IRS Sending Letters Based on Coinbase Summons

In 2017 the IRS won its fight with Coinbase, and received information from that cryptocurrency exchange on customers who traded cryptocurrency. Today, the IRS announced that they’re sending letters to individuals who may need to file or amend their returns to report cryptocurrency transactions.

The IRS notice states:

The Internal Revenue Service has begun sending letters to taxpayers with virtual currency transactions that potentially failed to report income and pay the resulting tax from virtual currency transactions or did not report their transactions properly.

“Taxpayers should take these letters very seriously by reviewing their tax filings and when appropriate, amend past returns and pay back taxes, interest and penalties,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS is expanding our efforts involving virtual currency, including increased use of data analytics. We are focused on enforcing the law and helping taxpayers fully understand and meet their obligations.”

The IRS started sending the educational letters to taxpayers last week. By the end of August, more than 10,000 taxpayers will receive these letters. The names of these taxpayers were obtained through various ongoing IRS compliance efforts.

For taxpayers receiving an educational letter, there are three variations: Letter 6173, Letter 6174 or Letter 6174-A, all three versions strive to help taxpayers understand their tax and filing obligations and how to correct past errors.

Two of my clients received Letter 6174-A today. They had both included their cryptocurrency sales on their tax returns for all years, so they can ignore the letter. My suspicion is that Letter 6174-A is sent to taxpayers the IRS believes are in compliance.

The more serious letter is Letter 6173. This letter states, “For one or more of tax years 2013 through 2017, we haven’t received either a federal income tax return or an applicable form or schedule reporting your virtual currency transactions.” That’s potential trouble for recipients. If you receive (or received) Letter 6173, you should consult a tax professional immediately. This letter requires a response, and it means the IRS thinks you’ve erred on your taxes. Having said that, remember that it’s entirely possible you did include your cryptocurrency transactions on your return and the IRS simply erred.

I should point out that it’s my conclusion that these letters are the result of the Coinbase summons. The IRS notice states only they used “data analytics” and that “[t]he names of these taxpayers were obtained through various ongoing IRS compliance efforts.” It could be something else, but I’m not aware of any other ongoing compliance efforts related to cryptocurrency.

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