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Harper v. Werfel

CASE: James Harper v. Daniel Werfel, et al.

STATUS: Active

NCLA ROLE: Counsel


ORIGINAL COURT: U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire

DECIDING COURT: U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

OPENED: July 15, 2020

AGENCIES: Internal Revenue Service


Due Process Violations

The due process of law guarantees a right to be held to account only through the processes of an impartial court—something administrative tribunals violate every day.

Unreasonable Searches

The Fourth Amendment forbids warrantless searches and seizures of information, yet the Administrative State violates this right to privacy through administrative subpoenas and warrants, automated information collection devices, civil investigative demands, and “voluntary” requests for information.

NCLA’s client James Harper bought his first bitcoin in 2013, diligently paying all applicable taxes and reporting his trades related to bitcoin holdings. Throughout these years, all his transactions were facilitated through three digital virtual currency exchanges: Coinbase, Abra, and Uphold. Given that all of them had contractually promised Mr. Harper to protect his private information, he was genuinely surprised when, on August 9, 2019, he received a letter from IRS informing him that the agency had obtained his financial records related to ownership of bitcoin without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing. Mr. Harper is one of 10,000 virtual currency owners who received such a letter, according to the IRS website.

IRS somehow obtained Mr. Harper’s records without a valid subpoena, court order, or judicial warrant based on probable cause. In this case, IRS violated the Fourth Amendment by issuing an informal demand for Mr. Harper’s financial records from a third party even though it lacked any particularized suspicion that he had violated any law.

NCLA’s lawsuit says IRS violated the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause by seizing Mr. Harper’s private financial information from the third-party virtual currency exchange(s) without first providing him with notice and an opportunity to challenge the seizure of his property. From the very beginning, IRS acted in violation of the statute of special procedures by third-party summonses by failing to notify Mr. Harper of the summons and making a gross, baseless, and arbitrary judgment that he might not comply with IRS tax obligations.

James Harper, Plaintiff

Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
Richard Samp
Retired Senior Litigation Counsel

Plaintiff-Appellant’s Reply Brief

January 31, 2024 | Read More

Brief for the Appellees

December 21, 2023 | Read More

Plaintiff-Appellant's Opening Brief

October 13, 2023 | Read More

Plaintiff-Appellant’s Opening Brief

October 13, 2023 | Read More

Memorandum Order

May 26, 2023 | Read More


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In NCLA Win Against IRS, First Circuit Rules Taxpayers Can Indeed Take the Agency to Court

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NCLA Appeals to First Circuit Over IRS’s Unlawfully Seizing Cryptocurrency Data of Thousands

July 15, 2021

Watch: NCLA Releases Tax Day Video on IRS’s Unlawful Collection of Cryptocurrency Owners’ Data

May 17, 2021

District Court Ruling Would Permit IRS to Violate Constitutional Rights with Impunity

March 23, 2021 | Read More


Court Urged To Keep Suit Over IRS Crypto Doc Seizure Alive


May 12, 2023

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February 7, 2023

Crypto User Appeals Dismissal of Suit Over IRS Records Grab

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Court Tosses Challenge To IRS Crypto Exchange Summons


February 7, 2023

IRS Seeks Dismissal of Cryptocurrency Records Seizure Lawsuit

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February 7, 2023




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