Haven’t Checked On That Bitcoin Account In A While? Your State Could Have It Liquidated

If you know you have an old bitcoin or dogecoin account somewhere but haven’t gotten around the digging up your login information, you may have a nasty surprise waiting for you.

With the rise of cryptocurrency, nine states have now adopted rules that include it as a form of unclaimed property and several more are requiring or recommending that companies report their unclaimed virtual currency. That means that this fall, when banks, insurers, retailers and state government agencies are required to annually report and remit any unclaimed funds, your old cryptocurrency account could be liquidated and turned in to the state’s unclaimed property office.

There are a lot of concerns about this possibility, not the least of which is the fact that liquidating a cryptocurrency account prevents the owner from realizing any future gains.

But there’s also a larger economic issue, says Kristine Butterbaugh a solution principal, at the tax firm Sovos.

“Some of our clients don’t want to liquidate these accounts because it could have an impact on the market as a whole,” she says. “We’re talking millions of accounts, potentially, across the country.”

What’s muddling things is a lack of clarity on the rules around cryptocurrency. Unclaimed property law is written for traditional property but now it’s being enforced for non-traditional property.

Here’s how unclaimed property law usually works: Every fall, businesses are required to remit any unclaimed property to the state. For accounts and other financial instruments to be considered unclaimed, they have to be dormant for three to five years, depending on the state. That means the account holder hasn’t accessed the account or responded to any communications. Once the account is deemed unclaimed, it gets transferred to the state’s general fund.


That’s all well and good when we’re talking about a traditional bank account that is sitting around earning minimal — if any — interest. But states aren’t equipped to hold cryptocurrency, so they’re telling firms to turn those accounts into cash before handing them over.

Now let’s say you watched the meteoric rise of dogecoin this past spring and decided to go hunting for those coins you invested in on a whim a few years ago. And when you finally tracked them down you discovered your account was liquidated back in November, robbing you of thousands of dollars in potential earnings? You’d probably be pretty angry.

“Companies are in a really uncomfortable position because they’re unsure whether or not they should be liquidating for fear of owner retribution down the road,” says Butterbaugh. “And then you have the state saying, ‘You have to,’ even if it’s not explicitly in the statute.”

States are also motivated to enforce unclaimed property laws because it’s a revenue gain for them. Although the state keeps track of the amount due and the rightful owner can still eventually claim the money at any time, states in the meantime can use the money for their general operations. This may seem like a gamble, but only about 2% of unclaimed property ever gets returned to the true owner, according to Accounting Today.

Delaware — home to more than a million companies — is one of the most aggressive states when it comes to auditing companies on unclaimed property law compliance and has secured hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade in unclaimed property and fines.

So, companies are stuck between not wanting to get dinged for noncompliance and being afraid to liquidate a cryptocurrency account. They want more clarity on what to do and Butterbaugh says two places — New York and Washington, D.C. — are working on a solution.

But in the meantime, she advises companies dealing in cryptocurrency to start addressing their dormant accounts now.


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Inspired By Tulsa, Black Leaders Are Defining What Black Wall Street Means Today—In Its Many Forms

Lakeysha Hallmon prides herself on following in the footsteps of O. W. Gurley, the founder of Tulsa’s Greenwood district, known as the original Black Wall Street. 

Like Gurley, who moved from Arkansas to Oklahoma where he purchased the 40 acres of land upon which he’d build Black businesses, Hallmon left Mississippi for Atlanta 10 years ago with similar plans.

“Atlanta exemplifies mobility, and where there’s mobility there’s opportunity,” says Hallmon. “There’s an opportunity where there’s already unapologetic conversations around economic mobility for Black people.” 

Hallmon founded the Village Market in 2016, an Atlanta-based initiative that aims to support Black entrepreneurs through marketing campaigns and marketplaces. She’s one of many Black leaders who are vowing to keep Gurley’s Black Wall Street vision alive 100 years after the Tulsa race massacre destroyed his prosperous Black neighborhood. 

“A lot of my decisions are made by the way that he conducted business, the way that he truly galvanized the community,” says Hallmon. 

To date, the Village Market’s annual “Buy Black in August” campaign, triannual marketplace and community retail store—which shares 80% of profits with those whose products are sold—have generated more than $5.3 million for local, Black-owned businesses. Hallmon has also launched a 12-week incubator called Elevate that’s provided more than 75 Black entrepreneurs with mentors and funding support to scale their businesses.

Actor Hill Harper saw an opportunity to digitize Black Wall Street. On Monday he launched The Black Wall Street: a cryptocurrency app that allows users to trade and convert cryptocurrencies. It also offers financial literacy resources for Black communities that are often underserved.

“O.W. Gurley originally founded the Greenwood district…and since then we’ve had this whole trend,” says Harper. “Nipsey Hussle talked about it with ‘buy back the block.’ Our thing here is: buy back the blockchain.”

“Black culture has empowered and emboldened so many tech companies,” Harper adds. “Yet that value has not yet made its way back into our community. Owning this platform is to allow individuals in the community to own their own culture and to benefit from it.”

Randy Wiggins is honoring Tulsa by putting down roots for a new Black Wall Street in the city. “We want Tulsa to be the world’s most Black entrepreneur-centric ecosystem, which is essentially what it was at the turn of the 20th century.” 

Tulsa isn’t just rich in history, notes Wiggins. Geographically, it’s ideal for budding Black entrepreneurs. “[That’s] reality given Covid-19, high prices and cost of living on the coasts,” says Wiggins. 

Through his initiative, Build In Tulsa, which launched Monday, he aims to attract and support Black businesses that choose to settle in Tusla. The organization’s advisory board includes Ariel Investments’ John Rogers, whose grandfather owned property that was destroyed during the massacre, and Loida Nicolas Lewis, widow of the late businessman Reginald Lewis. 

Build In Tulsa is launching three accelerator programs, and within two years hopes to provide 30 companies with the funding they need to set up shop in Tulsa. Long-term goals include opening a dedicated Black Tech HQ in the city and launching a $10 million seed fund.

Wiggins is also in the process of acquiring an 11-acre property five minutes from the original Tulsa Black Wall Street. He wants to make this a hub for Black-owned stores. 

“Black Wall Street to me means radical and intentional partnership and collaboration across every segment of Tulsa and greater Black America,” says Wiggins. “It’s about every part of the Black community in America thinking about Tulsa as what it was, which was the center a Black wealth creation, and everyone pulling an oar to make that a reality again.”

J. Hackett, owner of Asheville’s first Black-owned coffee shop Grind Coffee Co., wants to build a Black Wall Street in his city. He is reinvesting a $50,000 grant he received from the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council to create an incubator for 25 Asheville Black-owned businesses. “With the help of 15 local partners—including Hatch AVL, Venture Asheville, Rotary Club of Downtown Asheville, and the City of Asheville’s Business Inclusion Office—his goal is that each business exits the program with at least $250,000 in revenue.”

He’s also generated more then $200,000 for Asheville’s Black business community through Grind Black Wall Street AVL, an initiative that hosts twice monthly pop-up shops featuring Black-owned vendors. But Hackett has greater ambitions to create a dedicated space for Black businesses and has been eyeing a vacant property in the heart of Asheville. 

“We have to be able to think systemically: what does it take to be part of the history making of the future?” asks Hackett. “If you don’t have a physical location, it’d be easy for history to forget you. But if you [do], it’s going to be hard to erase that. It’s important for every city to have some home base for Black Wall Street.”

Back in Atlanta, Hallmon acknowledges that each modern-day vision for Black Wall Street is different, and all are a unique variation of Gurley’s. Their ultimate goals, however, are the same.

“The 2021 version of Black Wall Street is what it was 100 years ago: it’s a model of resilience,” says Hallmon. “It’s Black people deciding yet again to be each other’s greatest resource.”


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