As the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pushes forward with its proposal to increase cryptocurrency surveillance, a past report might offer a clue for how this information may be used in practice. In short, with the IRS set to keep tabs on Americans’ cryptocurrency usage through an expected 8 billion new returns, it seems the Department of Justice (DOJ) may soon have the tools it wants to start confiscating cryptocurrency at an unprecedented rate.
The issue stems from a 2022 report written by the DOJ in response to Executive Order 14067. For those who might not remember, Executive Order 14067 was President Biden’s first major cryptocurrency initiative. Although many people initially feared an impending crackdown was coming, the executive order largely delayed making sweeping changes by first calling on agencies to issue reports to inform future policies around cryptocurrency and related issues.
The report, written by the DOJ, covered a vast range of topics. Largely falling into four categories, the recommendations spanned ways to aid prosecutions, ways to improve investigations, ways to expand penalties for cryptocurrency-related crimes, and ways to increase the resources available for government employees.
What’s most interesting for the present conversation, however, is where the DOJ argued for increasing its ability to seize cryptocurrency.
For example, the report states that “it is critical that the United States have the authority to forfeit the proceeds of cryptocurrency fraud and manipulation as a means of deterring such activity and divesting violators of their ill-gotten gains.” Therefore, the DOJ recommends expanding its authority over criminal, civil, and administrative forfeiture.
The DOJ has claimed these updates are necessary because the department’s experience with cryptocurrency-related cases has “revealed limits on the forfeiture tools used to deprive wrongdoers of ill-gotten gains and, in certain cases, restore funds to victims.”
Yet this argument is difficult to understand considering how much and how often the government has been able to seize cryptocurrency over the years. In fact, the report itself mentions such cases. Between 2014 and 2022, the FBI seized around $427 million in cryptocurrency. The IRS seized another $3.8 billion between 2018-21.
With more than $4 billion on hand, the DOJ’s argument that the U.S. government is…