WASHINGTON – A request by the IRS for user data from a bitcoin exchange highlights simmering tensions between compliance and customer privacy for financial institutions and will test how those demands are balanced in the young field of cryptocurrency.
Under a procedure called a John Doe summons, the IRS this month asked a federal court in California to approve its request for Coinbase to turn over records on any user who had made digital currency transactions between 2013 and 2015.
At issue is the indiscriminate nature of the request. Coinbase has accumulated nearly 5 million users, according to its website – which could mean the company might be forced to turn over financial records on millions of U.S. taxpayers.
In the past, the IRS had targeted a number of banks with John Doe summonses. The requests were broad, but did not ask financial institutions to turn over information on every single one of their accountholders as the IRS is now