Indian Income Tax department surveys nine bitcoin exchanges, considers tax possibility

Bitcoin India Exchanges

The department said that it is also seeking cases where large amounts of "black money" had been laundered using bitcoin during the country's demonetization process in November 2016.

The Income Tax Department of India has begun conducting surveys of cryptocurrency exchanges in major cities across the country, according to a report by Bloomberg.

"We are looking at collecting information about modus operandi of bitcoin exchanges, investors, their source of investment and possibility of collecting tax", Ahluwalia told Reuters.

The survey, under section 133A of the Income Tax Act, is being conducted for "gathering evidence for establishing the identity of investors and traders, transaction undertaken by them, identity of counterparties, related bank accounts used, among others", they said.

The survey teams were reportedly armed with an assortment of software tools to capture exchange data, including "cloning and mirror imaging", and identified the accounts of a number of high-net-worth individuals.

A senior official from the tax department was cited saying: "Out of these, about 8-10 lakh [800,000-1,000,000] entities would be active for transactions".

Bitcoin India Exchanges
Cryptocurrencies Indian Tax Authorities Swoop in on Bitcoin Exchanges

The RBI has already cautioned users, holders and traders of virtual currency, including Bitcoin, about the potential financial, legal and security risks arising from the usage.

The Reserve Bank of India isn't altogether keen on citizens dabbling in these currencies, as they aren't regulated. This is because there are no regulations about virtual currencies in India.

The regulators said they were also investigating cases from a year ago when large amounts of "black money" had been laundered using bitcoin during the demonetization process in the country.

"In the wake of significant spurt in the valuation of many Virtual Currencies (VCs) and rapid growth in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), we reiterate the concerns", RBI said in a statement.

The news comes after reports of the government having set up a cryptocurrency panel, which recommended shutting down dealers of these unregulated and decentralized currencies across the country. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government does not recognize bitcoin.

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