INTERESTING ONLINE POKER TAX RULING IN THE UNITED STATES
Online players are not required to report their accounts to FinCEN as foreign bank accounts…but they must do so in respect of e-processor accounts.
The legal publication JDSupra.com reported Friday on an interesting July 21 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court in the United States, which determined that a taxpayer who held online poker accounts with PokerStars and PartyPoker is not required to report those accounts as "foreign bank and financial accounts" to FinCEN, although he or she must report an account with online e-processors such as FirePay.
The case was United States v. Hom, No. 14-16214 D.C. No. 3:13-cv-03721-WHA (9th Cir. 2016), and it overturned a decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, in part, which had held that all such accounts were reportable.
The key issue was whether either PokerStars, PartyPoker or FirePay was a financial institution, JDSupra reports, with the court concluding that whilst Pokerstars and PartyPoker did not fall within such a definition, FirePay did.
The processor had acted as an intermediary between Hom’s Wells Fargo account and the online poker sites. Hom could carry a balance in his FirePay account, and he could transfer his FirePay funds to either his Wells Fargo account or his online poker accounts, the publication reports.
"It also appears that FirePay charged fees to transfer funds. As such, FirePay acted as “a licensed sender of money or any other person who engages as a business in the transmission of funds” under 31 U.S.C. § 5312(a)(2)(R) and therefore qualifies as a “financial institution,” the report notes.
Hom’s FirePay account is also “in a foreign country” because FirePay is located in and regulated by the United Kingdom.
The court found that by contrast Hom’s PokerStars and PartyPoker accounts do not fall within the definition of a “bank, securities, or other financial account.”
The online poker providers primarily facilitate online gambling, and Hom could carry a balance on his PokerStars account, and indeed he needed a certain balance in order to participate in a poker game.
But the funds were used to play poker and there is no evidence that PokerStars or Party Poker served any other financial purpose for Hom.