In a move that some observers have described as nothing short of shocking, the online banking services company PayPal has provided privileged client account information to the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS requested details on various accounts connected with the use of offshore credit cards. As a result of PayPal's action, some online gamers have received notices from the IRS indicating that their accounts were under investigation.
The hunt for unclaimed income
The common understanding of commentators on online banking connected to the gambling industry is that such investigations are being used as a ruse by the IRS to access persons with unclaimed income. There is some suspicion that the IRS investigation may have little to do with online gambling at all, as proposed by Edward Leyden, the president of iMEGA, the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association.
Leyden states, "This appears to be part of a larger IRS investigation that commenced several years ago of tax issues involving Americans holding credit cards issued by banks located in places the Treasury Department considers to be potential ‘tax havens'.
"While i-gaming concerns certainly may become caught up in this effort, this does not mean that Internet gaming in the primary target of the investigation."
PayPal's raw nerve
PayPal had been an accepted payment conduit for online gamblers until it was fined by the now disgraced New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in 2002. PayPal was indicted on the count that it had supplied services to offshore gambling sites in contravention of the 18 US Code 1960 that prohibits fund transfers "derived from a criminal offense", and 18 US Code 1084 that refers to the transmission of information on wagers.
A settlement of $10 million was paid by PayPal representing the profit it had accrued from its involvement in illegal gambling activities.
In addition to the settlement, PayPal committed to initiate an in-house corporate compliance program for at least two years. It is clear why PayPal was eager to comply with the latest IRS request for information given its previous settlement payout.