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As the Indian government deliberates on the country’s crypto policy, the tax authority continues to send out letters with lengthy, probing questions to crypto owners. News.Bitcoin.com talked to industry experts to find out the implications of these letters, what people can do when receiving them, and how crypto assets are taxed in India.
Government Sending Tax Letters to Crypto Owners
The Indian Ministry of Finance’s Office of the Deputy Director of Income Tax has reportedly been sending letters to Indians asking a long list of questions regarding their dealings in cryptocurrencies. Twitter handle Indiabits recently shared one of these letters which comprises 26 probing questions, ranging from sources of income to the names of the cryptocurrencies the taxpayer deals in and details of hardware wallets.
“Furnish the details of all the wallets you are using along with their unique ID/number” was one question. The letter requests information on the taxpayer’s hardware wallets, including their balances, as well as details of wallets owned by the taxpayer’s family members on crypto exchanges both in India and abroad. One question reads:
Please state whether you are buying / selling bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies from websites like Poloniex.com, Coinbase.com, Bittrex.com or any other websites registered out of India.
Another question concerns all income received in cryptocurrencies. “Have you received any bitcoins / cryptocurrency in lieu of any sales made / services rendered / exports made outside India? Please furnish the details of such transactions along with the details of the person making such payments and his wallet / blockchain public ID details.”
The letter also warns that a fine would be levied for willful omissions. “If you intentionally omit to so attend and give evidence or produce the books of accounts of documents, a fine up to Rs. 10,000/- [~$ 140.97] may be imposed upon you under section 272A of the Income Tax Act, 1961.”
What Crypto Traders Should Do
Anoush Bhasin, founder of Quagmire Consulting which specializes in crypto tax solutions, explained to news.Bitcoin.com Tuesday: “The notice has been issued by the Investigation Division of the Income Tax Department. Usually, such notices are issued when the taxman has reason to believe that a person has concealed or is likely to conceal a particular income.” He believes that “It is probable that the taxman became aware of some information which makes him suspect that crypto transactions were undertaken and probably not reported in the tax return.”
Bhasin suggested that “Anybody who has received such a notice should not take it lightly.” Affirming that “One should provide complete information as required and extend full cooperation during the hearings,” he clarified:
Not complying with the notice or furnishing incomplete / inaccurate information may lead to the taxman conducting a Search & Seizure operation.
Varun Sethi, founder of Blockchain Lawyer, shared with news.Bitcoin.com that people are receiving these letters because India’s tax laws cover “all types of incomes — Legal, undisclosed, disclosed, illegal incomes. Thereby the levy of taxes on gains on cryptos is a legit exercise.”
He also expressed that anyone receiving this type of notice should ensure compliance. “With the tax return filing due date nearing (Aug 31, 2019) the taxpayers should pay taxes on gains made for the cryptos trades. Though there isn’t any clear field for the disclosure of the specifically crypto taxes yet it is possible and necessary to disclose the gains made and then pay taxes thereof.”
How Crypto Assets Are Taxed in India
Bhasin further explained to news.Bitcoin.com that “Income earned from dealing in crypto assets is taxable,” noting that “the legal status of an income is of no consequence to the applicability of tax laws in India.”
He elaborated, “In case you buy and sell frequently, with the purpose of profiting off daily fluctuations in prices, you will be categorised as a trader and liable to pay taxes as a business.” As for miners, “the mining operations will be considered a commercial undertaking and therefore be subject to tax as a business,” Bhasin described:
In case you have bought and held crypto assets for a considerable period of time, as a means of investment (aka hodling), you will be categorised as an investor and will be liable to pay capital gains tax (at the time of liquidation).
Ongoing Tax Issue
A social media influencer who goes by Twitter handle “Indian Cryptogirl” told news.Bitcoin.com that “Over the past 2 years, a lot of people have been getting this” tax letter.
“A friend of mine got this way back in 2016. He went to the office, proved that he did not use any black money for the purchase of crypto by showing all his transactions and he was let go with a warning,” Indian Cryptogirl recalled. She believes that “If you’re not doing extremely high-value transactions that don’t match your earnings, you should be fine,” noting:
I feel it won’t end until India has a safe regulated crypto environment with defined guidelines, without which people have no idea what to follow to avoid such IT [income tax] notices.
Nischal Shetty, CEO of local crypto exchange Wazirx, shared with news.Bitcoin.com that if the letter is authentic then “it’s interesting to see that the Income Tax department has done some good ground work to understand crypto trading.” While still uncertain how authentic the letter is, he believes that “There’s nothing to worry here and I would suggest anyone receiving this to honestly answer the queries and pay their taxes.” The CEO asserted that “Every crypto trader should diligently file their taxes,” adding:
This also helps our cause of getting positive crypto regulations in India as the government will see the positive effects of crypto on income tax collected.
Tax Laws and Crypto Proposal
The Indian government has yet to decide whether to regulate or ban cryptocurrency. The interministerial committee (IMC) tasked with studying all aspects of cryptocurrency and providing recommendations has submitted a report with a draft bill to the government. The finance minister, however, recently admitted that she had not looked at the report and bill in detail.
Meanwhile, the Indian crypto community has ramped up efforts to engage lawmakers to show them how flawed the IMC report is in hopes that the government will not go ahead with the draft bill to ban cryptocurrencies. In the meantime, cryptocurrency is not prohibited in India. This was recently confirmed by Union Minister of State for Finance & Corporate Affairs Anurag Singh Thakur.
Reiterating that “Tax laws in India are applicable irrespective of the legal status of income,” Bhasin told news.Bitcoin.com that “Even if a ban is introduced, taxes would continue to apply to crypto income and it would not stop the taxman from chasing unaccounted or untaxed income earned from dealing in crypto assets,” elaborating:
Since the IMC recommendation, from the date of coming into effect, does propose a 90 day window to disclose and dispose crypto assets, any information provided in response to this notice would also get covered by the grace period.
What do you think of the Indian tax authority sending this probing letter to crypto owners? Let us know in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: Bitcoin.com does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before making any decisions. Neither Bitcoin.com nor the author is responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article.
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Forced to spend the rest of his days in a cage, Ross Ulbricht has recounted his situation in a letter, which explains how he’s spent more than 2,096 days in a U.S. federal penitentiary for running a website.
Ross Ulbricht Reflects on 2,000 Days Behind Bars
The letter from Ulbricht shows the world how skewed the justice system is when a cage is literally the answer to ‘correcting’ people’s behavior. The drug war has raged on for decades, leaving tens of thousands behind bars for victimless crimes. Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to a double life sentence without the chance of parole after he was arrested for his role with the Silk Road marketplace. The platform allowed consenting adults to purchase narcotics anonymously. Ulbricht says he’s been condemned to die in prison. He’s got lots of time on his hands and it’s given him time to ponder and ask questions.
“I was put in handcuffs for the first time when I was 29 years old. I was labeled a prisoner that day and have since spent 2,096 days and nights in the captivity of the U.S. federal government,” Ulbricht wrote. He added:
I’m still in prison, condemned to die here with a life sentence and no parole. Prison is nothing if not boring, so I’ve had many hours to think about all sorts of things, including who, if anyone, really belongs here.
‘Crippling a Peaceful Individual’
Ulbricht was sentenced at 1:00 p.m. EST at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in New York City on May 29, 2015. He was found guilty on seven felony counts based on being the creator of the anonymous online marketplace Silk Road and the charges were all non-violent. At the time, many cryptocurrency supporters were outraged and felt the double life sentence he received was draconian. Cryptocurrency enthusiast and music artist Tatiana Moroz, explained at the time that the sentencing of Ross Ulbricht was disgusting and further added that the “war on drugs has been an abysmal failure.” “It hasn’t stopped drug use and it has only exacerbated the problem,” Moroz emphasized. “It wastes billions in taxpayer money — It’s impossible to calculate the cost of the lives destroyed in the streets.” Julia Tourianski, founder of Brave the World, was also horrified and said:
This is not the first time we have seen the assumed power structures cripple a peaceful individual to his knees, an individual forced to plead with the same entity that severed him from a society he wished to and did, improve. And it will not be the last.
In Ulbricht’s recent letter he notes that “forcing someone to spend years or decades continuously like this, waking up to [a cage] every single morning, is cruel.” Ulbricht says his imprisonment is akin to the worst torture like burning or flogging. “If the victims themselves would prefer this torture to imprisonment, the inescapable conclusion is that prison is worse, even more cruel. I, and every prisoner I have asked, would prefer any amount of pain and cruelty, for a limited duration, to the years and decades we’re forced to spend here — spirits crushed, hope abandoned, relegated to irrelevance.” Ulbricht’s letter on June 27 adds:
No one deserves this, even if they have to be here for the sake of others’ safety. Certainly, the many non-violent drug offenders growing old in here don’t. Pain does not heal pain. A lost soul is not redeemed in a cage.
Ross and his family believe some of the worst things about his case were the corrupt investigation and trial, manipulated by two rogue officers, and the grotesque disparity between Ulbricht’s double life sentence and other Silk Road defendants who haven’t received more than 10 years in prison for their crimes. Some of those men were the biggest heroin dealers on Silk Road, and the Silk Road 2 admin was accused of allowing child pornography.
180,000 Have Signed Ross Ulbricht’s Clemency Petition
Ulbricht’s note to the public says that vengeance and cruelty shouldn’t be “honored and institutionalized.” He believes that imprisonment of this nature “hurt all parties” and emphasized that “humanity is hurting.” “We can do better — We have the potential to rise above this darkness, to be proud of how humanely we treat prisoners and how few we need to brand with that label,” Ulbricht wrote. “Instead we hand out years, decades and lifetimes of imprisonment to virtually every person the government targets — We keep building cells like the one I’m writing this from. Prisoners are not inventory. We are not numbers or statistics. We are human beings, and we don’t deserve this.”
The letter should make anyone question whether sending Ulbricht to a cage for the rest of his life is humane, especially given the victimless nature of his crime. Unfortunately, the world is filled with prisons occupied by millions of people because bureaucrats disagree with the use of certain plants and substances. At the end of Ulbricht’s letter, he says if people haven’t signed his clemency petition yet, they should do so and share it with their friends. Change.org is hosting a petition for Ulbricht’s clemency and so far 180,164 individuals have signed. The petition asks U.S. President Donald Trump to pardon Ross Ulbricht because there is a growing consensus that Ross’s case is a miscarriage of justice.
“My son, Ross Ulbricht, is a first-time offender serving a double life sentence without parole, plus 40 years, for a website he made when he was 26 years old and passionate about free markets and privacy,” Lyn Ulbricht, Ross’s mother, explains on the petition’s notes. Lyn Ulbricht’s appeal to Trump concludes:
Ross ― an Eagle Scout, scientist, and peaceful entrepreneur had all non-violent charges at trial. He was never prosecuted for causing harm or bodily injury and no victim was named at trial ― This is a sentence that shocks the conscience.
If you are interested in reading Ulbricht’s recent letter to the public in its entirety, it can be found here.
What do you think about Ross Ulbricht spending his life in prison for operating a website? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
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