Crypto Exchange Coinsquare Ordered to Hand Thousands of Customers' Records to Canadian Tax Agency

Coinsquare estimates between 5 and 10 percent of customer records could be caught in the sweep.

Mar 24, 2021 at 9:24 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:31 p.m. UTC

Canada’s tax authority, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), has prevailed in a court battle for access to a trove of high-value customer data held by cryptocurrency exchange Coinsquare. And the CRA seems to be coming for more.

Under a federal judge’s March 19 order, Coinsquare must hand over detailed information on its Canadian customers, their crypto trading activity and identifying information to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Coinsquare told CoinDesk it will disclose information on an estimated 5% to 10% of its 400,000 customers to the CRA, which had originally sought to secure the lot. Court documents indicate only high-value accounts will be caught in the sweep.

The first of its kind ruling hands CRA a win just seven months after it began pursuing Coinsquare’s customer data in court. CRA argued it needed the data to check if taxpayers were meeting their crypto reporting burdens and the federal court agreed.

Today, CoinDesk also learned the tax authority is "currently in the process of serving" Coinsquare with a further request for customer information by means of an "Unnamed Persons Requirement" (UPR). According to a spokeswoman for the CRA, the agency needs Coinsquare's customer information to verify compliance with Canada's Income Tax Act (ITA) and Excise Tax Act (ETA).

Coinsquare will have 15 days to comply with the order once it is received.

Echoes of Coinbase vs. the IRS

Five years ago, the Internal Revenue Service, CRA’s U.S. counterpart, launched a similar effort against Coinbase, using a parallel argument for access. Though Coinbase at first lambasted the IRS’ “fishing expedition” it ultimately acceded to a judge’s order, handing over records on some 13,000 customers.

At the time, Coinbase called the outcome a “partial victory” because it said it had pared down the scope of the IRS’ demands to include only accounts trading more than C$20,000 (US$15,800). 

Coinsquare echoed that sentiment on Tuesday as it touted the pared-down order secured through negotiations with CRA as a win.

Coinsquare’s final bargain will compel the crypto exchange to hand over at year’s end exhaustive data on accounts that held C$20,000 in crypto from 2014-2020 or cumulatively in their history, as well as the 16,500 largest accounts from each year.  

“Coinsquare negotiated to protect its clients’ privacy, and limit any disclosure to only what was absolutely required by the CRA under Canadian tax law,” Coinsquare told CoinDesk. 

“Instead of providing the CRA with all client data dating back to 2013 as was initially requested, Coinsquare and the CRA have agreed that information relating to 90%-95% of Coinsquare’s clients will not be disclosed.”

The CRA spokeswoman said the agency "reserves the right" to mount future taxpayer data collection efforts against Coinsquare and "other sources." However, she said the pared-down court order "appears sufficient to verify compliance with the ITA and/or the ETA."

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