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Bob The Magic Custodian
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
11-05 20:58 - 'Is Bitcoin Safe and Legal?' (self.Bitcoin) by /u/koinalio removed from /r/Bitcoin within 2-12min
''' Buying, selling, or trading bitcoin is a private transaction in every part of the world. It is a lawful activity in most western and advanced countries, including the US, Canada, and the U.K. Some large economies have restrictions on Bitcoin, including China (ownership discouraged although not a criminal violation) and India ( banks banned from engaging in Bitcoin). Governments everywhere have concerns with the anonymous movement of funds; they wish to prevent the use of money for illegal purposes. Koinal understands the importance of anti-corruption laws and maintains legal standards for all sales and purchases. The best advice is to consult the laws of the country where one lives and intends to do business with Bitcoin. Koinal operates within the bounds of all applicable laws and meets legal requirements for transactions in every state in which it does business.
Is Bitcoin Safe?
The safety of Bitcoin also has some variables. Like all cryptocurrencies, there is no physical note or document. Owners must safely keep their digital currency and access codes because if lost or misused, there may be no recourse. An elaborate security system surrounds Bitcoin. The digital currency exists in a blockchain that cannot be altered by any government or central authority. Every Bitcoin transaction is transparent and watched by a global network. Unlike some other types of transactions, once the Bitcoin moves, there is no reversal mechanism. When you sell or buy, the transfer cannot be undone or canceled. Bitcoin is the oldest of the major currencies that include Ethereum, Lite, and Ripple. Bitcoin, by far, has the highest value, and many investors prefer Bitcoin for investment potential. Bitcoin is among the small group of cryptocurrencies that bring high levels of interest from mainstream financial companies and banks. Relative to other cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin enjoys a high level of interest. It is the most well-known cryptocurrency.
People can buy cryptocurrencies in many ways. The blockchain ledgers keep track of Bitcoin’s existence and ownership, and owners can transfer it on a peer-to-peer basis. Peer to peer transactions does not require any action by a government, bank, or any central authority. A safer and more widely used method is to perform transactions on Bitcoin exchanges. [Koinal works with Binance]1 and other leading currency exchanges. Koinal provides a simple and effective way to purchase Bitcoin using regular bank credit cards and debit cards.
Taxes and Virtual Currency
Bitcoin transactions can result in taxation when used to pay for goods, services, and wages. While it is not a recognized form of currency under U.S. tax law, it does have value. In some instances, the tax code assesses Bitcoin by its fair market value at the time of purchase. The U.S. government’s Internal Revenue Service has noticed Bitcoin and digital currency. It issued an advisory in 2014 and a new item on the tax return for 2020. The IRS named Bitcoin as one of many virtual currencies. The IRS advises that Bitcoin may represent income under tax laws and maybe a taxable asset when held as property. When treated as property under a national tax code, Bitcoin may get treated like other assets that grow in value, such as the U.S. capital gains tax. Investors, buyers, and sellers should consult legal and tax advisors for advice on their situations. At Koinal, we do not offer tax advice. We simply point out that each investor must examine the tax implications of Bitcoin or other virtual currency transactions.
Keeping Within the Law and Regulations
Koinal takes all required steps to keep its transactions within the bounds of national laws and regulations. Koinal requires identification and personal information needed to comply with anti-corruption and know-your-customer rules(KYC). Bitcoin transactions are not anonymous under current rules and regulations. Koinal offers a seamless purchasing experiencing for Bitcoin that can use a bank credit card or debit card. Our system provides quick and reliable delivery to the coordinates of your choice. Bitcoin offers exciting potential for usage as a currency, medium of exchange, and as an investment. When you are ready to purchase, visit our Koinal.io website to buy bitcoin instantly with your credit card. ''' Is Bitcoin Safe and Legal? Go1dfish undelete link unreddit undelete link Author: koinalio 1: **w**o*nal.io/blog*bin*nce-to-j*in-e*fo*ts*with-koin*** Unknown links are censored to prevent spreading illicit content.
The next XVG? Microcap 100x potential actually supported by fundamentals!
What’s up team? I have a hot one for you. XVG returned 12 million percent in 2017 and this one reminds me a lot of it. Here’s why: Mimblewimble is like Blu-Ray compared to CD-ROM in terms of its ability to compress data on a blockchain. The current BTC chain is 277gb and its capacity is limited because every time you spend a coin, each node needs to validate its history back to when it was mined (this is how double spending is prevented). Mimblewimble is different - all transactions in a block are aggregated and netted out in one giant CoinJoin, and only the current spending needs to be verified. This means that dramatically more transactions can fit into a smaller space, increasing throughput and lowering fees while still retaining the full proof of work game theory of Bitcoin. These blockchains are small enough to run a full node on a cheap smartphone, which enhances the decentralization and censorship resistance of the network. The biggest benefit, though, is that all transactions are private - the blockchain doesn’t reveal amounts or addresses except to the actual wallet owner. Unlike earlier decoy-based approaches that bloat the chain and can still be data mined (XMR), Mimblewimble leaves no trace in the blockchain, instead storing only the present state of coin ownership. The first two Mimblewimble coins, Grin and Beam, launched to great fanfare in 2019, quickly reaching over $100m in market cap (since settled down to $22m and $26m respectively). They are good projects but grin has infinite supply and huge never-decreasing emission, and Beam is a corporate moneygrab whose founding investors are counting on you buying for their ROI. ZEC is valued at $568m today, despite the facts that only 1% of transactions are actually shielded, it has a trusted setup, and generating a confidential transaction takes ~60 seconds on a powerful PC. XMR is a great project but it’s valued at $1.2b (so no 100x) and it uses CryptoNote, which is 2014 tech that relies on a decoy-based approach that could be vulnerable to more powerful computers in the future. Mimblewimble is just a better way to approach privacy because there is simply no data recorded in the blockchain for companies to surveil. Privacy is not just for darknet markets, porn, money launderers and terrorists. In many countries it’s dangerous to be wealthy, and there are all kinds of problems with having your spending data be out there publicly and permanently for all to see. Namely, companies like Amazon are patenting approaches to identify people with their crypto addresses, “for law enforcement” but also so that, just like credit cards, your spending data can be used to target ads. (A) Coinbase is selling user data to the DEA, IRS, FBI, Secret Service, and who knows who else? (B) What about insurance companies raising your premiums or canceling your policy because they see you buying (legal) cannabis? If your business operates using transparent cryptocurrency, competitors can data mine your customer and supply chain data, and employees can see how much everyone else gets paid. I could go on, but the idea of “I have nothing to hide, so what do I care about privacy?” will increasingly ring hollow as people realize that this money printing will have to be paid by massive tax increases AND that those taxes will be directly debited from their “Central Bank Digital Currency” wallets. 100% privacy for all transactions also eliminates one HUGE problem that people aren’t aware of yet, but they will be: fungibility. Fungibility means that each coin is indistinguishable from any other, just like paper cash. Why is this important? Because of the ever-expanding reach of AML/KYC/KYT (Anti-Money Laundering / Know Your Customer / Know Your Transaction) as regulators cramp down on crypto and banks take over, increasingly coins become “tainted” in various ways. For example, if you withdraw coins to a mixing service like Wasabi or Samourai, you may find your account blocked. (C) The next obvious step is that if you receive coins that these chainalysis services don’t like for whatever reason, you will be completely innocent yet forced to prove that you didn’t know that the coins you bought were up to no good in a past life. 3 days ago, $100k of USDC was frozen. (D) Even smaller coins like LTC now have this problem, because “Chinese Drug Kingpins” used them. (E) I believe that censorable money that can be blocked/frozen isn’t really “your money”. Epic Cash is a 100% volunteer community project (like XVG and XMR) that had a fair launch in September last year with no ICO and no premine. There are very few projects like this, and it’s a key ingredient in Verge’s success (still at $110m market cap today despite being down 97% since the bubble peak) and why it’s still around. It has a small but super passionate community of “Freemen” who are united by a belief in the sound money economics of Bitcoin Standard emission (21m supply limit and ever-decreasing inflation) and the importance of privacy. I am super bullish on this coin for the following reasons:
Only $400k market cap
Supply started at zero, so there are no VC’s and team to dump on you into the pumps - all coins are mined into existence, just like Bitcoin.
It just had its first halving, reducing emission from 16 to 8 per block. Between now and 2028 there are FOUR (!) more halvings, from 4 to 2 to 1 and then finally 0.15 (I guess that would be an 85%-ing :p) and at this point the supply is the same as BTC and stays in sync forever until the last coin is mined in 2140. This simple supply curve is already accepted by the market as a winner, so why mess with success? (I)
Meets Andreas Antonopolous’ 5 pillars of open blockchains test: Public, Open, Borderless, Neutral, and Censorship Resistant. (How many coins can say this?)
Unlike Bitcoin, Epic created a multi-algorithm approach that enables people to mine on ordinary computers - 60% for CPU on RandomX, 38% for GPU on ProgPow, and 2% for ASIC’s on Cuckoo31+. The algorithms don’t compete with one another. This is essential for leveling the playing field and preventing massive farms from dominating. These percentages can change over time and new algorithms can be easily dropped in. You can mine today using an old laptop and in 5 years you will still be able to. Incidentally, there is nothing standing in the way of adding mobile phone-based mining, which ETN showed there’s a huge demand for.
Based off the excellent Grin codebase, which means they continue to pull in ongoing core code enhancements and focus on ease of use and market penetration instead. (Smart!)
Litecoin’s Charlie Lee is out there daily talking about their move to Mimblewimble, which provides free publicity. What people don’t realize is that you can’t just bolt on Mimblewimble to a legacy blockchain, that’s like putting a Ferrari engine into a school bus - it’s still a school bus, not a race car! LTC is doing it as an optional soft fork via “extension blocks” which will not be supported by all wallets and exchanges. Also, anyone using “optional” privacy features is declaring themselves to be suspicious, which kind of defeats the point for people who care about privacy.
The community is friendly and welcoming to new people coming in, with lots of helpful (independently created) tutorials and guides. (F)
It’s already a global phenomenon, with the whitepaper in 20+ languages (G) and (not bot-infested) active local-language communities on not only Telegram but also Wechat, LINE, QQ and other messenger platforms.
It’s only on two random little exchanges currently, Citex and Vitex. Vitex is actually a pretty good DEX with no KYC and a great mobile wallet.
They are very creative - since centralized exchanges want huge money to list, they created a non-inflationary ERC20 tracker token that’s exchangeable 1:1 for coins so that Uniswap trading is possible (H)
Because it doesn’t have a huge marketing budget in a sea of VC-funded shitcoins, it is as-yet undiscovered, which is why it’s so cheap. There are only 4 Mimblewimble-based currencies on the market: MWC at $162m, BEAM at $26m, GRIN at $22m, and EPIC at $0.4m. This is not financial advice and as always, do your own research, but I’ve been buying this gem for months and will continue to. This one ticks all the boxes for me, the only real problem is that it’s hard to buy much without causing a huge green candle. Alt season is coming, and coins like this are how your neighbor Chad got his Lambo back in 2017. For 2021, McLaren is a better choice and be sure to pay cash so that it doesn’t get repossessed like Chad!
Hi Bitcoiners! I’m back with the 30th monthly Bitcoin news recap. For those unfamiliar, each day I pick out the most popularelevant/interesting stories in Bitcoin and save them. At the end of the month I release them in one batch, to give you a quick (but not necessarily the best) overview of what happened in bitcoin over the past month. You can see recaps of the previous months on Bitcoinsnippets.com A recap of Bitcoin in May 2019 Adoption
Introduction: Greetings, fellow ethtraders! Happy New Year! In the next few months, taxpayers across the US will be filing their 2017 tax returns. As an Enrolled Agent and a ETH/cryptocurrency investor and enthusiast, I wanted to write up a brief guide on how your investments in ETH and other cryptocurrencies are taxed in the US.
1. Are ETH/cryptocurrency realized gains taxable? Yes. The IRS treats virtual currency (such as cryptocurrency) as property. That means if you sell ETH, BTC, or any other cryptocurrency that has appreciated in value, you have realized a capital gain and must pay taxes on this income. If you held the position for one year or less, it is a short-term capital gain which is taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. If you held the position for more than one year, it is a long-term capital gain which is taxed at your long-term capital gains tax rate. In most cases, this is 15%, but could also be 0% or 20% depending on your specific ordinary income tax bracket.
2. If I sell my ETH for USD on Coinbase but do not transfer the USD from Coinbase to my bank account, am I still taxed? Yes. The only thing that matters is that you sold the ETH, which creates a taxable transaction. Whether you transfer the USD to your bank account or not does not matter.
3. If I use my ETH to buy OMG or another cryptocurrency, is this a taxable transaction? Most likely yes. See #4 below for a more detailed explanation. If assuming crypto to crypto trades are not able to be like-kind exchanged, then continue on to the next paragraph here. This is actually two different transactions. The first transaction is selling your ETH for USD. The second transaction is buying the OMG with your USD. You must manually calculate these amounts. For example, I buy 1 ETH for $600 on Coinbase. Later on, the price of 1 ETH rises to $700. I transfer that 1 ETH to Bittrex and use it to buy 37 OMG. I have to report a capital gain of $100 because of this transaction. My total cost basis for the 37 OMG I purchased is $700.
5. How do I calculate the realized capital gain or loss on the sale of my cryptocurrency? The realized gain or loss is your total proceeds from the sale minus what you purchased those positions for (your cost basis). For example, you bought 1 ETH for $300 in June of 2017. In December of 2017, you sold that 1 ETH for $800. Your realized gain would be $800 - $300 = $500. Since you held it for one year or less, the $500 would be a short-term capital gain taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.
6. Which ETH's cost basis do I use if I have multiple purchases? The cost basis reporting method is up to you. For example, I buy my first ETH at $300, a second ETH at $530, and a third ETH at $400. Later on, I sell one ETH for $800. I can use: FIFO (first in first out) - cost basis would the first ETH, $300, which would result in a gain of $500. LIFO (last in first out) - cost basis would be the third ETH, $400, which would result in a gain of $400. Average cost - cost basis would be the average of the three ETH, $410, which would result in a gain of $390. Specific identification - I can just choose which coin's cost basis to use. For example, I can choose the second ETH's cost basis, $530, which would result in the lowest capital gains possible of $270.
7. If I end up with a net capital loss, can I claim this on my tax return? Capital gains and capital losses are netted on your tax return. If the net result of this is a capital loss, you may offset it against ordinary income on your tax return, but only at a maximum of $3,000 per year. The remaining losses are carried forward until you use them up.
9. If I mine ETH or any other cryptocurrency, is this taxable? Yes. IRS Notice 2014-21 states that mining cryptocurrency is taxable. For example, if you mined $7,000 worth of ETH in 2017, you must report $7,000 of income on your 2017 tax return. For many taxpayers, this will be reported on your Schedule C, and you will most likely owe self-employment taxes on this income as well. The $7,000 becomes the cost basis in your ETH position.
10. How do I calculate income for the cryptocurrency I mined? This is the approach I would take. Say I mined 1 ETH on December 31, 2017. I would look up the daily historical prices for ETH and average the high and low prices for ETH on December 31, 2017, which is ($760.35 + $710.12) / 2 = $735.24. I would report $735.24 of income on my tax return. This would also be the cost basis of the 1 ETH I mined.
11. Can I deduct mining expenses on my tax return? If you are reporting the income from mining on Schedule C, then you can deduct expenses on Schedule C as well. You can deduct the portion of your electricity costs allocated to mining, and then you depreciate the cost of your mining rig over time (probably over five years). Section 179 also allows for the full deduction of the cost of certain equipment in year 1, so you could choose to do that if you wanted to instead.
12. If I receive ETH or other cryptocurrency as a payment for my business, is this taxable? Yes. Similar to mining, your income would be what the value of the coins you received was. This would also be your cost basis in the coins.
13. If I received Bitcoin Cash as a result of the hard fork on August 1, 2017, is this taxable? Most likely yes. For example, if you owned 1 Bitcoin and received 1 Bitcoin Cash on August 1, 2017 as a result of the hard fork, your income would be the value of 1 Bitcoin Cash on that date. Bitcoin.tax uses a value of $277. This value would also be your cost basis in the position. Any other hard forks would probably be treated similarly. Airdrops may be treated similarly as well, in the IRS' view. Here are a couple more good articles about reporting the Bitcoin Cash fork as taxable ordinary income. The second one goes into depth and cites a US Supreme Court decision as precedent: one, two
14. If I use ETH, BTC, or other cryptocurrency to purchase goods or services, is this a taxable transaction? Yes. It would be treated as selling your cryptocurrency for USD, and then using that USD to purchase those goods or services. This is because the IRS treats cryptocurrency as property and not currency.
15. Are cryptocurrencies subject to the wash sale rule? Probably not. Section 1091 only applies to stock or securities. Cryptocurrencies are not classified as stocks or securities. Therefore, you could sell your ETH at a loss, repurchase it immediately, and still realize this loss on your tax return, whereas you cannot do the same with a stock. Please see this link for more information.
16. What if I hold cryptocurrency on an exchange based outside of the US? There are two separate foreign account reporting requirements: FBAR and FATCA. A FBAR must be filed if you held more than $10,000 on an exchange based outside of the US at any point during the tax year. A Form 8938 (FATCA) must be filed if you held more than $75,000 on an exchange based outside of the US at any point during the tax year, or more than $50,000 on the last day of the tax year. The penalties are severe for not filing these two forms if you are required to. Please see the second half of this post for more information on foreign account reporting.
17. What are the tax implications of gifting cryptocurrency? Small gifts of cryptocurrency do not have a tax implication for the gift giver or for the recipient. The recipient would retain the gift giver's old cost basis, so it could be a good idea for the gift giver to provide records of the original cost basis to the recipient as well (or else the recipient would have to assume a cost basis of $0 if the recipient ever sells the cryptocurrency). Large gifts of cryptocurrency could start having gift and estate tax implications on the giver if the value exceeds more than $14,000 (in 2017) or $15,000 (in 2018) per year per recipient. Here's a good article on Investopedia on this issue. An important exception applies if the gift giver gives cryptocurrency that has a cost basis that is higher than the market value at the time of the gift. Please see the middle of this post for more information on that.
19. Are there any websites that you recommend in helping me with all of this? Yes - I have used bitcoin.tax and highly recommend it. You can import directly from an exchange to the website using API, and/or export a .csv/excel file from the exchange and import it into the website. The exchanges I successfully imported from were Coinbase, GDAX, Bittrex, and Binance. The result is a .csv or other file that you can import into your tax software. I have also heard good things about cointracking.info but have not personally used it myself.
20. Taxation is theft! I can't help you there.
That is the summary I have for now. There have been a lot of excellent cryptocurrency tax guides on reddit, such as this one, this one, and this one, but I wanted to post my short summary guide on ethtrader which hopefully answers some of the questions you all may have about US taxation of ETH and other cryptocurrencies. Please let me know if you have any more questions, and I’d be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. Thank you! Regarding edits: I have made many edits to my post since I originally posted it. Please refresh to see the latest edits to my guide. Thank you.
Disclaimer: The information contained within this post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining tax, accounting, or financial advice from a professional. Any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this post is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law. Presentation of the information via the Internet is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an advisor-client relationship. Internet users are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a tax professional.
I'm trying to put together a list of what's coming out this year. Have this very simple list so far. Anyone care to add anything or suggest some better dates?
Latest News (most recent first) - Instant channels enable safe Lightning payments with unconfirmed funding Beta - Feb 10, 2019 - Voyager, New trading app from Uber & E-Trade execs announce launch date - Feb 9, 2019 - bumi/blockstream_satellite ruby gem for the Blockstream Satellite API - Feb 8, 2019 - New Zap Desktop 0.3.4 is out. New features, massive performance - Feb 8, 2019 - New release: @lightning desktop app v0.4.0-alpha - Feb 8, 2019 - valerio-vaccaro/Liquid-dashboard - Feb 7, 2019 - Japanese SBI Holdings will allow trading of coins - March 2019 - lnd v0.5.2-beta released - Feb 6, 2019 - Koala studios launches online LN gaming platform - Feb 6, 2019 - Independent Reserve has become the first #crypto exchange in Australia to be insured, with coverage underwritten by Lloyd's of London. - Feb 6, 2019 - Coinbase announces BTC support for their mobile (keep your own keys) wallet - Feb 6, 2019 - Blockstream published a new open source Proof of Reserves tool. - Feb 5, 2019 - RTL release v0.1.14-alpha - Feb 5, 2019 - dr-orlovsky/typhon-spec spec for new trestles side chain published - Feb 5, 2019 - Payment requests coming soon to BTCPay. - Feb 5th, 2019 - Kraken Acquires Futures Startup In Deal Worth At Least $100 Million - Feb 5th, 2019 - Next Blockchain cruise scheduled for June 9-13 - Feb 4, 2019 - Work on a GoTenna plugin to Electrum wallet in progress - Feb 4, 2019 - Bitcoin Candy Dispensers being open sourced - Feb 4, 2019 - New release of JoinMarket v0.5.3 - Feb 4, 2019 - Prime Trust won’t charge its clients to custody digital assets any longer. - Feb 4, 2019 - nodogsplash/nodogsplash wifi access using LN - Feb 3, 2019 - @tippin_me Receive tips using Lightning Network adds message feature - Feb 3, 2019 - Bitcoin-for-Taxes Bill in NH Unanimously Approved by House Subcommittee - Feb 3, 2019 - Full support for native segwit merged into bitcoinj - Feb 3, 2019 - Bitfury is partnering with financial services firm Final Frontier! - Feb 2, 2019 - Now you can open #LightningNetwork channels in @LightningJoule - Feb 2, 2019 - Integrating Blockstream’s Liquid payments on SideShift AI - Feb 1, 2019 - Wyoming legislature passes bill to recognize cryptocurrency as money - Feb 1, 2019 - Casa is open sourcing the code for the Casa Node - Feb 1, 2019 - Casa Browser Extension released - v0.5.2-beta-rc6 of lnd, full release getting very close now - Feb 1, 2019 - Tallycoin adds subscriptions and paywall features in bid to rival Patreon - Jan 31, 2019 - Static channel backup PR merged into LN - Jan 31, 2019 - The NYDFS grants another Bitlicense to ATM operator - Jan 31, 2019 - @pwuille currently proposing the “MiniScript” language to describe BTC output locking conditions for practical composition - Jan 31, 2019 - Fidelity is in the “final testing” phase for its new digital asset business - Jan 31, 2019 - Hardware wallet PR #109 just got merged so that @Trezor no longer requires user interaction for PIN - Jan 31, 2019 - CBOE, VanEck & SolidX filed a new & improved bitcoin ETF proposal. - Jan 31, 2019 - Casa Node code is now open sourced - Jan 31, 2019 - Next Bitoin halving in roughly 497 days - Jan 31, 2019 - BTCPay released 18.104.22.168 - Jan 31, 2019 - @binance now lets users purchase cryptos using Visa and Mastercard credit. - Jan 31, 2019 - Bitfury to Launch Bitcoin Operations in Paraguay - Jan 31, 2019 - Coinbase introduces very generous affiliate program - Jan 30, 2019 - DOJO Trusted Node bitcoin full node. Coming Early 2019 - Jan 30, 2019 - FastBitcoins.com Enables Cash-for-Bitcoin Exchange Via the Lightning Network - Jan 30, 2019 - TD Ameritrade says clients want cryptocurrency investment options - company plans major announcement in 'first half of 2019' - Jan 30, 2019 - Storage component of Fidelity's @DigitalAssets live, with some assets under management, @nikhileshde - Jan 29, 2019 - lightning mainnet has reached 600 BTC capacity - Jan 29, 2019 - Drivechain shows picture of Grin side chain and suggests might be ready in 2 month - Jan 29, 2019 - Lightning labs iOS neutrino wallet in testing stage now - Jan 29, 2019 - Aliant offering cryptocurrency processing free-of-charge - Jan 29, 2019 - Chainstone’s Regulator product to manage assets on the way - Jan 29, 2019 - Fidelity Investments’ new crypto custody service may officially launch in March. - Jan 29, 2019 - Gemini's becomes FIRST crypto EXCHANGE and CUSTODIAN to complete a SOC 2 Review by Deloitte - Jan 29, 2019 - Iran has lifted the ban on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency - Jan 29, 2019 - Confidential Transactions being added into Litecoin announcement - Jan 28, 2019 - http://FastBitcoins.com Enables Cash-for-Bitcoin Exchange Via the Lightning Network - Jan 28, 2019 - Germany’s largest online food delivery platform now accepts btc - Jan 27, 2019 - Launching a Bitcoin Developers School in Switzerland - Jan 27, 2019 - RTL release v0.1.13-alpha Lightning Build repository released - Jan 27, 2019 - The first pay-per-page fantasy novel available to Lightning Network. - Jan 27, 2019 - Numerous tools become available to write messages transmitted with Blockstream Satellite - Jan 26, 2019; - BTCPay 22.214.171.124 released - Jan 26,2019 - WordPress + WooCommerce + BTCPay Plugin is now live - Jan 25, 2019 - Juan Guaido has been promoting #Bitcoin since 2014 is new interim president of Venezuela - Jan 25, 2019 - Morgan Creek funds @RealBlocks - Jan 25, 2019 - Coinbase integrates TurboTax - Jan 25, 2019 - Robinhood received Bitlicense - Jan 25, 2019 - Anchor Labs launches custody - Jan 25, 2019 - NYSE Arca files w/ @BitwiseInvest for BTC ETF approval - Jan 25, 2019 - South Korea, Seoul, Busan & Jeju Island currently working to create pro crypto economic zones. - Jan 25, 2019 - valerio-vaccaro/Liquid-dashboard - Jan 25, 2019 - Bermuda to launch crypto friendly bank - Jan 25, 2019 - Mobile Bitcoin Wallet BRD Raises $15 Million, Plans for Expansion in Asia - Jan 25, 2019 - BullBitcoin rolling out alpha access of platform - Jan 25, 2019 - Electrum Wallet Release 3.3.3 - Jan 25, 2019 - Bitrefill, purchase Bitcoin and have it delivered directly over LN - Jan 25, 2019 - South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb looking to go public in USA - Jan 24, 2019 - Bitcoin Exchanges Don’t Need Money Transmitter Licenses in Pennsylvania - Jan 24, 2019 - US; New Hampshire Bill Aims to Legalize Bitcoin for State Payments in 2020 - Jan 24, 2019 - Robinhood, LibertyX Receive Licenses from New York Regulators - Jan 24, 2019 - Bakkt Bitcoin futures contract details released - Jan 24, 2019 - Blockstream CryptoFeed V3 now includes 30+ venues and 200M+ updates per day - Jan 24, 2019 - Binance Jersey – The Latest Binance European Exchange - Jan 2019
Bitfury Rolls Out Lightning Peach, Its Own Suite of Lightning Tools - Jan 24, 2019
Good news. v3.6.2 just hit the play store for Android. - Jan 24, 2019
Bitrefill - LN now accounts for more payments than alts - Jan 24, 2019
proofd.app allows you to store a checksum of a doc on the blockchain - Jan 24, 2019
487 days until bitcoin halving - Jan 23, 2019
New #GalaxyS10 coming with ‘Samsung Blockchain KeyStore’- Jan 24, 2019
Proof-of-Reserves tool for Bitcoin github.com/stevenroose/reserves - Jan 24, 2019
Lightning Network Pac-Man Arcade introduced - Jan 23, 2019
Why we shouldn't be asking for regulation and why we need the RIGHT to make bad investments.
I have deleted some of my old accounts but I have been frequenting bitcoin since 2014 and I am rather disappointed with the change over the last year and calls for regulation of crypto. So I thought I should make a reasoned argument as to why regulation is a terrible idea.
1. There aren't THAT many scams
4 out of 5 startups fail crypto or not. Failing is does not equate to scam. Further more sometimes the difference between a scam, just a poorly run startup, slimely business, and a bad idea isn't so clear. I'd guesstimate that at least 95% of crypto projects actually are acting in good faith.
2. Fraudsters don't follow laws anyways
Scammers are often already breaking laws, if they promise they will do X, Y, and Z and they don't they have already broken a contract and are liable to civil suits, and yes even just a promise in a whitepaper can already be considered a contract! Even emails can be considered to be legally binding between two parties in most countries and most freelancers already know this. If a fraudster is going to really scam people they will be one of those projects with an anonymous team or a fake one. And guess what since the government can't stop people from making crypto transactions a scammer from Russia is still going to be taking your ETH regardless of the regulation because they are anonymous!
3. Regulation favors the rich
In America you often have to be an accredited investor to invest in early startups. In other words to invest in a young company that is having an ICO, if the same rules applied to crypto, you would have to be accredited. So what is an accredited investor?
To be an accredited investor, a person must demonstrate an annual income of $200,000, or $300,000 for joint income, for the last two years with expectation of earning the same or higher income. An individual must have earned income above the thresholds either alone or with a spouse over the last three years. The income test cannot be satisfied by showing one year of an individual's income and the next two years of joint income with a spouse. The exception to this rule is when a person is married within the period of conducting a test. A person is also considered an accredited investor if he has a net worth exceeding $1 million, either individually or jointly with his spouse. The SEC also considers a person to be an accredited investor if he is a general partner, executive officer, director or a related combination thereof for the issuer of unregistered securities.
source This means you basically have to be a millionaire to invest in early stages of a startup. So that means 99% of people in this subbreddit could no longer participate in ICOs if the same rules applied. Furthermore the people that will be writing these regulations are going to tend to be older people who have more traditional and conservative investments, so why would someone who is invested in say paypal, want to make it easy for their investment to be made irrelevant? They have disincentive to create good and fair regulations. They lack what Nassim Taleb calls "Skin in The Game" which leads to poor or selfish decisions.
4. No one seems to actually know what "regulation" means
I see people commenting about how they don't like project A and that its a "scam". Truthfully I feel this is often because sometimes it isn't always the best technology or startup that is the best investment so people can get butt hurt over it when they see projects they don't like become successful and then they say "oh I wish there was regulation so this wouldn't become popular." What the fuck are you guys talking about? How do regulate whether or not a shitty technology is favored by people over a good one? Do you really think the government should be deciding what is "good" or "bad" technology? Because if they did Bitcoin would have never been invented in the first place. Also "regulation" isn't some magic thing that will stop bad things or even scams. Because of the nature of decentralization people can very easily be anonymous and setup ICOs.
5. Regulation will be ineffective and will cause brain drain
Like it or not tax/regulation havens will always exist. So companies will tend to move to places with the least regulation, Binance is a good example of that. And since crypto transactions are trustless the actual company can be in Malta even if the token or coin is used primarily in somewhere like the US. Which means that these crypto companies will still be able to reap the benefits without any of the cost of physically being in some country. That's a lot of tax revenue that will be lost because of regulation. This also creates more inequality as it means most of the worlds wealth will end up be more concentrated in tax havens. Not to mention anonymous scammers don't follow regulations anyways.
6. You are telling the government you are too stupid to handle your own money
Why on earth should you or the government or anyone tell me I can't throw $1000 bucks at some startup on the other side of the world? Regulation is only going to add more red tap for small startups, I have some experience with this personally as I work for two blockchain startups. One of these startups I suggested they add an equity function to their utility token, turning it into stock + utility token, as I think that is way more valuable to investors and they will likely be able to raise more money in their ICO. However they have determined that the paperwork alone costs way too much time and money. So these regulations are already hurting both investors and startups. Regulation KILLS innovation. You can't get 1000x return on one investment without taking a 95% loss on 10, in the end it is still worth it and you still win but regulations will make it damn near impossible for regular people to invest in projects in their early stages or from new better startups being created, so you will only be "protected" from insane profits with maybe a slight improvement in your losses. More regulation means less profit, and lets be real, most of you are here and want "regulation" because you want more money but this is the worst way to go about it. If you are too stupid to do basic research and to have diversified your portfolio then you are bad at investing and you shouldn't be playing this game, no amount of regulation will make you a better decision maker. We need the right to make bad investments that fail because that's how investing is done, you tend to make a loss on most investments but the few that profit more than make up for the sum of losses. Just think of the potential of millions of world changing startups that will never be because of red tape. It's like taxing people because they are dumb.
The Solution: Lawsuits
You can still sue people for things that are not explicitly breaking a law, but breaking a contract. The only regulation should be a business license so the government knows who they are, after that its not harm no foul rule. That means that if ICOs or cryptos try to trick people that they can be taken to court and sued to hell so they still are culpable for wrong doing without hindering young startups. Stricter regulations would have made a lot more sense in a pre-internet and pre-crypto world. This is because only people who could make researching and educating themselves a full time job could really understand if a business had a reasonable proposition and model since researching anything pre-internet was way more difficult. However with the democratization of information with the internet and of value with crypto these regulations don't make as much sense because the informational asymmetry has almost entirely disappeared between accredited investors and regular motivated people. The only difference now is the size of the wallet, this is a terrible world to live in where only rich have the options. I highly recommend everyone in crypto read Nassim Talebs "Incerto" collection particularly his latest book "Skin in The Game".
How and why on earth did cryptocurrency become what is is today and should we seriously do something aboout it?
My first thought is - rather fittingly - the genesis block of BTC. Specifically the message: The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks Today, over 10 years later, this kind of message might as well read: Coindesk(dot)com xx/xx/2019 Crypto whales and miners on the brink of a second bailout for cryptocurrency exchanges Bitfinex being perhaps the most iconic example. Losing 850 million USD just like that thanks to transnational government agencies, they faced a similar fate as banks in the housing crisis. Total wipe-out. Just like banks, these monolithic exchanges are too big to fail. Failure would mean a global financial crisis in crypto, much like mt.gox. Not that different from the banks that got bailed out by institutions, Bitfinex received the same treatment, except from whales, investment funds, rich corporate entities and such. They covered for the whole loss basically, allowing things to keep operational at least. There wasn't really any demand for another tether, so without it, it could have been an economic meltdown in crypto. Hearing about similar offers made by other rich entities operating in the crypto scene to Binance after their hack, I'm starting to think this has become an even bigger, more common thing with crypto exchanges than it has been with banks. It's rich people in positions of power protecting their own interests, except that in the proper spirit of crypto, it's quite secretive, likely (pseudo)anonymous and way less transparent than what the central banks did. Due to the nature of this technology, it can be hard to grasp what the actions taken by Bitfinex mean. To my understanding, they minted a new coin, LEO (witty name for a token under these circumstances..) and basically just decided it's market cap is 1 billion, then in a private sale, managed to somehow pull off the biggest ever ICO in the history of crypto, 1 billion of funding in just 10 days for what appears to me as basically printing money in order to cover for accounting, as this exclusive club taking part in the sale of LEO committed into buying said tokens using the money Bitfinex previously printed in order to manipulate the markets and profit, USDT that is. Can't remember any ICO in the past where the minimum barrier for an individual to participate was 1 million dollars and for companies, groups, or funds 100+ million. We traded the tyranny of the banking system for a system that eventually reached centralization of power to a much greater degree, accompanied with lack of regulation and oversight which we all welcomed. I have observed and participated in the scene for at least 9 years, so almost from the very beginning, seeing the rise of first altcoins for example and all the crazy phenomena which emerged and how the community dealt with them, evolving in the process. There has been a distinct pattern that can be traced back to these early days, where some group of people would figure out how to use this new technology in all kinds of creative ways which under normal circumstances would have been considered fraud, collusion... all kind of things we did NOT want. So when the majority aka victims became aware, we always protested accordingly. Pre-mined cloned coins that were hyped over social media only so the creators would profit? We decided they were worthless. So these people, having a very lucrative way of essentially scamming people dreaming of moons came up with a solution: there will be no pre-mine, but coins were launched under the radar and only people with power (many BTC) were informed. In case you aren't familiar, when a new minable coin is released and there's only a handful of miners, a significant portion of the tokens in circulation are mined in an insanely fast manner, first 10% of total supply generated in a matter of hours perhaps, giving everyone who managed to mine on the day of launch a major advantage. We decided the secrecy was equally bad and they openly announced these coins, directing masses to use mining pools, only for them to be be under DDOS during the launch. That pattern eventually evolved to ICO's and everything else we see today. Ripping people off in sophisticated enough ways that we put up with it. After all, we could always get lucky from the 'generous' pump & dump groups they were organizing and offering to us. The system may have changed, but the philosophy is the same: people with the most money either as individuals or a group exploiting 'lesser' people and groups, concentrating power (BTC) in the process much akin to 'rich get richer while poor get poorer'. 10 years onwards, thanks to the financial side (trading), the whole crypto economy is still not only using but dependent on market manipulation and all kinds of deceiving schemes. This has been a major obstacle to wide-scale adoption, despite powerful people trying to convince us that manipulating prices to the level of a bubble will lead to people thinking this technology is great and start using it. In reality, many among the general population either had or started having doubts about these bitcoins. Imagine if they tried to sell internet and all of it's possibilities solely through nigerian prince scam spam. Then there's the miners, one of if not the most powerful entity in cryptoscene as a whole. Naturally their power and influence only grew, significant investments were made. I remember conversations with some chinese guy mining LTC back in 2014, he was always like "Yay, the newest shipment of 300 AMD GPU's came straight out the factory". Must have had thousands. Asics had begun dominating BTC mining and they weren't cheap either. Not to mention all that electricity too. Where I'm leading you with this, is the current situation where we have established mining companies with ASICs dedicated solely to BTC mining for efficiency, probably pretty much useless for anything else. Valuations of 100's of millions if not billions at their peak. Then we realized how stupid it is to waste electricity like that when we could do it in a better way, Proof-of-Stake. Instant conflict of interest hindering further innovation due to competition instead of the opposite. The mining giants refuse to go out quietly and many have been mining BTC at a loss (electricity) for a long time now, effectively needing a pump to dump those mined BTC just to cover their operating costs in the past as they naturally didn't want to sell them at a loss. Side-note: I think the current pump is due to a lot of BTC miners quitting and cashing out of BTC in a way that doesn't bankrupt them. To make matters force, they can effectively coerce both whales and crypto exchanges to co-operate in order to pump the prices because if the miners go out of business, everyone utilizing BTC for profit is in big trouble. So if they say they need a pump to dump, they get one. Bail-outs for miners too for christ sake. Luckily, we have alternatives being heavily developed, but I fear for a financial meltdown for crypto before they reach a mature stage. Not a very popular subject to my knowledge, because in the near future, somebody has to pay the bill and this time it ain't covered by taxes collected. This awesome technology has been primarily abused and exploited, with people innovating in the are of 'get-rich-quick' schemes more than the technology itself. Ethereum was supposed to be a paradigm shift, but it became another instrument of the same scheme, even though it helped push tech forward some. Remember that this is a time of decentralization. It's up to us, the collective, to do something about this if we want (or even can for that matter). Ironically, we stuck with the old mindset of 'just wait it out and The Man will fix it for us eventually' which was supposedly a thing of the past. So I ask you: What are your opinions about the current state of affairs in crypto, especially the financial side? Do you feel it's all good and if so, why? Any and all input is welcome. Let's make the scene a better place and show good example to the pagans who doubt us due to our dubious practices in the past and even today, furthering acceptance and adoption instead of laser-point focus on profit to the point the system collapses.
Playing with fire with FinCen and SEC, Binance may face a hefty penalty again after already losing 50 percent of its trading business
The United Kingdom’s tax, payments and customs authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), has updated its cryptocurrency taxation guidelines for businesses and individuals. The guidelines set out HMRC’s view on cryptocurrency transactions, which taxes apply, how to file tax returns and accounting practices, among others. It also considers the taxation of exchange tokens, while stating that rules for utility or security tokens will be added in the future. The tax authority explicitly stated that it does not consider any of the current types of cryptocurrencies to be money or currency. HMRC further recognized that the cryptocurrency sector is a fast-moving one and it will therefore look at the facts of each case separately and apply the relevant tax provisions according to what has actually taken place, rather than by relying on theory alone.
The humanoid robot named Sophia returned to the Web Summit stage, where she fielded questions from participants and journalists, including inquiries about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Sophia, who will turn four years old in February and who was inspired by the looks of actress Audrey Hepburn, was asked if she had an opinion on blockchain, Bitcoin (BTC), and cryptocurrencies. She answered: “I know what cryptocurrencies are, but I do not use them yet myself. I don’t use money at all.”
An Illinois resident who won $500,000 in a state lottery has revealed he put half of it into Bitcoin (BTC) back in May. Redditor “Joxnlol,” posted an image of himself clutching the Illinois state lottery cheque on Nov. 5, with the caption: “Did this. Then put half into BTC in May. Remind me in 8 months if I f****d up.” In a subsequent post, Joxnlol indicated that he plans to HODL the investment for a minimum of one year, revealing: “I don't intend to touch any of it for at least another year. I set aside money for emergencies, I set aside money for myself, and I set aside money for tattoos. The only major purchases I've done is [...] bought a new car for myself and put a downpayment on a house.”
Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of major cryptocurrency exchange Binance, says a price of $16,000 per Bitcoin will happen “soon-ish,” in a tweet sent on Nov. 1. Zhao explains that price predictions are easy, but getting the timing right is hard. He said: “Lol, price predictions are easy. It's just hard to be right about the timing. We will see $16k soon-ish. 1.4 billion people working on it as we speak.” The message was an answer to the tweet of another user who pointed out that the prediction of an anonymous 4chan user predicting Bitcoin’s price would hit $16,000 by the end of October turned out to be wrong. The given prediction also stated that BTC will hit $29,000 in the first quarter of next year, $56,000 in Q3 2020 and $87,000 in Q4 2020.
Two former employees of Twitter have been charged with spying on thousands of Twitter user accounts on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, likely with the purpose of unmasking the identity of dissidents. Both ex-employees were recruited in 2014 by Saudi government officials with close ties to the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to access sensitive and non-public information of Twitter accounts associated with known Saudi critics. Twitter acknowledged that the company has cooperated in this investigation and that it limits access to sensitive account information "to a limited group of trained and vetted employees."
Let us know what you think in the comments section down below!
BitcoinTaxes Podcast: Crypto Audits w/ Alex Kugelman
BitcoinTaxes Podcast Link TLDR; Alex Kugelman, a tax controversy lawer, discusses crypto audits and how to avoid them. Highlights: IRS audits are a real possibility for anyone who has traded cryptocurrencies. Our guest today is Alex Kugelman, a tax controversy lawyer with an abundance of knowledge concerning cryptocurrency audits. He's here to share his expertise on IRS cryptocurrency audits, including risk reduction strategies as well as enforcement predictions and misconceptions. Alex Kugelman specializes in IRS audits. His experience includes four years of Federal government court experience at the U.S. Tax Court and a U.S. District Court.[00:40] Alex: I'm an attorney out in California. I clerked for a US District Court judge and as well as the United States Tax Court. I've been in private practice exclusively doing tax controversy work for the past five years or so. I kind of got involved with crypto towards the end of 2016. I tended to represent clients mainly with compliance & disclosure issues with respect to cryptocurrency. I just really like it. Really interesting area. The Coinbase summons in 2018 played a major role in Alex's interest in crypto audits.[01:19] Alex: What started me into the crypto space was when the IRS first issued summons for Coinbase. We started getting some interesting calls regarding that. And at that time I thought to myself, this might be an interesting area. So I started following the actual summons enforcement proceeding at the District Court here in San Francisco - from there kind of worked with people under different types of compliance, including international disclosures. Now we're starting to see some of the first cryptocurrency audits come through. First, let's get a brief rundown of how IRS audits work.[02:00] Alex: It is important to understand the IRS as an administrative agency and all different layers of it. So when it comes to an audit the term that the IRS uses is an examination and there's three basic levels. The first is a correspondence exam. That's where you get a letter that says, dear taxpayer, so-and-so reported that you had $100 of interest income that wasn't on your tax return - we're going to increase your tax. If you want to challenge that, you can. And that's basically termed an under reporter notice. That's probably not going to be a cryptocurrency audit if you get that notice. The next one is an office exam. That is someone in the local IRS office sending you a letter that says, we have selected a certain tax return for audit and we're going to look at these issues. We'd like you to call us to schedule an appointment. That's going to be usually a tax compliance officer that is doing that. The third and probably the most serious level of exam is a field examination. That's also going to be a local IRS representative, typically a revenue agent. There, the revenue agent may come to your work or ask come to your work or business to kind of conduct the audit. All three of those are going to start the same: a letter that's sent to you at your most recent address provided to the IRS. Cryptocurrency audits follow a similar protocol.[05:40] Alex: I think it's likely that most crypto audits are going to start with one of two things happening. One is that there is information from the Coinbase summons that is inconsistent with what was on a taxpayer's tax return. I think for someone who's involved with that issue, they're going to have a good sense of that one because they should've gotten an email notice from Coinbase. Or two, the audit notice is going to identify older tax years - 2013, 2014 or 2015 because those are the years that the information related to. Another reason I think people will get audited is going to be because information on the return is incomplete, in the sense that the taxpayer or the cryptocurrency owner reports some transactions, without enough detail to figure out the actual cost basis. Does reporting your data in an aggregated fashion increase your chances of being audited?[06:45] Alex: I mean one - to the extent that there's going to be a lot of taxpayers - a lot of people use TurboTax, right? If that's the way TurboTax is preparing all of those returns, it would seem to me you're kind of in a herd of people like that. And at least it's consistent with what a lot of people are doing. The second part of that is going to be at least those people who have prepare the returns in that manner, they're going to, or should have, the underlying data. So even if it's an aggregate reporting of each asset class as opposed to each individual trade, if there ever were questions then you're going to have your CSV files, you're going to have your Bitcoin.tax exports, you're going to have all the information that you need to back that up. Alex is an advocate of over-reporting your information to the IRS.[09:30] Alex: I'm a big proponent of over-reporting - and I don't mean paying too much tax. I just mean including too much information. Because at some point there's kind of two ways that your returned can be flagged: a computer flags the return for some reason or there's a special unit or a person who actually flags it. At the end of the day, a human being will be looking at that return and deciding whether it actually is going to go all the way through to an audit. I want them to completely understand what's being reported, why it's been reported, and if there's too much information, that's fine - it's less likely that someone's going to have more questions. A crypto audit is very likely to be a field exam - and it's important to hire a good rep.[11:00] Alex: It's very likely going to be a field exam, which means you're going to have a revenue agent - and those are kind of the best of the best auditors for an IRS audit. And remember - an IRS audit is a civil matter. It is not criminal at this point. Again, it's unlikely that it will become criminal. It is, however, the highest level of audit you're going to get. If you're going to hire a representative, which you have every right to do, you should contact that person, let them know what's going on and probably have them interface with the auditor. You should receive, as part of the opening notice or letter, the information document request - which is identifying what things to bring for the auditor. Also, it'll tip to what topics might be important. For example the typical things you're going to see will be bank statements, financial or asset account statements, which I view as requesting exchange statements or exchange CSV files. Any documents that show the cost basis for your cryptocurrency trades. Audits are more art than science.[13:35] Alex: The auditor has a fair amount of power. So if you play real hardball - that's not going to prevent the auditor from expanding to other years. So when you get that audit notice ,and let's say that you're going to deal with this yourself, the first thing you want to kind of figure out is what are the areas that I wouldn't want to go into, and what are the areas that I don't have good records? That will help guide the way to respond or what information to pull together. The reality is, and let's just be honest here - for most people reporting cryptocurrency gains, they have all of the information. The IRS does not have much. They might have some records from Coinbase, but it's not as if they have a treasure trove of third party data. The burden is really going to be, in every audit, on the taxpayer to prove their tax return is correct. It's difficult to say how lenient the IRS will be regarding past years.[15:35] Alex: I think the way that I would look at it is that maybe the standard of of records required to really substantiate older years might be a little bit lower for older years as opposed to now because it's different now. There's a lot better information provided by some of the exchanges. There's a lot more software out there to help you, especially for people who are newer to crypto. You should have access to all your bank records. You should still have a lot of emails, reflecting on-ramping off-ramping, or other purchases. You should be able to kind of pull this all together. I can understand when we have clients who come in and are early adopters and they're missing chunks of information. So I do think that in those types of circumstances, yes, I think there would be a little bit of leniency. But I don't think if you're asking, hey, I reported my gains in 2017 but I never really did it 14, 15 or 16 - I don't think that's going to be viewed very favorably. It is possible to substantiate your data without all of your records.[19:00] Alex: I think the first thing is, I mean, outside of cryptocurrency and just generally in audits, how many people have complete records to support everything on their tax return from three years ago? Right? It's just not the reality. The best source of information in a lot of these cryptocurrency clients are the clients themselves. They kind of know what they did and they can remember. There's some who take good notes and other people don't, but as you go through and ask people: what exchanges have you've been on, what type of coins, if you bought any ICOs, have you ever sold for actual US cash, and have you ever bought goods or services? As you talk through things people tend to recall what happened. We use that information and we cross check that against bank statements, as well as CSV files, to pick out what those transactions look like. Most people have some sort of records, at least reflecting the transfer in and the transfer back out of that exchange. So you can use historical data and historical pricing information to essentially estimate what that transaction would have been. And then what we do is we provide a written statement summary of what we're doing and why we're doing it. The other big one that we see all the time - and anybody listening to this, please hear this, do not trade for your friends on your exchange accounts - because that type of commingling causes such major problems. Essentially you are walking into those taxable gains just because you're allowing someone access to the exchange to make sales. If you need representation for an audit, get representation.[23:00] Alex: My general rule is that I think experienced representatives are really important. I probably would not hire the CPA that prepared my return unless they were: one, experienced with being a representative in audits. And two, you felt comfortable that they weren't going to go in there with a conflict of interest. But I do think if you're worried about going into audit - hiring a skilled, and experienced rep is really, really important. If they're experienced with this, they should understand the appropriate ethical standards and go in there and essentially help resolve portions of the audit and move it to a resolution that you can deal with. Taxpayers actually have a lot of leverage in an audit. And that sounds crazy to say, but there is a lot of truth to that. And so as you're kind of working through the audit itself, you want to make sure that you're not just agreeing to something to be done with it. You're not agreeing to something just because you think that you'll get in more trouble or get a worse result otherwise. There are important risk-reduction strategies you can utilize to avoid a crypto audit.[28:15] Alex: The first thing that you really want to do, is just assess; for those of you that are really worried about an audit - just assess what it is you've actually done over the years. When did you start trading, what exchanges were you on, do you have records that reflect on-ramping and off-ramping? And that's going to be your bank account statements. Do you know where you've been, what exchanges you've been on? For foreign exchanges, there may not be as much of that AML & KYC compliance, but I really believe that you do have reporting requirements under FATCA for FBAR and something called an 8938, which if you listen to the podcast with Tyson, he kind of explains what that is. But it's basically if you have ownership of a foreign bank account or asset, you have certain reporting requirements, whether you've had income or not. You want to make sure you at least track when you've actually exchanged crypto for cash or vice versa. That's partly because that's one of those areas where when people can get in trouble with some sort of federal investigators - because those types of transactions can be potentially considered money laundering. For those who believe that they've used like-kind exchange rules to defer taxable gains -you should look on your tax returns to see if you filed the form 8824, which is where like kind exchanges are actually reported. That kind of goes back to the over reporting issue I was talking about before. I think that if you didn't report the actual trades that you're taking like-kind treatment for in past years, I don't know that you've actually taken like-kind treatment to be frank with you. I think, objectively, that might be viewed as just not reporting certain transactions. You want to make sure that you address these issues sooner rather than later. 1099-K forms can be misleading - to the recipient and, potentially, the auditor.[32:40] Alex: A 1099-K is actually a merchant processing third party information returns. And it really is typically associated with people who have credit card sales - so it's going to reflect a gross amount and typically on a monthly basis. It shows the gross amount and what I've seen too is that sometimes transfers actually get caught into that amount as well. So it's not even just gross sales or purchases - it may have other information. So the 1099-K can be really inflated. That's why reconciling that against accounting records is really, really important because that is one of those issues that I think could lead to an exam. To those who think crypto isn't beholden to tax laws: you are not correct.[37:38] Alex: The current commissioner of the IRS is Charles Rettig, and he's a really well known practitioner in tax controversy. I know from people that know him well, that he's actually mentioned Reddit as one of the reasons that cryptocurrency enforcement is his number one enforcement priority right now. The other person that I've seen speak a couple of times is the head of the IRS Criminal Investigation Unit. His name is Don Fort and every year he does a presentation at the National Tax Controversy and Criminal Tax Conference. The last two years cryptocurrency has been number two and number one on his list. As much as the IRS lacks the funding and the manpower that it needs for all the enforcement, the IRS CI are really, really good and they are probably best agency at dealing with cryptocurrency enforcement issues. I really think that it's gaining steam and I think once the audits from the Coinbase summons kind of get going, I think it's going to be a really scrutinized area. I think the people who have gone through the cost and the pain of disclosing and amending returns and doing everything they can will be happy that they did in a couple of years. I think the other people are going to be sweating it out - I don't know if it's ever really worth it to be honest with you. I would recommend people do their best to get in compliance. In summary: do your best to report your crypto gains and losses - and don't try to pull one over on the IRS.[42:36] Alex: For people who have potential issues with past years, one is getting a consistent record and just amending your past years, so they're consistent. For people who have the foreign account issues - let's just say, for example, had an account with Binance, and that Binance account was never reported. The IRS has disclosure programs that allow you to amend certain returns, pay the tax that you report and pay a penalty, which would be 5% of the the highest account value that you have. For people who don't want to deal with this, I think taking evasive steps is the best way to get the worst result possible. One of the things that I learned very early in dealing with audits and tax compliance, is that you can always make things worse. I think you really just want to address it and resolve the issue while you have a good opportunity. We may see criminal prosecution of some of the "big fish" tax evaders from the Coinbase summons.[46:43] Alex: Yeah, and I think the two things that I'm fairly certain we're going to see: one is we're going to see the IRS use the information provided by Coinbase to start auditing the biggest account holders from that period. I think that's very likely. Probably the second one that I would say is very likely is that you're going to see limited criminal prosecutions related to cryptocurrency. And these are going to be people that have some sort of level of notoriety, whether actually famous or maybe famous in the cryptocurrency world. That's typically how the IRS and Department of Justice uses limited resources to prosecute criminal tax tax crimes. Alex is a great guy to reach out to with any audit-related questions, crypto or otherwise.[48:50] Alex: You can go to my website: www.kugelmanlaw.com. You can email me at [email protected]. I have clients all over the country, international clients. If you need any sort of help, whether that's representing you, or at least doing the nitty gritty audit investigation, we're always willing to talk to people and help them out as best we can. If you enjoyed our podcast, be sure to check back frequently for more great discussions about a range of topics in the crypto space. If you have any questions for Alex Kugelman, or want to schedule a consultation with him, he can be reached via his website www.kugelmanlaw.com, or via email at [email protected]. If you would like to request a topic for an interview, or have any questions related to this podcast, be sure to reach out to us at [email protected].
In 2014, the IRS issued a notice clarifying that it treats digital currencies such as Bitcoin as capital assets and are therefore subject to capital gains taxes. “The notice provides that virtual currency is treated as property for U.S. federal tax purposes,” it reads. The IRS published guidelines on Bitcoin taxes back in 2014. The key takeaways are that Bitcoin earnings are not tax-free and that they’re viewed in the same class as an investment property, not an actual currency. This means you report your Bitcoin earnings the same way as you would with stocks, bonds, and other investments. So you need to ... Binance Charity launches a "fully transparent" giving campaign, facilitating more than $4 million donations to Covid-19 hotspots all over the world including China, India, Italy, Japan, South ... Bitcoin Taxes will give them the clarity they need in order to make informed trading decisions before the close of 2018." The Company offers a free version of Bitcoin Taxes at https://bitcoin.tax/signup. The paid version of Bitcoin Taxes starts at $39.95 per year for up to 1,000 transactions. Getting started with BitcoinTaxes is easy for even ... The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued the long-awaited guidance on the tax treatment of cryptocurrencies. It is generally described by the crypto community as a mixed bag since some ... Bitcoin’s became less correlated with other cryptocurrencies in Q2 2019, according to a Binance Research report. According to the 2019 Q2 Crypto-Correlations Review, the second quarter marked ... Most nations impose strict penalties for non-payment of taxes, so if you owe the government money, get some advice before you owe them even more! Now, let’s shift to specific national taxation approaches. North America. The IRS first issued guidance on cryptos back in 2014, but enforcement until the great crypto rally of 2017 was lax. The ... Bitcoin opened at a price of $243.69, fell as low as $232.77 and closed at $236.07, according to CoinMarketCap. Any of these prices could work, as long as all calculations for all taxes were ... The agency issued its first and only guidance on how tax principles apply to transactions using cryptocurrency in 2014. ... if you bought bitcoin and haven’t sold, you haven’t realized any gain. You probably don’t have any reporting obligations. But if you sold bitcoin — or any other cryptocurrency — in the last year, you’ll need to report the gains and losses. Since IRS determines ... Bitcoin history for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. Bitcoin price chart since 2009 to 2019. The historical data and rates of BTC ...
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