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Crypto currency showing up in IRS seized asset auctions

Bitcoin wallet

Tax reporting changes of virtual currency transactions remain a part of the infrastructure bill, now on the bumpy legislative road to passage in the U.S. Senate.

But crypto already has been contributing to the U.S. Treasury, and I'm not talking about individual taxpayers' filings.

So far this fiscal year, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation division has seized $1.2 billion in crypto currencies. And there's still almost two months before fiscal 2021 ends on Sept. 30.

That amount is a reflection of the tax agency's increased interest in digital currency.

"In fiscal year 2019, we had about $700,000 worth of crypto seizures. In 2020, it was up to $137 million. And so far in 2021, we’re at $1.2 billion," Jarod Koopman, director of the IRS CI cyber crime unit, told CNBC.

And that $1.2 billion in crypto seizures to this point of FY2021 earns this week's By the Numbers honors.

Crypto crime bids: As is the usual course of business when the IRS seizes any kind of assets, this June it auctioned off some litecoin, bitcoin and bitcoin cash.

Lot 4TQSCI21402001, one of 11 on the block during the four-day government auction. The crypto currency had been confiscated as part of a tax noncompliance case, and was worth 93 bitcoin cash, worth more than $21,000 at the time of auction.

While virtual currency is among the newer items that federal agencies end up selling off after their investigations are complete, expect to see more of it on the government auction blocks. That's because cyber schemes and their proceeds, including crypto currency, are taking up more of G-men's and women's crime-fighting time.

IRS CI agents work with their counterparts in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to take down crooks. The U.S. Marshals Service and General Services Administration get in involved in the auction process.

IRS history of tax auctions: The asset auction process is not a new one. The IRS has long reaped the benefits of ill-gotten gains it seizes in tax cases, auctioning off such items as jewelry, luxury vehicles, boats, and even houses.

As cyber crimes increase, in the United States and abroad, the IRS has been ramping up its efforts to meet the challenges. The infrastructure bill's crypto reporting expansion, along with the question featured prominently near the top of the Form 1040, are just a couple of the tax collection techniques.

In its 2020 annual report, IRS CI highlighted it's crime-fighting efforts that fiscal year beyond traditional tax investigations. Agents also were involved in international tax enforcement, employment tax cases, refund fraud and tax-related identity theft investigations, and cyber crimes, with an emphasis on virtual and cryptocurrencies.

This year, like last, CI continues to partner with the J5, aka the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement.

This transnational committee of tax organizations from five countries shares information among its members on global offshore structures and financial instruments used to launder money and commit tax crimes. One of the growing international threats is the use of cryptocurrencies and cyber crime in these schemes.

Place your bids: When the cases are wrapped and/or tax-related property is seized, some of it eventually will be available to buyers.

With added criminal enforcement and investigation tools, that means more crypto currency will be offered to bidders.

You can check out what's coming up for bid at the Treasury Department's main auctions webpage. There you'll find links with details on the property that's on the block, as well as locations of the sales and those in which you can participate online.

You can find other government auctions and sales information at the special webpage. There's even an online search tool where you can check out your state's government surplus sales and auction offerings.

Get your shopping list ready, made sure you have enough old-school cash in the bank, then place your bids.

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