies.  While employers and businesses are required to report taxable virtual currency transactions, current third-party information reporting documents do not provide the IRS with any means to identify that the taxable transaction amounts being reported were specifically related to virtual currencies.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

TIGTA recommended that the IRS:  1) develop a coordinated virtual currency strategy that includes outcome goals, a description of how the agency intends to achieve those goals, and an action plan with a timeline for implementation; 2) provide updated guidance to reflect the necessary documentation requirements and tax treatments needed for the various uses of virtual currencies; and 3) revise third-party information reporting documents to identify the amounts of virtual currencies used in taxable transactions.

The IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendations and plans to develop a virtual currency strategy including an assessment of whether changes to information reporting documents are warranted.  The IRS also agreed that additional guidance would be helpful and plans to share the recommendation with the IRS’s Office of Chief Counsel for coordination with the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy.

READ THE FULL REPORT

To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:

http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2016reports/201630083fr.pdf.

 

Phone Number   /  202-622-6500

E-mail Address  /  TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov

Website             /  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta