DON’T MANDATE MASS SURVEILLANCE OF CRYPTO
Two years after the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed amidst backlash from the public, the US Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are proposing regulation for its implementation that would mandate mass surveillance of digital assets. This is likely unconstitutional and would be a massive blow to human rights.
Comments must be received by November 14.
Submit a comment to Treasury and the IRS to help stop this attack on our financial privacy.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
In Fall 2021, the US Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) amidst significant backlash from the public. The package contained some deeply misguided provisions addressing cryptocurrency that threatened software developers trying to create alternatives to Big Banks and Big Tech. We led much of the opposition through our viral campaign at dontkillcrypto.com and now we’re ready to fight its implementation. Almost two years later on August 29, the US Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published their proposed regulations on the sale and exchange of digital assets by brokers as part of their implementation of the IIJA. This rulemaking will define a “digital asset” and who qualifies as a “broker” under the tax code. We have until November 14 to submit comments so we created this page so that individuals can make their voices heard.
What exactly is the new rule being proposed?
The Treasury and IRS want to make a new rule that makes anyone “responsible for regularly providing any service effectuating transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person” a broker. This move would require anyone deemed a broker to collect, keep and report personally-identifiable information from their users (including names, addresses and other financial information via tax forms to the IRS). This makes a lot of sense in the traditional financial (TradFi) world but gets very difficult to implement with decentralized finance (DeFi). It would force DeFi developers who don’t need or want to collect information on their users to do so, thus facilitating government financial surveillance and threatening privacy and anonymity online. Compliance with this rule and its reporting requirements would be impossible. It would essentially be forcing a central point of control where none exists. This could have catastrophic consequences for the decentralized use of digital assets by forcing centralization, creating intermediaries and rendering decentralized technology virtually impossible to access or develop in the U.S.
What are the concerns for the everyday user?
Financial data reveals some of our most sensitive personal information, including our personal interests, the causes we support, and our plans for the future. The agencies’ total failure to consider our privacy rights is outrageous given that this rule would dramatically expand the financial surveillance dragnet.
There is no reason for any of us to believe that these agencies can securely store such a massive collection of sensitive information on millions of people. In 2022, the IRS mistakenly made private information about 120,000 taxpayers publicly available and the Treasury has been hacked in the recent past. Collecting unnecessary information serves no other purpose than to put users at further risk that neither agency can protect them from.
In addition, the Fourth Amendment makes it unconstitutional for the government to force individuals or businesses to collect and report the personal information of others if they (a) don’t already collect that information as part of their business, (b) have no reason to collect that information apart from the government demand, and (c) if the information is not already voluntarily provided. The IRS and Treasury should at the very least, take this opportunity to do the right thing—interpret the statute narrowly and revise this policy accordingly by taking out the requirement for developers to stalk and surveil users of their technologies.
Will this new rule stop tax evasion, money laundering and other serious crimes?
In short, no. People who are operating illegal schemes can continue to use other means. This will not be a miracle fix for problems that exist within traditional finance. Instead, it will cause more issues than it attempts to solve. Similar rules at traditional financial institutions have backfired, allowing these crimes to flourish at some of the world’s biggest, most heavily-regulated banks. If it hasn’t worked before, why would it work now? This rule will effectively impose financial surveillance on people who are participating in the crypto-economy for legitimate purposes, while having little-to-no impact on bad actors.
So, how do I send my comments to the IRS and Treasury?
Commenters are strongly encouraged to submit public comments electronically. We built this tool to make it easy for everyone to send a comment on this rulemaking. You can use the form above to let the IRS and Treasury know what you think of this new policy. It is very important to add personal stories and insights to really make an impact. You can also submit electronic submissions directly via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, indicate IRS and REG–122793–19 and follow the online instructions for submitting comments. The Treasury Department and the IRS will publish any comments submitted electronically or on paper to the public docket. Once submitted, comments are public and cannot be edited or withdrawn. If necessary, you can also follow the instructions on the page for how to send paper submissions. Written or electronic comments must be received by November 14, 2023.
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