articleStartImage

Yesterday, India’s Income Tax Department started a surveillance operation on major Bitcoin exchanges throughout the country with the premise that it suspected tax evasion.

According to sources within the department, they have discovered “hundreds of thousands” of “high-net-worth individuals” in the exchanges’ databases.

A high-net-worth individual (HNI) is, in this particular context, any person with assets totaling over $1 million.

“Out of these, about [800,000-1,000,000] entities would be active for transactions. However the operations are still on and final findings will emerge later,” said an official within the Income Tax Department.

Government officials would not disclose how many identities they were able to track down, or whether or not these wallets have been used within the last few years.

At the end of last month, a study showed that up to 4 million (a bit under a quarter) Bitcoins belong to holders that either forgot about them or don’t know how to access their wallets anymore.

Theoretically, someone could be in trouble for tax evasion because they bought hundreds of Bitcoin back when it was cheap and left it sitting there, forgetting about its existence.

Bitcoin rose in value this year to such an extent that it wouldn’t be surprising to find that someone who dumped $1,000 into the cryptocurrency would find themselves wealthy enough to buy a decent house.

Some people within India’s government may not be the biggest fans of cryptocurrency exchanges.

A committee reportedly spoke to the government at the beginning of last month, telling them to shut down “cryptocurrency dealers” within the country.

We still don’t know whether they were referring to the shutdown of exchanges or the practice of making cash payments to individuals in exchange for Bitcoin.

Although the report was vague, this recent move by the Income Tax Department seems to indicate that there might be more crackdowns on exchanges in the country in the future.