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FinCEN Penalizes Crypto P2P Currency Exchanger for Non Compliance

FinCEN Penalizes Crypto P2P Currency Exchanger for Non Compliance (Golding & Golding)

FinCEN Penalizes Crypto P2P Currency Exchanger for Non Compliance (Golding & Golding)

FinCEN Penalizes Crypto P2P Currency Exchanger for Non Compliance

Cryptocurrency may be subject to various different IRS and other laws, rules and regulations — depending on who is handling the virtual currency — and what is the nature of the transaction is

And, while the IRS requires investors, sellers, and collectors of cryptocurrency to pay tax and report on all things cryptocurrency — the IRS is just one government faction that may be breathing down taxpayer necks.

IRS & FinCEN Cryptocurrency (The Problem)

The problem is twofold: First, during its infancy stages, cryptocurrency was primarily used for illicit purposes. Mainly as a form of black-market, darkweb currency on sites such as Silk Road (still one of the best episodes of American Greed ever produced.)

Second, is that the main purpose for many traders of cryptocurrency is to remain anonymous — which is directly apposite to the government’s purpose of financial transparency.

The U.S. Government hates anonymity. Like a nosy neighbor, the IRS, FinCEN and DOJ want to know everything they can about your cryptocurrency.

  • How is it stored?
  • Did you ever sell or exchange it?
  • Do you hold cryptocurrency overseas?

What is FinCEN?

FinCEN is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. FinCEN is responsible for overseeing global financial transactions, with a focus on reducing crime.

As provided by FinCEN:

“FinCEN is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Director of FinCEN is appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and reports to the Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.


FinCEN’s mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.


FinCEN carries out its mission by receiving and maintaining financial transactions data; analyzing and disseminating that data for law enforcement purposes; and building global cooperation with counterpart organizations in other countries and with international bodies.”

FinCEN Forms

One common form you may have read about is the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Reporting aka Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account). Technically, the FBAR is a FinCEN Form, called FinCEN 114.

You can find a recent Forbes article featuring Mr. Sean M. Golding, JD, LL.M., EA, Board Certified Tax Law Specialist Lawyer, which details the recent updates (pros and cons) of reporting cryptocurrency on an annual FBAR and FATCA.

But, it is not just the owners of cryptocurrency who have to watch their backs.

What is a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Virtual Currency Exchanger?

A Peer-to-Peer Virtual Currency Exchanger is a money transmitter. In a recent case came down on a person responsible for facilitating more than 200 transactions.

As provided buy FinCEN

Defendant conducted over 200 transactions involving the physical transfer of more than $10,000 in currency, yet failed to file a single CTR. 


For instance, Defendant conducted approximately 160 purchases of bitcoin for approximately $5 million through in-person cash transactions, conducted in public places such as coffee shops, with an individual identified through a bitcoin forum. 


Of these cash transactions, 150 were in-person and were conducted in separate instances for over $10,000 during a single business day.  Each of these 150 transactions necessitated the filing of a CTR.

Is a P2P Virtual Currency Exchanger Illegal?

No, BUT, the proper precautions and procedures must be maintained. In this instance, FinCEN determined that the person violated the BSA (Bank Secrecy Act) by not properly registering as a Money Transmitter of an MSB (Money Services Business).

Since Defendant never registered, he never completed the other requirements, such as:

  • Registering with FinCEN
  • Developing, implementing, and maintaining an effective AML program
  • Ffiling Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs); and
  • Maintaining certain records.

How Much was the FinCEN Penalty?

The Penalty was $35,000 and Defendant agreed to an industry bar that would prohibit him from providing money transmission services or engaging in any other activity that would make him a “money services business” for purposes of FinCEN regulations.

At Risk for FinCEN or IRS Penalties?

Simple. FinCEN also provided that “[S]ince his infractions, [Defendant] has cooperated with FinCEN efforts. Typically, this could mean Defendant has already provided information to FinCEN, which could then be shared with the IRS or DOJ.

If you have unreported foreign, overseas and/or offshore cryptocurrency, you may consider getting into offshore compliance before it is too late.

Getting Into IRS Cryptocurrency Offshore Compliance

It is human nature to want to avoid making a proactive submission to a government agency such as the IRS before the IRS ever discovers the non-compliance. But, typically that is best path forward.

Moreover, if you realize you are out of compliance and begin researching online, you may begin to feel as though it is hopeless.  Some of these attorneys and CPAs make it appear that everyone with unreported assets or income is going to be severely penalized and shipped off to prison.

That is simply not the case.

You have options, and depending on the facts and circumstances of your situation, your options may include the streamlined program, reasonable cause, or the delinquency procedures – which may result in significantly reduced fines and penalties (and may even receive a penalty waiver).

IRS Offshore Reporting & Tax Amnesty Programs

There are 5 main versions of the program. Here are the 5 Main Options:

(New) Updated Traditional IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program

When OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) ended back in September 2018, the Internal Revenue Service was unclear as to whether a New “Offshore” Voluntary Disclosure Program would be introduced. Instead of a “new program,” the traditional voluntary disclosure program was expanded.

You can use the disclosure program to submit FBARs for your Foreign Bank Accounts, FATCA, PFIC, along with your Domestic Income

Resource: Summary of the Traditional IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program

Resource: Golding & Golding’s 8-Step Guide to See if you Qualify

SFCP – IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures

IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures are a stand-alone “streamlined” version of the traditional OVDP. The “stand-alone” streamlined filing procedures were created in 2014 by the Internal Revenue Service.

The purpose of the procedures are to assist taxpayers who were noncompliant with offshore reporting requirements – but were also non-willful.

If the Taxpayer can certify under penalty of perjury of being non-willful, the IRS reduces the penalty structure, and even waives the penalty for applicants who qualify as foreign residents.

Resource: Golding & Golding’s IRS Summary of IRS Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures

SDOP – IRS Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

SDOP is the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures, and it is the program designed for for U.S. persons residing in the United States (or do not meet the technical “Foreign Resident Test”) 

Resource: Golding & Golding’s IRS Summary of IRS Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

SFOP – IRS Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

SFOP is the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures. These are the Procedures for U.S. persons residing outside the United States is referred to as the Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.

Resource: Golding & Golding’s IRS Summary of IRS Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures

DIRP – Delinquency Procedures for Offshore & Foreign Accounts and Assets

If you do not have any unreported income resulting in having to amend your tax returns — and all you have is unreported foreign assets, accounts or investments with no unreported income, you may be in luck. In these instances, in which you do not otherwise need to file for traditional offshore disclosure or the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures — you may qualify for the Delinquency Procedures and avoid any penalties.

Resource: Golding & Golding’s IRS Summary of Delinquent International Informational Return Submission Procedures

RC – Reasonable Cause for Offshore & Foreign Accounts and Assets

Reasonable Cause may be an option for some taxpayers. Specifically, if you were completely non-willful in your failure to disclosure, and were unaware that there was any reporting requirement, then the thought of paying any penalty may sound absurd.

Resource: Golding & Golding’s Summary of IRS Reasonable Cause for Offshore & Foreign Accounts & Assets

Fixing Lesser Experienced Law Firm mistakes.

IRS Voluntary Disclosure is complex enough for experienced practitioners who focus exclusively in the area of law, never mind relative newcomers who are trying to handle more than just offshore voluntary disclosure as part of their everyday tax practice.

We know, because those cases usually end up on our door-step. 

Resource: Examples of recent cases we had to takeover from less experienced Attorneys can be found by Clicking Here (Case 1) and Clicking Here (Case 2).

IRS Offshore “Potential” Penalty List

The following is a list of potential IRS penalties for unreported and undisclosed foreign accounts and assets:

Failure to File

If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty. If you do not pay by the due date, you could face a failure-to-pay penalty. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty.

The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

Failure to Pay

f you do not pay your taxes by the due date, you will generally have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If both the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty apply in any month, the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty is reduced by the failure-to-pay penalty.

However, if you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.

Civil Tax Fraud

If any part of any underpayment of tax required to be shown on a return is due to fraud, there shall be added to the tax an amount equal to 75 percent of the portion of the underpayment which is attributable to fraud.

A Penalty for failing to file FBARs

The civil penalty for willfully failing to file an FBAR can be as high as the greater of $100,000 or 50 percent of the total balance of the foreign financial account per violation. See 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5). Non-willful violations that the IRS determines were not due to reasonable cause are subject to a $10,000 penalty per violation.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 8938

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 3520

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns, or for filing an incomplete return, is the greater of $10,000 or 35 percent of the gross reportable amount, except for returns reporting gifts, where the penalty is five percent of the gift per month, up to a maximum penalty of 25 percent of the gift.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 3520-A

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns or for filing an incomplete return, is the greater of $10,000 or 5 percent of the gross value of trust assets determined to be owned by the United States person.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 5471

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 5472

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns, or to keep certain records regarding reportable transactions, is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 926

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is ten percent of the value of the property transferred, up to a maximum of $100,000 per return, with no limit if the failure to report the transfer was intentional.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 8865

Penalties include $10,000 for failure to file each return, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return, and ten percent of the value of any transferred property that is not reported, subject to a $100,000 limit.

Fraud penalties imposed under IRC §§ 6651(f) or 6663

Where an underpayment of tax, or a failure to file a tax return, is due to fraud, the taxpayer is liable for penalties that, although calculated differently, essentially amount to 75 percent of the unpaid tax.

A Penalty for failing to file a tax return imposed under IRC § 6651(a)(1)

Generally, taxpayers are required to file income tax returns. If a taxpayer fails to do so, a penalty of 5 percent of the balance due, plus an additional 5 percent for each month or fraction thereof during which the failure continues may be imposed. The penalty shall not exceed 25 percent.

A Penalty for failing to pay the amount of tax shown on the return under IRC § 6651(a)(2)

If a taxpayer fails to pay the amount of tax shown on the return, he or she may be liable for a penalty of .5 percent of the amount of tax shown on the return, plus an additional .5 percent for each additional month or fraction thereof that the amount remains unpaid, not exceeding 25 percent.

An Accuracy-Related Penalty on underpayments imposed under IRC § 6662

Depending upon which component of the accuracy-related penalty is applicable, a taxpayer may be liable for a 20 percent or 40 percent penalty

Possible Criminal Charges related to tax matters include tax evasion (IRC § 7201)

Filing a false return (IRC § 7206(1)) and failure to file an income tax return (IRC § 7203). Willfully failing to file an FBAR and willfully filing a false FBAR are both violations that are subject to criminal penalties under 31 U.S.C. § 5322.  Additional possible criminal charges include conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims (18 U.S.C. § 286) and conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 371).

A person convicted of tax evasion

Filing a false return subjects a person to a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000. A person who fails to file a tax return is subject to a prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to $100,000. Failing to file an FBAR subjects a person to a prison term of up to ten years and criminal penalties of up to $500,000.  A person convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims is subject to a prison term of up to not more than 10 years or a fine of up to $250,000.  A person convicted of conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States is subject to a prison term of not more than five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

How to Find Experienced & Reputable Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Counsel

Nearly all the experienced Attorneys in this field will have 5 Main Attributes:

  • Board Certified Tax Law Specialist
  • Master’s of Tax Law (aka LL.M.)
  • Dually Licensed as an Enrolled Agent or CPA
  • Around 20-Years of Private Practice experience
  • Extensive Litigation, Trial and related high-stakes experience.

Why is This Important? Because People Can be Whomever They Want to be Online

And that is the problem.

In recent years, we have had many clients come to us after being horribly represented by inexperienced tax counsel. While we are sure it is a problem in many fields, it seems to run rampant in IRS offshore voluntary disclosure.

These Attorneys ‘manipulate’ their past legal experiences, such as working for the IRS —  to make themselves sound more experienced than they are. You later find that they never worked as an attorney for the IRS, or even in the offshore disclosure department.  

The IRS has nearly 100,000 employees, and just being one of them does not make an attorney qualified to be an effective and experienced offshore voluntary disclosure tax attorney specialist.

IRS Offshore Disclosure is complex enough for experienced practitioners who focus exclusively in the area of law, never mind relative newcomers who are trying to handle more than just offshore voluntary disclosure as part of their everyday tax practice.

International Offshore Disclosure Lawyer Fees – How Much are They?

As in life, you get what you pay for.

To get the best representation possible, you need an experienced Board Certified Tax Law Specialist, with advanced degrees and advanced certifications.

If you want to hire a newer private-practice attorney that just opened shop a few years ago, hoping to save a little money on fees,  where they sold you on some “over-hyped” Kovel Letter – you’re putting yourself at risk.

Those cases usually end up on our doorstep down the line after the attorney made significant mistakes on the submission (sometimes costing the client significant amounts of time and fees that could have been avoided)

Golding & Golding – Board Certified in Tax Law

Golding & Golding represents clients worldwide in over 70-countries exclusively in Streamlined, Offshore and IRS Voluntary Disclosure matters. We have successfully completed more than 1000 streamlined and voluntary disclosure submissions.

Our Team Lead is a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist (Less than 1% of Attorneys nationwide) and Enrolled Agent, with a Master’s of Tax Law (LL.M.)

Mr. Golding leads his team in each and every case we accept for submission.

We are the “go-to” firm for other Attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Accountants and Financial Professionals worldwide.

We Can Help You.

International Tax Lawyers - Golding & Golding, A PLC

International Tax Lawyers - Golding & Golding, A PLC

Golding & Golding: Our International Tax Lawyers practice exclusively in the area of IRS Offshore & Voluntary Disclosure. We represent clients in 70 different countries. Managing Partner, Sean M. Golding, JD, LL.M., EA and his team have represented thousands of clients in all aspects of IRS offshore disclosure and compliance during his 20-year career as an Attorney. Mr. Golding's articles have been referenced in such publications as the Washington Post, Forbes, Nolo and various Law Journals nationwide.

Sean holds a Master's in Tax Law from one of the top Tax LL.M. programs in the country at the University of Denver, and has also earned the prestigious Enrolled Agent credential. Mr. Golding is also a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist Attorney (A designation earned by Less than 1% of Attorneys nationwide.)
International Tax Lawyers - Golding & Golding, A PLC