US Lawmakers Ask Janet Yellen to Define ‘Broker’ for Infrastructure Bill

A bipartisan group of senators say they’ll offer legislation if needed to clarify the contentious provision.

Dec 14, 2021 at 11:43 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 15, 2021 at 3:23 p.m. UTC

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators want Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to specify how the finance ministry will define a “broker” for crypto tax reporting purposes.

In an open letter published Tuesday, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) wrote that the crypto industry is concerned about how a broker might be defined after the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Ac, the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last month.

The bill contains a handful of crypto provisions, with the one imposing reporting requirements on brokers drawing attention over the possibility that any party engaged in facilitating transactions might be classified as a broker, including software developers or wallet manufacturers. Efforts to modify the provision before the bill’s passage through the Senate were ultimately unsuccessful.

“Some market participants have expressed concern that an overly broad interpretation of this provision’s definition of ‘broker’ could capture certain individuals who are solely involved with validating distributed ledger transactions through mining, staking or other methods, and entities solely providing software or hardware solutions enabling users to maintain custody of their own digital asset wallets,” Tuesday’s letter said.

The lawmakers wrote that they believe the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Biden administration share the same definition of “broker” as the bill’s authors, which include Portman and Sinema. This would mean the provision applies to entities that actually “enable the transfer of digital assets,” and not “ancillary” parties.

The letter referenced a colloquy between Portman and Warner in which they said the provision is not meant to enact new reporting requirements on entities that are not brokers.

“We urge the Department of the Treasury to provide information or informal guidance as soon as possible – no later than the end of the current calendar year – regarding the definition of ‘broker’ as discussed during the legislative process. We are also prepared to offer legislation to further clarify that intent,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers also asked Yellen to begin the rulemaking process – by which the Treasury Department will explain how it plans to enact the law and solicit feedback – “in an expeditious manner.”


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Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.