Don’t Forget About Cryptocurrency Like Bitcoin At Tax Time

Form 1040 may look similar to last year’s return, but there’s one key difference that’s attracting attention: a question about cryptocurrency.

As I reported late last year, early drafts of Form 1040 reflected a new question on the top of Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income (downloads as a PDF). Schedule 1 is used to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on the front page of form 1040.

The new question made it onto the final version of Schedule 1:

The question asks: At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency? 

The placement of the question is important. I believe the question is intended to be so conspicuous that it makes it difficult for any taxpayer to argue that they didn’t know that it was necessary to report cryptocurrency transactions.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has made no secret of the fact that it believes that taxpayers are not properly reporting cryptocurrency transactions. An IRS dive into the data showed that for the 2013 through 2015 tax years, the IRS processed, on average, just under 150 million individual returns annually. Of those, approximately 84% were filed electronically. When IRS matched data collected from forms 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, which were filed electronically, they found that just 807 individuals reported a transaction using a property description likely related to bitcoin in 2013; in 2014, that number was only 893; and in 2015, the number fell to 802.

But… so what? If you skip over the question or answer it wrong, you can still claim that you made a mistake, right?

Here’s the thing. Even though the question is new, this kind of question certainly isn’t. Tax professionals have watched taxpayers struggle before when answering a similar question about offshore accounts and interests at the bottom of Schedule B. This one:

The IRS can and has taken the position that willfully failing to check the box related to offshores accounts and interests on Schedule B can form the basis for criminal prosecution. Failing to check the box by accident can still result in expensive headaches and draconian penalties. I fully expect a similar result when it comes to cryptocurrency.

So why all the fuss over this new question? The IRS has made cryptocurrency compliance a priority. Last year, the IRS mailed letters to more than 10,000 taxpayers who might have failed to report income and pay the resulting tax from virtual currency transactions or did not accurately report their transactions. This wasn’t unexpected since the IRS campaigns announced in 2018 that they were making noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency one of their targeted compliance campaigns.

In 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance to taxpayers (downloads as a PDF), making it clear that virtual currency like Bitcoin and Ethereum will be treated as capital assets, provided they are convertible into cash. In simple terms, this means that capital gains rules apply to gains or losses. (You can read more on the taxation of cryptocurrencies here.)

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It’s clear that the IRS is getting serious about cryptocurrency reporting. If you have questions about how and what to report, don’t stay silent: ask your tax professional for more information.

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Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything like that in the future, I enrolled in a tax course. I loved it. I signed up for another. Before I knew it, in addition to my JD, I earned an LL.M Taxation. While at law school, I interned at the estates attorney division of the IRS. At IRS, I participated in the review and audit of federal estate tax returns. At one such audit, opposing counsel read my report, looked at his file and said, “Gentlemen, she’s exactly right.” I nearly fainted. It was a short jump from there to practicing, teaching, writing and breathing tax. Just like that, Taxgirl® was born.

Source: Don’t Forget About Cryptocurrency Like Bitcoin At Tax Time

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Here’s Where $800 Of Bitcoin Buys You $10,000 Cash

Researchers from cloud security-as-a-service provider Armor’s Threat Resistance Unit (TRU) have been taking a deep dive into a dozen dark markets and forums. Analysis of the data compiled from trawling these English and Russian-speaking criminal marketplaces has been published in the annual Armor Black Market Report. As well as the usual tracking of the prices for stolen credit cards, bank account credentials and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) for-hire operators, there was one surprising new trend: a Bitcoin to cash conversion scheme that offers criminal buyers the opportunity to buy cash for pennies on the dollar. Paying $800 (£647) in Bitcoin gets you $10,000 (£8,095) in cash.

The Black Market Report

The Armor Black Market Report is the result of researchers from the Armor TRU trawling through underground internet markets and criminal forums. These “dark markets” are notorious for selling just about anything that can be stolen online, from personal and financial data to illicit services such as articles of incorporation for creating shell companies, the distribution malicious spam and even hackers for hire who will scrub your credit history.

The TRU research team analyzed and compiled data from twelve dark markets and criminal forums visited between February and June 2019. It came as no surprise to me that they found cybercriminal after cybercriminal selling credentials for as yet “unhacked” Windows remote desktop (RDP) servers. These are often used by ransomware actors looking for an entry point into corporate networks. That these credentials were being sold for as little as $20 (£16) was unexpected though. The cost of entry, quite literally, to the ransomware threat sector has never been cheaper.

Today In: Innovation

Neither, for that matter, has the cost of cold, hard cash. The TRU researchers found that, partly to get noticed in a crowded market and partly to offset the risk of monetizing stolen banking and credit card accounts, entrepreneurial threat actors are selling cash for between 10 and 12 cents on the dollar. This isn’t, as you might have guessed, a case of criminal philanthropy.

Instead, it’s a method for criminals to offload the risk of monetizing stolen account credentials by transferring the funds available rather than taking possession of them. It’s still money laundering, and it’s illegal, but it puts the most significant weight of risk onto the buyer.

Here’s how the buy cash for Bitcoin scheme works

The seller offers bundles of cash in various amounts, from $2,500 (£2,020) to $10,000 (£8,095) in exchange for a pre-paid fee in Bitcoin. That fee varies between 10% and 12%. Which means that $10,000 of cold cash can be bought for $800 in Bitcoin.

The buyer makes the payment and then chooses how they would like to collect the cash. This can be a straightforward transfer of funds to a bank or PayPal account or wired via Western Union. As well as getting a significant return on their illicit investment, the purchaser no longer has to worry about monetizing online bank account or credit card credentials. It’s a turn-key service; there’s no risky logging into compromised accounts, no money mules to worry about, just the (totally illegal) collection of cash.

“For those scammers who don’t possess the technical skills and a robust money mule network to monetize online bank account or credit card credentials, this is an offer that can be very attractive,” Chris Hinkley, head of Armor’s TRU team said, “the threat actors are still selling financial account and credit card credentials outright, but this clever service gives them an additional channel for monetizing the large amounts of financial data available on the underground.”

Money mules served well by dark market documentation

One of the other interesting things to come out of this analysis was the fact that cybercriminals are selling articles of incorporation and sole proprietorship papers on the dark market. Not shocking, but interesting. While the cash for Bitcoin transactions gets rid of the money mule requirement, there are still plenty of people who adopt that role, and these papers are aimed at them. A money mule is someone who transfers stolen money between accounts in exchange for a fee of between 10% and 20% of the value. For a money mule to be successful, they need to open business bank accounts that don’t trigger fraud alerts on larger transfer volumes. To open these accounts, they need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) assigned by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and that’s where the documentation to create shell companies enters the equation. The documentation does not come cheap, however. Sole proprietorship papers complete with EIN were found on sale for $1,611 (£1,298), and Articles of Incorporation with EIN were $811 (£653).

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I’m a three-decade veteran technology journalist and have been a contributing editor at PC Pro magazine since the first issue in 1994. A three-time winner of the BT Security Journalist of the Year award (2006, 2008, 2010) I was also fortunate enough to be named BT Technology Journalist of the Year in 1996 for a forward-looking feature in PC Pro called ‘Threats to the Internet.’ In 2011 I was honored with the Enigma Award for a lifetime contribution to IT security journalism. Contact me in confidence at davey@happygeek.com if you have a story to reveal or research to share

Source: Here’s Where $800 Of Bitcoin Buys You $10,000 Cash

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Warning Issued After Malware Is Found To Have Hijacked Bitcoin Blockchain

Bitcoin’s blockchain has been hijacked by a new strain of the Glupteba malware that uses the network to resist attacks, cyber security researchers have warned.

The malware uses the bitcoin blockchain to update, meaning it can continue running even if a device’s antivirus software blocks its connection to servers run by the hackers, security intelligence blog Trend Micro reported this week.

The Glupteba malware, first discovered in December 2018, is distributed through advertising designed to spread viruses through script and can steal an infected devices’ browsing history, website cookies, and account names and passwords with this particular variant found to be targeting file-sharing websites.

However, according to researchers, the new version of the malware can also mine the privacy-specialized monero cryptocurrency and threaten the security of Instagram users’ accounts.

The malware uses the Electrum bitcoin wallet to send bitcoin transactions that the attackers use to gain access to systems.

“This technique makes it more convenient for the threat actor to replace command and control servers,” Trend Micro researchers wrote. A command and control server is the centralized computer that issues commands to an infected network of devices.

The Glupteba malware, first discovered in December 2018, is distributed through advertising designed to spread viruses through script and can steal an infected devices’ browsing history, website cookies, and account names and passwords with this particular variant found to be targeting file-sharing websites.

However, according to researchers, the new version of the malware can also mine the privacy-specialized monero cryptocurrency and threaten the security of Instagram users’ accounts.

The malware uses the Electrum bitcoin wallet to send bitcoin transactions that the attackers use to gain access to systems.

“This technique makes it more convenient for the threat actor to replace command and control servers,” Trend Micro researchers wrote. A command and control server is the centralized computer that issues commands to an infected network of devices.

“If they lose control of a command and control server for any reason, they simply need to add a new bitcoin script and the infected machines obtain a new command and control server by decrypting the script data and reconnecting.”

It’s not the first time the bitcoin blockchain has been taken advantage of by criminals, with German researchers last year discovering child abuse imagery shared via the decentralized network.

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I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world. As the founding editor of Verdict.co.uk I reported on how technology is changing business, political trends, and the latest culture and lifestyle. I have covered the rise of bitcoin and cryptocurrency since 2012 and have charted its emergence as a niche technology into the greatest threat to the established financial system the world has ever seen and the most important new technology since the internet itself. I have worked and written for CityAM, the Financial Times, and the New Statesman, amongst others. Follow me on Twitter @billybambrough or email me on billyATbillybambrough.com. Disclosure: I occasionally hold some small amount of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Source: Warning Issued After Malware Is Found To Have Hijacked Bitcoin Blockchain

by Christian Karam & Vitaly Kamluk The blockchain is the public ledger stacking all bitcoin/altcoins transactions. It is constantly growing as “completed” blocks are automatically added to it with a new set of records. The blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear and chronological order. The blockchain has complete information about the addresses and their balances right from the genesis block to the most recently completed block through the mining process. Depending on the crypto-currency and the implementation of its protocols, there would be a fixed open space, where data can be stored, referenced or hosted on the blockchain within encrypted transactions and their records. This very versatile nature of the blockchain offers great opportunities for future innovation especially in decentralized systems. The research focus revolves around the threat of embedding decentralized chunks of malware on the blockchain by either hosting it or referencing it with cascaded pointers. Transactions and data are encrypted throughout the blockchain networks using different versions of public/private key encryption. Could malware survive eternally inside crypto-transactions? A proof of concept will be explained highlighting the concerns revolving around the “abuse and bloating” of the blockchain while comparing it to previous malware hosting and deployment models. In this talk, INTERPOL will frame the scope of this future threat and provide potential solutions for a threat surrounding the blockchain technology.

Bitcoin Warning As Serious Security Vulnerabilities Uncovered

Bitcoin developers have been trying to make the world’s most popular cryptocurrency more useful for payments, with the somewhat controversial Lightning Network one of the most popular projects.

However, serious security vulnerabilities have this week been discovered on the bitcoin Lightning Network, which could result in users losing their funds if nodes are not upgraded.

“Security issues have been found in various Lightning projects which could cause loss of funds,” wrote software developer, Rusty Russell, who authored the majority part of bitcoin’s Lightning Network protocol specification, in a post shared via a Lightning Network mailing list. “Full details will be released in four weeks, please upgrade well before then.”

The specifics of the vulnerability will be disclosed on 27 September, a common software security practise to both prevent bug exploitation and give developers time to patch problems.

The vulnerability appears to be related to the lightning-ready bitcoin wallet Eclair, which Russell also advised users to update.

The Lightning Network, first proposed by Thaddeus Dryja and Joseph Poon in a 2015 white paper, creates a layer on top of the bitcoin blockchain, where transactions can be passed back and forth before being added to the underlying blockchain.

Today In: Money

This should mean bitcoin transaction speeds are increased while costs are significantly reduced.

There are now a few different Lightning-ready wallets available, as well as companies that are able to process them on behalf of merchants.

However, low user numbers mean bitcoin lightning nodes currently lose money when they process transactions, according to recent reports.

When sending a Lightning payment, two parties deposit the funds at one bitcoin address, a so-called channel, in which they can exchange funds a limitless number of times.

This maintains bitcoin’s security but means small, regular payments don’t need to be added to the underlying blockchain until the channel is closed.

Questions have been raised about what Lightning Network adoption will mean for the bitcoin price, with much of the price dependent on transaction fees picked up by miners.

Most are though confident that with increased bitcoin adoption the price will continue to rise.

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I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world. As the founding editor of Verdict.co.uk I reported on how technology is changing business, political trends, and the latest culture and lifestyle. I have covered the rise of bitcoin and cryptocurrency since 2012 and have charted its emergence as a niche technology into the greatest threat to the established financial system the world has ever seen and the most important new technology since the internet itself. I have worked and written for CityAM, the Financial Times, and the New Statesman, amongst others. Follow me on Twitter @billybambrough or email me on billyATbillybambrough.com. Disclosure: I occasionally hold some small amount of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Source: Bitcoin Warning As Serious Security Vulnerabilities Uncovered

By Daniel Chechik, Ben Hayak, and Orit Kravitz Chechik A mysterious vulnerability from 2011 almost made the Bitcoin network collapse. Silk Road, MTGox, and potentially many more trading websites claim to be prone to “Transaction Malleability.” We will shed some light and show in practice how to exploit this vulnerability.

US Lawmakers Are Realizing They Can’t Ban Bitcoin

Those who have been longtime critics of Bitcoin usually have one key theory in common, which is that governments will eventually ban Bitcoin and cryptocurrency will then cease to exist in any meaningful form. For examples of this point of view, just look at economist Nouriel Roubini and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

That said, implementing such a ban is no easy task. After all, Bitcoin was built by cypherpunks as a form of digital money that would be unaffected by the desires of politicians and regulators around the world.

Lately, it appears that lawmakers in the United States are starting to realize the difficulties associated with a potential Bitcoin ban.

Bitcoin Ban Deemed Unlikely During Congressional Hearings

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a hearing on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology regulation. During that hearing, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) shared his belief that the United States would not be able to succeed in banning Bitcoin.

“If the United States were to decide — and I’m not saying that it should — if the United States were to decide we don’t want cryptocurrency to happen in the United States and tried to ban it, I’m pretty confident we couldn’t succeed in doing that because this is a global innovation,” said Crapo.

This statement came in the form of a question to Jeremy Allaire, who is the co-founder and CEO of global financial services company Circle. In his response, Allaire explained the new reality created by the creation of Bitcoin.

“I think the challenge that we all face with this is some of these cryptocurrencies — they’re literally just a piece of open-source software,” said Allaire. “There’s nothing else. It exists on the internet, it’s open-source software, anyone can implement it, it runs wherever the internet runs, and these have a monetary policy where these assets are algorithmically generated . . . That is a challenge that every government in the world now faces — that money, digital money, will move frictionlessly everywhere in the world at the speed of the internet.”

These remarks made during Tuesday’s hearing follow comments made by U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) from earlier in the month when he stated “there’s no capacity to kill Bitcoin” during an interview with CNBC.

Back in May, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) claimed that Congress should implement a ban on Bitcoin, but Sherman did not share specific details as to how such a ban could be effectively achieved.

                                

The difficulties associated with implementing a ban on Bitcoin are behind one economist’s theory that the best way to kill the cryptocurrency would be for governments to become more competitive in terms of monetary policy and financial freedom.

Abra CEO Bill Barhydt has also pointed out that bringing forth a Bitcoin ban could be legally difficult for the U.S. Government. That said, there is growing support for bans on encryption-based technologies among various law enforcement agencies in the United States, in addition to the Trump White House.

On the other hand, more centralized cryptocurrency systems like Facebook’s Libra project, which is really a cryptocurrency in name only, would be much easier for governments to control.

It should be noted that extreme limitations on technology and financial freedom, such as the new cash-related bill making its way through the Parliament of Australia, may end up unintentionally educating more people as to why Bitcoin has value in the first place.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m a writer who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. I’ve worked all over the Bitcoin media space — from being editor-in-chief at Inside Bitcoins to contributing to Bitcoin Magazine on a regular basis. My work has also been featured in Business Insider, VICE Motherboard, and many other financial and tech media outlets. I’m mostly interested in the use of Bitcoin for transactions that would be censored by the traditional financial system (think darknet markets and ransomware) in addition to the use of bitcoin as an unseizable, digital store of value. Altcoins, appcoins, and ICOs don’t make much sense to me. Find all of my work at kyletorpey.com. Disclosure: I hold some bitcoin.

Source: US Lawmakers Are Realizing They Can’t Ban Bitcoin

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