Legal Status of Cryptocurrency by Nation
In 2016, Felix Weiss, a software developer, decided to prove the utility of cryptocurrency by traveling the world using only bitcoin. While Weiss’ trip showed the world that crypto is slowly becoming an accepted part of life worldwide, the challenges and planning needed for such an endeavor – even today – point out a critical flaw.
Most nations – and in the case of multi-territorial nations like the United Kingdom and China, most territories – have their own rules and requirements for cryptocurrency use. With many blockchain businesses and projects being transnational, the borderless nature of the crypto community is clashing with the highly bordered and compartmentalized nature of the real world. This is a problem that not only affect would-be world travelers, but the crypto community in general and possibly the whole of the money-using world.
An example of this is Venezuela. Following the collapse of oil prices, domestic political instability, and international sanctions, the Venezuelan bolivar effectively worthless. Hyperinflation has forced the government to replace the standard banknote, the bolivar fuerte, with the bolivar soberano at a rate of 1:100,000 on Aaugust 20, 2018 – the bolivar fuerte itself replaced the bolivar in 2008 at 1:1000. Despite this, one United States dollar converts to 1,569.61 bolivar soberano as of January 26, 2019.
To stem this hyperinflation and re-inject capital into the Venezuelan economy, embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attempted to do an end run around the United States’ sanctions by creating a cryptocurrency – the petro – that would be used to see Venezuelan oil on the black market. As the sale would not involve the bolivar, they would skip sanctions placed on Venezuela in protest of injustices allegedly committed by the Maduro administration. The United States’ response was condemnation of the scheme, a call for international cooperation on cryptocurrency regulation, and support for Maduro’s opposition leader – who claimed the Venezuelan presidency recently.
Understanding the intricacy of international crypto jurisprudence is not only necessary for those seeking to avoid embarrassing or dangerous situations when travelling, but essential for the crypto investor. As more crypto projects opt for a transnational presence, having a strong understanding of international crypto law is possibly the most important thing an investor can do to protect his investment.
Agreeing to Disagree
To begin, a disclaimer is needed. Most nations have no legislation specifically influencing or controlling the use of cryptocurrencies in their territories. There are three reasons for this: some nations, like the United States and the France, are actively considering legislation. As cryptocurrencies are fringe innovations and as nations tend to have higher legislative priorities on their agendas – such as the recent government shutdown in the US and Brexit is France – cryptocurrency reform tends to get pushed back or indefinitely postponed.
The second reasoning is that some nations are either waiting for the larger players like the United States to act or for widescale adoption of blockchain technology to force their hands. With the technology continuously moving and updating, the “watch and wait” approach seems to be prudent, especially for nations where legislative changes come slowly or nations that cannot afford to have monetary policies in contrast to that of the United States, the European Union, or China.
Finally, there is a class of nations that feel that the transnational nature of cryptocurrency makes them impossible to regulate. The argument goes that as crypto assets are effectively foreign currencies, any legislation against them would, in fact, be a restriction imposed on the nation’s citizens. As it would be impossible to proactively stop a crypto transaction or even effectively monitor all crypto transactions in a territory without the establishment of a national firewall, a nation declaring that it cannot regulate cryptocurrency is simply admitting that it is not interested in symbolic legislation.
This is not to say that there is not plenty of reasons for the nations that legislate to issue rules. In Japan, for example, the increase in exchange hacks have created a financial crisis. In the first six months of 2018, Japanese authorities estimated that $540 million was stolen from Japanese crypto exchanges. In October, South Korea estimated that crypto exchanges were hacked seven times and there were 158 cases of wallet hacks in the last three years in the country. Most of the hacks were thought to originate in North Korea, which is technically still at war with South Korea.
Since the Mt Gox hack, which nearly wiped out bitcoin, there has been intense attention on the security vulnerability of cryptocurrencies. However, it was not until the 2017 bitcoin price spike that most nations became aware of the dangers of runaway speculation and untaxed profits. This has led to a state of quasi-regulation for many nations, in which the national bank creates the de facto rules for cryptocurrency extralegally.
In India, the long-delayed push for a regulatory framework led to a state where there were no effective laws governing cryptocurrencies. However, the Reserve Bank of India’s circular instructing banks to not process crypto transactions or service crypto businesses became de facto law when police arrested the operators of a bitcoin ATM and confiscated the ATM equipment. This has led to a Supreme Court challenge and the effective collapse of the crypto community in India. The RBI’s hard line was in part influenced by plans to create its own cryptocurrency, which has since been shelved.
In the United States it is the position of the Securities & Exchange Commission that any cryptocurrency that passes the Howey Test should be treated as a security. For those unfamiliar, the Howey Test is a set of conditions defined by the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to determine if an investment qualifies as a speculative investment.
“The Howey Test refers to a 1946 case which reached the Supreme Court, SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., a lawsuit involving the Howey Company of Florida,” Investopedia explains. “This company was a citrus farm which operated on a large swath of land in the southern portion of the state. When the company decided to lease out half of its large property in order to “finance an additional development,” the question of whether or not the land itself could be seen as a security came into play. Purchasers of the Howey land, who themselves had none of the “knowledge, skill, and equipment necessary for the care and cultivation of citrus trees,” were speculators. They purchased the land based on the assumption that it would generate a profit for them as a result of the efforts of someone else.”
“Howey Co. ran afoul of the law when it failed to register the transactions. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) responded with an injunction to block the sale of the land, and the case was eventually appealed, finally arriving in the U.S Supreme Court. The opinion of the Court in the Howey case indicated that ‘the transactions in this case clearly involve investment contracts, as so defined. The respondent companies are offering something more than fee simple interests in land…they are offering an opportunity to contribute money and to share in the profits of a large citrus fruit enterprise.’”
“In the case of Howey Co., the investors in the Florida land saw the transaction as valuable only because of the work that others would perform on the land. By the standards of the Howey Test, this classifies the transaction as an investment contract. Thus, the transaction needed to be registered, and the Howey Co. was found to have violated the law by failing to do that.”
The United States effectively recognizes all crypto assets – except for bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and other “currency-type” cryptocurrencies, where the coin has value, but the value is not derived from any real-world action or property besides the actual use of the coin – to be securities. This position – much like the positions of many of the nations that have formal or informal policies on cryptocurrency – is based on the perception of cryptocurrency that nation’s leaders have.
In the United States, cryptocurrency has been a focus of the media since its conception, with most of the coverage being negative. With stories such as Silk Road, money laundering, and cryptocurrency being used to fuel human trafficking heading the media feed, it was inevitable that the official policy for cryptocurrency is to contain it instead of nurturing it. The use of securities or money handling rules to define cryptocurrency, however, has deeper consequences as cryptocurrency is – by its definition – not nationally-issued money.
International Politics and Cryptocurrency
Imagine this: you are an American citizen that has a bitcoin Coinbase wallet. You decide to travel to Cuba and use bitcoins while in the country. You travel home to find that your wallet has been suspend. As the United States has active sanctions against Cuba, Coinbase interpreted using the bitcoin as a possible violation. To avoid punishment, it chose to close your account.
This scenario is common for those engaged in cross-borders crypto transactions. Not only must one consider the legality of cryptocurrency in both the origin and destination nations, but also consider if it is lawful to transfer monies between the countries.
One might also have to consider how the nation handles securities or security-like commodities. In the United States, securities offered to the public must be registered with the SEC and state security boards, unless those targeted are accredited investors. Accredited investors are investors that can demonstrate both a knowledge of the risk in unsecured securities and the financial capacity to absorb the possible loss. Due to this requirement, it is not uncommon for crypto assets to not be offered in the United States or in countries with US-style securities rules.
As securities and commodities laws constantly change, staying informed with the current state of international cryptocurrency policy can be a full-time job. There is hope for simplification, however.
In December, the G20 countries – at their summit in Argentina – pledged to establish international rules for cryptocurrency in line with the Financial Action Task Force standards. These rules will create a comprehensive framework for combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
FATF is a program created by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The program is meant to co-ordinate international efforts to fight money laundering and terrorism financing. One proposed option is the global monitoring and governing of cryptocurrency exchanges.
These rules would also create more channels for the United States and other nations to pushback against nations such as Iran and Venezuela using cryptocurrencies to dodge sanctions. Now, however, these are simply suggestions.
Until there is international agreement on cryptocurrency legislation, the only option available is to track the current state of the cryptocurrency political scene. Below is the status of cryptocurrency around the world, as of January 2019. Nations not listed have yet to publicly state any stance on legislation or regulatory policy on cryptocurrency. Nations that have differing stance on initial coin offerings/securities tokens compared to its cryptocurrency use policy are also noted.
The author would like to thank the Library of Congress for its assistance in the creation of this list. This list may be incomplete, as data from all nations may be unavailable or incomplete.
Legal Status of Cryptocurrencies by Nations (only nations that have published a stance on cryptocurrency legalization or acceptance are included)
|Country / Organization||Cryptocurrency Status||ICO / Security Token Status||Notes|
|Anguilla||Regulated||Regulated||The Anguilla Utility Token Offering Act (the AUTO Act) was introduced in 2017 to regulate how ICOs and security tokens should be issued. “In drafting this Act, we saw that tokens that were in effect ‘securities’ are required to comply with the same international regulatory regime as all other securities offerings,” Ravi A. Bahadursingh, co-author of the act, said per EconoTimes. “However, there remained a large swath of non-security tokens with no clear guidance as to where they would fit in the emerging blockchain economy. Therefore, we focused our efforts on creating a safe and effective regulatory framework for non-security token offerings, which appear to represent a majority of the current capital raising activity within the blockchain community.”|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Not regulated||Not regulated||Antigua and Barbuda allows non-for-profits and charities to fundraise by selling the state-supported Antigua and Barbuda Development Coin. The Attorney General has been instructed to draft a regulatory framework on bitcoin. No clarification on the current status of the regulations is available.|
|Argentina||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Under the National Constitution of Argentina the only authority capable of issuing legal currency is the Central Bank. Bitcoins are not legal currency strictly speaking, since they are not issued by the government monetary authority and are not legal tender. Therefore, they may be considered money but not legal currency, since they are not a mandatory means of cancelling debts or obligations. Although bitcoins are not specifically regulated, they are increasingly being used in Argentina, a country that has strict controls over foreign currencies. According to some experts a bitcoin may be considered a good or a thing under the Civil Code, and transactions with bitcoins may be governed by the rules of the sale of goods under the Civil Code.”|
|The Bahamas||Partial regulated/encouraged||Subject to securities laws||The Bahamas is currently considering legislation that would define virtual currencies. Currently, cryptocurrencies are subject to securities rules should they meet certain requirements.|
|Barbados||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Belize||Not regulated/licenses not issued to cryptocurrency businesses||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Belize does not appear to have any legislation that specifically regulates cryptocurrencies. Trading businesses in Belize are regulated by the International Financial Services Commission of Belize. The Commission does not appear to issue licenses for companies to engage in cryptocurrency exchanges.”|
|Bermuda||Not regulated/currently drafting new regulations||Not regulated|
|Bolivia||Banned||Banned||Bolivia does not recognize currencies not issued from a central bank or monetary authority.|
|Brazil||Not regulated/discouraged||Not regulated||Per the Brazilian Federal Reserve Bank, “Considering the growing interest of the economic agents (society and institutions) in so-called virtual currencies, the Brazilian Federal Reserve Bank warns that these are neither issued nor guaranteed by any monetary authority, so they have no guarantee of conversion to sovereign currencies, nor are they backed in real assets of any kind, being the entire risk of the holders.
4. Companies that negotiate or keep so-called virtual currencies on behalf of users, natural persons or legal entities are not regulated, authorized, or supervised by the Brazilian Federal Reserve Bank. There is no specific regulation on virtual currencies in the legal and regulatory framework related to the National Financial System. The Brazilian Federal Reserve Bank, in particular, does not regulate or supervise operations with virtual currencies.
5. So-called virtual currency is not to be confused with the definition of electronic money referred to in Law 12,865 of October 9, 2013, and its regulation by means of normative acts issued by the Brazilian Federal Reserve Bank, according to the guidelines of the National Monetary Council…”
|British Virgin Islands||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Canada||Regulated/partial banking ban||Subject to securities laws||While the cryptocurrency stance of Canada is like that of the United States regarding deferring regulations to existing securities rules, there are key differences. One is the banking sphere, where concerns about the speculative nature of cryptocurrency led to an unofficial banking ban.
Per the Law Library of Congress, “Canada allows the use of cryptocurrencies. According to the Government of Canada webpage on digital currencies, ‘[y]ou can use digital currencies to buy goods and services on the Internet and in stores that accept digital currencies. You may also buy and sell digital currency on open exchanges, called digital currency or cryptocurrency exchanges.’ However, cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tender in Canada. According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, ‘[o]nly the Canadian dollar is considered official currency in Canada.’ The Currency Act defines ‘legal tender’ as ‘bank notes issued by the Bank of Canada under the Bank of Canada Act’ and ‘coins issued under the Royal Canadian Mint Act.’
“Digital currencies are subject to the Income Tax Act (ITA). According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada ‘[g]oods purchased using digital currency must be included in the seller’s income for tax purposes.’ On the issue of taxation, the Canada Revenue Agency adds that, ‘[w]here digital currency is used to pay for goods or services, the rules for barter transactions apply. A barter transaction occurs when any two persons agree to exchange goods or services and carry out that exchange without using legal currency. For example, paying for movies with digital currency is a barter transaction. The value of the movies purchased using digital currency must be included in the seller’s income for tax purposes. The amount to be included would be the value of the movies in Canadian dollars.’ The Canada Revenue Agency has also said that ‘GST/HST [Goods and Services Tax/ harmonized sales tax] also applies on the fair market value of any goods or services you buy using digital currency.’
“[A]ccording to the Financial Consumer Agency ‘[w]hen you file your taxes you must report any gains or losses from selling or buying digital currencies.’ Any resulting gains or losses ‘could be taxable income or capital for the taxpayer.’ The CRA has published a bulletin to ‘provide information that can help in determining whether transactions are income or capital in nature.’ According to lawyers from the law firm Gowling WLG, ‘[i]n general terms, where a taxpayer does not engage in the business of trading in cryptocurrency (i.e., the taxpayer acquires such property for a long-term growth), any gain or loss generated from the disposition of cryptocurrency should be treated as on account of capital. However, where a taxpayer engages in the business of trading or investing in cryptocurrency, gains or losses therefrom should be treated as being on account of income. The cost to the taxpayer of property received in exchange for cryptocurrency (for example, another type of cryptocurrency) should be equal to the value of the cryptocurrency given up as consideration.’ The law firm also notes that ‘it is possible that a trader in cryptocurrency would also be required to collect GST/HST (and QST [Quebec Sales Tax]) on their supplies, but the CRA has not expressed a clear view on this point.’”
|Cayman Islands||Not regulated||Highly regulated/encouraged||Cayman Islands has no specific regulations regarding cryptocurrencies. However, the nation subjects some crypto assets to its securities regulatory framework. Cayman Islands is crypto-friendly and has adopted its regulatory framework to encourage investment.|
|Chile||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Colombia||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Superintendencia Financiera (SF) (Financial Superintendency) of Colombia warned in a June 2017 circular that bitcoin is not currency in Colombia and therefore may not be considered legal tender susceptible of cancelling debts. The SF further emphasized that the Colombian peso is the only legal currency, and that the Banco de la República has the exclusive authority to issue money in Colombia. According to the SF, cryptocurrencies have no value under capital market laws and therefore are also not recognized as a security. The SF warned controlled financial institutions that they are not authorized to protect, invest, broker, or manage virtual money operations. The SF called on persons to become informed and assume the risks related to virtual currencies if they choose to trade them, since these currencies do not have any private or state guarantee.”|
|Costa Rica||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Central Bank of Costa Rica and its decentralized agencies (órganos de desconcentración máxima) issued a statement in October 2017 to participants in the financial, stock, securities, insurance, and pension markets, and to exchange houses, remittance agencies, the economic sector, and the general public, warning them about the risks associated with the acquisition of cryptocurrencies with the intention of using them either as financial savings or as a means of payment in Costa Rica. The statement explained that articles 42-51 of the Organic Law of the Central Bank establishes the colón as the monetary currency in Cost Rica. The statement also asserted that the Law designates the Central Bank as the sole issuer of bills and coins and establishes the unlimited power of the colón to liquidate all kinds of pecuniary obligations, both public and private. Due to this, the statement said, Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies are not recognized as legal tender in the country and do not have the backing of the Central Bank or the state of Costa Rica. Moreover, cryptocurrencies’ effectiveness or use as a means of payment in the economy of the country cannot be guaranteed, nor can any person be forced to accept them as a means of payment for the transaction of goods and services. “
“The statement also asserted that because cryptocurrencies are not issued by a foreign central bank, they cannot be considered a foreign currency under the monetary exchange regime, and for this reason they do not have the security offered by the free currency convertibility provisions of articles 48 and 49 of the Organic Law of the Central Bank.”
“In the statement, the Central Bank and its decentralized agencies emphasized that they do not in any way regulate or supervise cryptocurrencies as a means of payment; moreover, they emphasized that transactions with cryptocurrencies cannot be made through the National System of Electronic Payment (SINPE) used in Costa Rica.”
“The statement warned that if any financial entity becomes directly or indirectly involved with its customers in the commercialization or use of any of these digital assets, such operation are undertaken at the financial entity’s own risk and responsibility, as well as that of its customers. The statement added that the foregoing is in accordance with the obligation established by prudential regulations on the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism, which imposes a duty on financial entities to carry out the necessary risk analysis with respect to new technologies. “
“The statement reiterated that any person who acquires digital currencies, either as a form of savings or with the interest of using them as means of payment, and those who accept them with this function in commercial transactions, also do so at their own risk and responsibility, warning that they will be participating in operations not contemplated by the banking regulations or the payment mechanisms authorized by the Central Bank of Costa Rica. The statement concluded by saying that the warnings it contains are not limiting and do not exclude other risks inherent in the use of digital currency, and that the Central Bank will continue to study the issue.”
|Dominica||Not regulated/encouraged||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “On March 14, 2015, Dominica was reportedly scheduled to host an event, officially titled ‘The Bit Drop,’ which was meant to put bitcoins into the hands of Dominica’s entire population, reported to be 70,000 people, but the project was cancelled. According to Dominica News Online, organizers indicated that they did not receive enough support from the government on the event, and an election cycle may have ‘complicated matters.’”|
|Dominican Republic||Not regulated/banking ban||Not regulated||Financial institutions are banned from using crypto assets in any transactions in the Dominican Republic. Individuals, however, can use crypto assets “at their own risk.”|
|Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)||Not regulated/encouraged||Not regulated||Several of the smaller Caribbean economies grant monetary authority through a shared central bank, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Bank. Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) is the monetary authority for eight island economies in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union that use a common currency known as the Eastern Caribbean dollar—Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. On March 9, 2018, the ECCB signed a memorandum of understanding with the Barbados-based financial technology company Bitt Inc. agreeing to participate in a pilot program that will enable it to issue a digital currency. Expected to start at the end of 2018, the pilot will specifically involve ‘the development of a digital Eastern Caribbean Dollar using distributed ledger technology with a blockchain platform specifically designed for a safe and secure digital financial ecosystem. Essentially, [it] would be a proof of concept, designed to demonstrate the viability and functionality of the ECCB issuing Digital Eastern Caribbean Dollars.’”
“The ECCB will work closely with Bitt Inc. to ‘develop, deploy and test technology which focuses on data management, compliance and transaction monitoring system for Know Your Customer, Anti-Money Laundering, and Combating the Financing of Terrorism. . . . The pilot will also focus on developing a secure, resilient digital payment and settlement platform with embedded regional and global compliance; and the issuance of a digital EC [Eastern Caribbean] currency which will operate alongside physical EC currency.’”
“While this summarizes the regional effort to adopt a common digital currency, national efforts by ECCB member states to deal with emerging cryptocurrencies are discussed below, along with the efforts of other Caribbean countries that are not participating in the ECCB pilot.”
|Ecuador||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated||The Central Bank of Ecuador does not recognize crypto as an authorized payment method but does not ban its use.|
|El Salvador||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated|
|Grenada||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Guatemala||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “In December 2017 the acting President of the Bank of Guatemala, Sergio Recinos, confirmed that both Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrencies are not legal tender in the country and do not have regulatory backing. He stated that according to Guatemalan legislation, the quetzal is the national currency and the Bank of Guatemala is the only issuer of bills and coins within the national territory, in accordance with articles 1 and 2 of the Monetary Law (Ley Monetaria). In this sense, virtual currencies are not recognized as a currency in Guatemala and neither are they recognized as foreign currency; therefore, they do not constitute a means of legal payment. Recinos added that due to their anonymous origin, cryptocurrencies can easily be used for illicit activities, such as money laundering, terrorism, drug purchases, and tax evasion, among others, to a degree that could be higher than with cash. Moreover, he said that cryptocurrencies are exposed to cyberattacks or hacking, which could lead to irreversible loss for the user. Lastly, Recinos warned that cryptocurrencies are not backed by any government and do not depend on a central bank issuer; therefore, no one is trying to maintain their value over time. He recommended that persons carefully examine the issue before deciding to invest in cryptocurrencies.”|
|Honduras||Not regulated/not recognized as currency||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “In January 2018, the Honduran Central Bank issued a statement in response to inquiries made by economic and financial agents in relation to the use of cryptocurrencies within the national territory, either as an investment or as a means of payment for goods and services. The response stated that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, and other similar cryptocurrencies do not have the backing of the Central Bank of Honduras. Therefore, the Central Bank does not regulate or guarantee their use and such cryptocurrencies do not enjoy the legal protection granted by the laws of the country in terms of the payment system. As a result, any transaction that is made with this type of currency or virtual assets is the responsibility and risk of the person who conducts the transaction, the statement said.”|
|Jamaica||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Mexico||Regulated/recognized as virtual asset/not recognized as legal tender||Subject to securities laws||Mexico is one of the only major American nations that have laws that specifically recognizes cryptocurrency. Businesses using cryptocurrencies must disclose the associated risks to their clients; beyond this, crypto assets are treated as securities depending on their characteristics. There are no personal restrictions against crypto use.|
|Montserrat||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Nicaragua||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Not regulated/not recognized||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “While the country has no specific legislation on the subject, the Saint Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) reportedly issued a statement in June 2014 that it would not accept digital currency as a means by which applicants for citizenship through the Citizenship by Investment Program could participate in the program. ‘We further emphasize that we do not accept Bitcoins, have never accepted Bitcoins, and will not accept Bitcoins,’ the CIU was quoted as saying.”|
|Saint Lucia||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Not regulated/not recognized||Not regulated||Following the launch of an ICO, Trinidad and Tobago distanced itself, urging the public to practice extreme caution with cryptocurrencies.|
|United States||Partially regulated/recognized as virtual asset/not recognized as legal tender||Subject to securities laws and individual state regulations||Except for bitcoin, Ethereum, and other “currency-type” crypto assets, the United States treats all crypto assets as securities. Individuals are free to use and possess crypto asset, if they are lawfully obtained. Crypto assets are recognized as money and – depending on the state or municipality – legal tender for non-federal debts.
Business requirements for use and possession for crypto assets depend on the state and local regulations. These range from no special licensing needed for crypto business money transmitters to requiring fiduciary deposits for all transactions transmitted from, to, and through a state. Crypto assets are taxed as commodities.
|Venezuela||Banned/issued national cryptocurrency||Banned||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Under Decree 3196 of December 8, 2017, the government of Venezuela was authorized to create its own cryptocurrency, the petro, which would be physically backed by Venezuelan barrels of oil. One petro would be backed by a purchase-sale contract for one barrel of Venezuelan oil as quoted in the OPEC Reference Basket, as well as other commodities, including gold, diamond, coltan, and gas.”
“Decree 3196 mainly provides for the operational details of the petro, including its issuance, mining, and trading in Venezuela according to the rules on purchase and sale contained in the Civil Code. According to a legal expert on information technology law, all cryptocurrencies are considered a financial asset subject to the rules applicable to such assets under Decree 3196 and none of its provisions declare them illegal. The Decree also creates the Superintendencia de los Criptoactivos y Actividades Conexas Venezolana (Superintendency of Venezuelan Crypto-Assets and Related Activities) as the supervisory authority of cryptocurrencies.”
“Decree 3196 states that the holder of petro will be able to exchange the market value of the cryptoasset for the equivalent in another cryptocurrency or in bolívares (the traditional currency of Venezuela) at the market exchange rate published by a national cryptoasset exchange house. The holder of each petro would also own a virtual wallet, which was to be his/her own responsibility, along with the risks related to its custody and management.”
“According to Decree 3196, an initial coin offering will be made through auction or direct assignment by the Superintendence of Cryptoassets and Related Venezuelan Activities.”
“On March 8, the Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly, the Venezuelan Congress), declared that the issuance of a domestic cryptocurrency such as the petro is illegal, because in order to enter into a public debt and borrow on behalf of the Venezuelan government, congressional approval and a special law is required under the National Constitution. In addition, only the Central Bank of Venezuela may issue national currency. The Asamblea National further stated that oil reserves are public national assets that belong to the Republic and are non-transferrable assets, and therefore cannot be used as guarantee for any debt.”
“Despite these declarations by the Asamblea National, the Government has said the petro will become legal tender for all transactions involving government institutions within 120 days of April 9, 2018.”
|European Union||Not regulated||Regulated/subject to securities laws||While there is nothing that dictates that the European Union’s stance on cryptocurrencies must be shared by member nations, most have folloed the Eurozone’s lead. Per the Legal Library of Congress, “On July 5, 2016, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal to amend the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD). It suggested, inter alia, bringing custodian wallet providers and virtual currency exchange platforms within the scope of the AMLD, meaning they would be obligated to fulfill due diligence requirements and have in place policies and procedures to detect, prevent, and report money laundering and terrorist financing. The proposal contains a definition of virtual currencies, which are described as ‘a digital representation of value that is neither issued by a central bank or a public authority, nor necessarily attached to a fiat currency, but is accepted by natural or legal persons as a means of payment and can be transferred, stored or traded electronically.’ On January 29, 2018, the text agreed at the interinstitutional negotiations of the European Parliament and the Council was approved in committee. The European Parliament adopted the text in plenary session on April 19, 2018. The updated Directive will enter into force three days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.”
“Furthermore, on March 8, 2018, the European Commission presented an Action Plan on how to take advantage of the opportunities presented by technology-enabled innovation in financial services (FinTech), like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and cloud services. The FinTech Action Plan includes the recently launched EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, which will report on the challenges and opportunities of crypto assets later in 2018 and is working on a comprehensive strategy on distributed ledger technology and blockchain addressing all sectors of the economy.”
“On October 22, 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) held in its decision Hedqvist that transactions to exchange a traditional currency for bitcoin or other virtual currencies and vice versa constitute the supply of services for consideration, but fall under the exemption from value-added-tax (VAT). Buying or selling bitcoin is therefore exempt from VAT in all EU Member States.”
“On February 12, 2018, the European Supervisory Authorities for securities (ESMA), banking (EBA), and insurance and pensions (EIOPA) jointly issued a warning to consumers regarding virtual currencies, stating that they are ‘highly risky and unregulated products and are unsuitable as investment, savings or retirement planning products.’ The warning complements the earlier two statements by ESMA on initial coin offerings (ICOs) in November 2017 and a warning to consumers and two opinions on virtual currencies by EBA in December 2013, July 2014, and August 2016, respectively. EBA welcomes the decision of the European Commission to bring custodian wallet providers and virtual currency exchange platforms within the scope of the Fourth AMLD and not to extend the EU Payment Services Directive 2015/2366 to virtual currency transactions for the time being. EBA suggests a separate regulatory regime to mitigate all the risks arising from virtual currencies.”
“The President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, warned that bitcoin and other digital currencies are ‘very risky assets’ due to their high volatility and speculative prices. He stated that ‘digital currencies are not subject to a specific supervisory approach,’ but that ‘[w]ork is under way in the Single Supervisory Mechanism to identify potential prudential risks that these digital assets could pose to supervised institutions.’ In addition, in December 2016, the ECB and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) launched a joint research project named ‘Stella,’ which looks at the possible use of distributed ledger technology for financial market infrastructures.”
|Albania||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Armenia||Not regulated/discouraged||Not regulated|
|Austria||Partially regulated/recognized as virtual asset/not recognized as legal tender||Subject to securities laws||Austria recognized cryptocurrencies as “other intangible commodities,” instead of legal tender. For taxation purposes, they are treated as a business asset.
Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Austrian National Bank (Oesterreichische Nationalbank, OeNB) does not qualify bitcoin as a currency, because it does not fulfill the typical functions of money due to a strict limitation on quantity and no stabilizing central authority. Bitcoin is currently not covered by the E-Money Act or the Payment Services Act. Ewald Nowotny, governor of the OeNB, has pointed out the risks of cryptocurrencies. He stated that ‘[b]itcoin & Co. . . . are highly speculative investments which entail high risks for individuals.’ He therefore welcomed the initiative of the Federal Minister of Finance, Hartwig Löger, to establish a Fintech Regulation Council to regulate cryptocurrencies. In addition, he voiced support for the amendment of the EU Money Laundering Directives, as well as the proposal of the Austrian Ministry of Finance to require prospectuses for ICOs and introduce licensing by the Financial Market Authority (FMA). Finally he added that any regulatory initiative should be complemented by improving the financial education of the public.”
“Like the OeNB, the FMA has warned investors of the risks of cryptocurrencies. It stated that virtual currencies like bitcoin and trading platforms are neither regulated nor supervised by the FMA. The FMA does not qualify them as legal tender payment instruments or as tradable foreign currencies. However, it pointed out that certain business models might require authorization from the FMA. The FMA decides on a case-by-case basis whether an ICO requires authorization.”
|Azerbaijan||Not regulated/currently drafting new regulations||Not regulated|
|Belarus||Permitted||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “In Belarus the Presidential Decree on the development of the digital economy came into effect on March 28, 2018. It permits buying, selling, exchanging, and mining cryptocurrency. Most of the tax and currency regulations in the decree extend only to legal entities operating on the territory of the High Technologies Park, a special economic zone. However, individuals are permitted to engage in mining; acquire tokens; and exchange, sell, donate, bequeath, and otherwise dispose of cryptocurrency. Income generated by mining and operations in cryptocurrencies is exempt from taxation until 2023. The Decree also provides for the possibility of the creation of ICO operators in the High Technologies Park. The Park will also host a crypto-exchange and mining operators.”
“The Decree has not established rules for the operation of ICO operators and the crypto-exchange; these areas will be left to self-regulation. The exchange of cryptocurrency for fiat money must be approved by the National Bank. Operators of cryptocurrency exchanges will be treated as high-risk clients similar to operators of lottery games and casinos.”
“Businesses operating in the Park are exempt from taxes and only have to pay 1% of their turnover to the government. This arrangement is guaranteed by the government to last until 2049. The minimum capital requirements are 1 million Belarusian rubles (approximately, US$505,000) for the operator of a crypto-platform and 200,000 rubles (approximately US$101,000) for the operator of a cryptocurrency exchange office.”
|Belgium||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Not regulated||Not recognized/partial banking ban||The Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina has determined that only the convertible mark is the legal tender of the country. The Central Bank has also banned the conversion of crypto into the mark and vice versa.|
|Bulgaria||Not regulated/taxed as capital gains||Not regulated|
|Croatia||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Cyprus||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Czech Republic||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Denmark||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Estonia||Regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “On November 27, 2017, Estonia enacted amendments to its anti-money laundering legislation that define cryptocurrencies (virtual currencies) as value represented in digital form that is digitally transferable, preservable, or tradable and that natural persons or legal persons accept as a payment instrument, but that is not the legal tender of any country or funds (banknotes or coins, scriptural money held by banks, or electronic money). The anti-money laundering legislation now also applies to providers of a service for exchanging virtual currency with fiat currency and providers of a virtual currency wallet service, which is defined as a service in which keys are generated for customers or customers’ encrypted keys are kept, which can then be used for the purpose of keeping, storing, and transferring virtual currencies. Virtual currency service providers are required to have a license.”|
|Finland||Not regulated/taxed as capital gains||Not regulated|
|France||Not regulated/currently drafting new regulations||Not regulated/currently drafting new regulations||Per the Law Library of Congress, “A 2016 ordinance included two provisions that allowed the use of blockchain technology for a specific type of zero-coupon bond called a “mini-bond” (minibon). The main impact of this ordinance was to provide the first definition of blockchain in French law, but otherwise these provisions only had a very narrow application. Another ordinance, from December 2017, went further and will make it possible to use blockchain technology for a broader range of financial instruments. This ordinance will come into force when the application decree is published, or on July 1, 2018, at the latest.”
“The French Financial Market Authority (Autorité des marchés financiers, AMF) and Prudential Supervisory Authority (Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de resolution, ACPR) recently issued a joint notice to investors, warning about the current unregulated nature of cryptocurrencies. This document notes that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not considered financial instruments under French law, and therefore do not fall under the regulatory framework of actual currencies or under the AMF’s supervision. The AMF and ACPR recognize the potential benefits that blockchain technology can hold for companies, but warn that cryptocurrencies are unregulated and particularly volatile investments. This document is reminiscent of a slightly longer report that the French Central Bank (Banque de France) published in December 2013. That report explained that bitcoin cannot be considered a real currency or means of payment under current French law, and criticized it as a vehicle for speculation as well as an instrument for money laundering and other illegal activities. The 2013 report also suggested that the conversion between bitcoin and real currencies should be considered a payment service, which therefore could only be performed by payment service providers authorized and supervised by the ACPR. The ACPR acknowledged this position in a 2014 document in which it stated that entities that habitually engage in the activity of purchasing or selling cryptocurrencies in exchange for actual legal tender must be licensed as payment services providers by the ACPR. However, the AMF and ACPR’s 2017 joint notice recognizes that ‘the purchase/sale of and investments in bitcoin currently operate outside of any regulated market.’”
“In parallel to the independent regulatory institutions mentioned above, the French legislative and executive branches are actively investigating how best to regulate cryptocurrencies. To that purpose, the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale, one of the two houses of the French Parliament) has initiated a fact-finding mission on cryptocurrencies, and a separate fact-finding mission on ‘blockchains and other technologies for the certification of ledgers.’ Additionally, the Minister of the Economy has recently tasked a former deputy governor of the Banque de France with researching how to best regulate cryptocurrencies to ‘better control their development and to prevent their use for tax evasion, money laundering, or the financing of criminal or terrorist activities.’”
|Georgia||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Germany||Regulated/not recognized as virtual currency||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht, BaFin) qualifies virtual currencies/cryptocurrencies as units of account and therefore financial instruments. Undertakings and persons that arrange the acquisition of tokens, sell or purchase tokens on a commercial basis, or carry out principal broking services in tokens via online trading platforms, among others, are generally required to obtain authorization from BaFin in advance.”
“In February 2018, the German BaFin published information on the regulatory assessment of ICOs and the tokens, coins, and cryptocurrencies they are based on. It stated that firms involved in ICOs need to assess on a case-by-case basis whether the ICOs qualify as financial instruments (transferable securities, units in collective investment undertakings, or investments) or as securities and therefore trigger the need to comply with the relevant financial legislation.”
“Also in February 2018, the German Federal Ministry of Finance published guidance on value-added-tax (VAT) treatment of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. It determined that transactions to exchange a traditional currency for bitcoin or other virtual currencies and vice versa constitute the taxable supply of other services for consideration, but fall under the exemption from VAT. It stated that bitcoin or other virtual currencies that are used simply as a means of payment are treated the same as traditional means of payment. Using bitcoin or other virtual currencies for no other purpose than as a means of payment is therefore not taxable. This guidance is in line with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision Hedqvist from October 22, 2015. Virtual gaming money, meaning in-game currencies, particularly in online games, is not exempt, because it does not constitute a means of payment within the meaning of VAT law. The Ministry also addressed several follow-up questions regarding the taxation of mining, digital wallets, and online trading platforms.”
“The German Bundesbank stated that bitcoin cannot be qualified as a virtual currency. According to Dirk Schrade, Bundesbank expert in the area of payments, bitcoin is neither a virtual currency nor digital money, because it does not fulfill the typical functions of a currency, nor is it part of the national monetary system. The Bundesbank recommends using the term ‘crypto token.’”
|Gibraltar||Not regulated/permitted||Regulated||The Law Library of Congress summarizes the status of cryptocurrencies in Gibraltar, “The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) is the regulator of the financial services market in Gibraltar and is responsible for regulating providers of such services that conduct business in Gibraltar and overseas. The GFSC must undertake this responsibility ‘in an effective and efficient manner in order to promote good business, protect the public from financial loss and enhance Gibraltar’s reputation as a quality financial centre.’”
“Gibraltar has been considering regulating cryptocurrency for a number of years. In 2014, the Cryptocurrency Working Group, a private initiative, was established to consider cryptocurrencies and, in January 2016, the government of Gibraltar and the working group joined together and issued a discussion paper that considered various types of regulations for this area.”
“The government recently introduced regulations governing the provision of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and is currently in the process of introducing draft legislation to regulate initial coin offerings (ICOs)”
|Greece||Not regulated||Not regulated||Greece has adopted the position of the European Union regarding cryptocurrency.|
|Guernsey||Not regulated/discouraged||Not regulated/unfriendly||Per the Law Library of Congress, “’The Commission has a policy of encouraging innovation. Virtual currencies are an area of innovation which the Commission continues to monitor closely while recognising that there are currently significant risks associated with them. In the light of those risks, the Commission will adopt a cautious approach and may well refuse applications to register financial services business where the use of virtual currency is involved. However, this approach will be regularly reviewed in the light of international developments.’”
“In 2015, a report commissioned by the Guernsey government noted that the major drawback for cryptocurrencies was the difficulty in complying with international anti-money laundering standards. Three years after the issuance of the first statement, on February 27, 2018, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission issued a further statement that it believes there are ‘significant risks in the use of virtual or crypto currencies especially for retail customers. Nevertheless, we understand that professional investors with a high risk appetite may wish to invest in this developing sector.’”
“The Financial Services Commission has stated that it will assess any application on its individual merits against the criteria used for asset types or structures, as cryptocurrencies ‘could interact with [the countries] regulatory laws in a number of ways.’ Applicants must demonstrate how they will comply with the laws and rules to counter financial crime and terrorist financing, with particularly regard to establishing the identity of both investors and beneficial owners. The Commission has stated that it would continue to be cautious to approve applications for initial coin offerings that could later be traded on the secondary market due to the risk of fraud and money laundering, along with applications for any kinds of digital currency exchanges.”
|Iceland||Unclear||Unclear||Cryptocurrency were banned in Iceland. However, restrictions have loosened to permit use, although the legal status of such use remains murky.
Per the Legal Library of Congress, “In 2014, the Central Bank of Iceland, in anticipation of the launch of the Icelandic peer-to-peer cryptocurrency Auroracoin, announced that bitcoin was not a recognized currency and even if it was, purchases of bitcoins would still be illegal as such purchases would have violated the foreign transactions restrictions then in place. The Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act then specified that Icelandic currency could not leave the country. A purchase of an overseas-based cryptocurrency would have been a violation of the Act, as the cryptocurrency would have been considered purchased from abroad.”
“Since then, however, Iceland has eased its foreign exchange and asset control rules and now allows for cross-border transactions of Icelandic krónur. However, according to the Icelandic Central Bank, restrictions on so-called offshore króna assets and special reserve requirements for specified investments in connection with new inflows of foreign currency will remain in place. For example, there is still a requirement to notify the Icelandic Central Bank of international purchases of Icelandic krónur and derivative transactions, and rules also require a special reserve when there is an inflow of a foreign currency into Iceland. Restrictions will also remain in place on ‘i) derivatives trading for purposes other than hedging; ii) foreign exchange transactions carried out between residents and non-residents without the intermediation of a financial undertaking; and iii) in certain instances, foreign-denominated lending by residents to non-residents.’ It is possible that trade and investments in cryptocurrencies would be limited by these regulations. Because cross-border transactions with Icelandic krónur are allowed, however, bitcoins would not be limited for this reason alone.”
“The Central Bank of Iceland has not commented on whether cryptocurrency transactions are transactions ‘carried out between residents and nonresidents without the intermediation of a financial undertaking.’”
“The Icelandic Tax Authority has issued guidelines for filing income taxes for the tax year 2017, requiring that bitcoins be included under section 4.4, ‘Aðrar eignir áður ótaldar’ (Other Assets). The value of cryptocurrency holdings is based on the prevailing exchange rate on December 31 of the tax year.”
“Reportedly, members of Parliament are considering adopting legislation that would tax companies that mine cryptocurrencies in Iceland, based on their usage of natural resources (electricity).”
|Ireland||Unregulated/taxed as capital gains||Subject to securities laws when applicable|
|Isle of Man||Regulated/accepted as legal tender||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Isle of Man was an early adopter of legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies within its jurisdiction. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2008 was amended in 2015 to include virtual currency businesses within its regulated sector as a ‘designated business,’ specifically those that are in ‘the business of issuing, transmitting, transferring, providing safe custody or storage of, administering, managing, lending, buying, selling, exchanging or otherwise trading or intermediating convertible virtual currencies, including crypto-currencies or similar concepts where the concept is accepted by persons as a means of payment for goods.’”
“This amendment brought businesses that engaged in these activities, including those that wish to offer initial coin offerings (ICO), within the ambit of its anti-money laundering laws, requiring the use of know-your-customer practices, such as collecting identifying information, knowing the beneficial owner of any currency, and record keeping and reporting requirements for certain transactions. These businesses are overseen by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority to ensure compliance with these laws.”
“The Designated Business (Registration and Oversight) Act 2015 provides that virtual currency businesses are designated businesses, requiring such businesses to register with, and be overseen by, the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority. Virtual currency businesses are defined in the Act as those that are in ‘the business of issuing, transmitting, transferring, providing safe custody or storage of, administering, managing, lending, buying, selling, exchanging or otherwise trading or intermediating convertible virtual currencies, including crypto-currencies or similar concepts where the concept is accepted by persons as a means of payment for goods or services, a unit of account, a store of value or a commodity[.]’ Businesses registered under this Act are required to submit annual returns that show compliance with anti-money laundering laws. The register of companies that engage in cryptocurrencies and operate from the Island has been created using blockchain technology to store the data, making the Isle of Man the first government to use this type of technology to store official data, according to Bloomberg.”
|Italy||Regulated||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “A Ministerial Resolution of September 2016 issued by the Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) addressed aspects of the tax treatment of bitcoin and other cybercurrencies. This Resolution implemented the decision issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case of Skatteverket v. David Hedqvist, which held that the value added tax (VAT) does not apply to transactions in which cybercurrencies are exchanged for traditional currencies or vice versa.”
“In addition, the Resolution of 2016 indicates that for purposes of the corporate income tax (Imposta sul Reddito sulle Società, IRES) and the Italian regional production tax (Imposta Regionale sulle Attività Produttive, IRAP), profits and losses on such transactions constitute corporate income or losses subject to taxation. The Resolution contains specific requirements for the registration of cybercurrency operations, including names, amounts, dates, and other information on transactions. Bitcoin operations performed by individuals who hold bitcoin for other than commercial or corporate purposes do not generate taxable income, according to the Resolution.”
“Legislative Decree No. 90 of 2017 subjected virtual currency providers to the regulations established for traditional money exchange operators. To that effect, Legislative Decree No. 90 charged the Ministry of the Economy and Finance to issue a ministerial decree setting forth the modalities and timelines for the legal performance of such activities throughout the country. Accordingly, the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s Treasury Department published a public notice requesting comments before February 17, 2018, on the proposed text of the ministerial decree.”
|Jersey||Regulated/encouraged||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The jurisdiction issued a consultation on the regulation of cryptocurrencies in 2015, noting ‘[t]he creation of a business-friendly framework that encourages innovation, jobs and growth in both the financial services and digital sectors is a priority for the Government of Jersey.’ The majority response to the consultation was that cryptocurrencies should be regulated only to the extent of ensuring compliance with anti-money laundering laws and to counter the financing of terrorism. The government or Jersey rejected ‘a full prudential and conduct of business regime’ for cryptocurrencies, as it considered it was too early to issue such regulations given that cryptocurrencies are in the early stages of development and that doing so could be over-burdensome, and restrict development and innovation.”|
|Kosovo||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Latvia||Regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Regulated||Latvia has established a regulatory framework that introduced monitoring requirements for virtual currency service providers.|
|Liechtenstein||Regulated||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Liechtenstein has included ‘virtual currencies’ in the latest amendment of its Due Diligence Act. The due diligence obligations codified in the Act serve to combat money laundering, organized crime, and terrorist financing and apply to providers of exchange services, among others. An ‘exchange office (bureau de change)’ is defined as any ‘natural or legal person whose activities consist in the exchange of legal tender at the official exchange rate or of virtual currencies against legal tender and vice versa.’ ‘Virtual currencies’ are defined as ‘digital monetary units, which can be exchanged for legal tender, used to purchase goods or services or to preserve value and thus assume the function of legal tender.’”
“The Financial Market Authority of Liechtenstein (Finanzmarktaufsicht, FMA) has issued a factsheet on virtual currencies like bitcoin. It stated that virtual currencies are generally defined as a ‘digital representation of a (cash equivalent) value that is neither issued by a central bank or a public authority’ and do not constitute fiat currency (legal tender). However, it is pointed out that virtual currencies are similar to fiat currencies when they are used as a means of payment or traded on an exchange. The production and the use of virtual currencies as a means of payment are currently not subject to any licensing requirement governed by specialized legislation. However, the FMA states that depending on the specific design of the business model, licensing requirements might apply. Business models are assessed on a case-by-case basis. In particular, due diligence requirements according to the Due Diligence Act may apply.”
“The FMA has also issued a factsheet on ICOs. Depending on the specific design and the function of the tokens, tokens may constitute financial instruments if they have characteristics of equity securities or other investments. Activities relating to financial instruments are subject to licensing by the FMA. The FMA assesses ICOs on a case-by-case basis.“
|Lithuania||Unregulated||Banking ban||Per the Law Library of Congress, “[T]he Bank of Lithuania stated that financial services must be clearly dissociated from activities related to virtual currencies and that financial market participants should not provide services associated with virtual currencies. In particular, they should not engage in the sale of virtual currencies, provide conditions for customers to pay in payment instruments issued by them (debit or credit cards), or exchange or execute any other operations in virtual currencies.”
“As to initial coin offerings (ICOs), the Bank clarified that depending on the nature of the offering, legal acts regulating crowdfunding, collective investment, provision of investment services, etc. must be applied.”
|Luxembourg||Not regulated/recognized as currency||Not regulated/currently developing new regulations||Per the Law Library of Congress, “On March 14, 2018, the Financial Sector Monitoring Commission (Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier, CSSF) of Luxembourg issued a statement warning about the risks of investing in cryptocurrencies. The CSSF’s main objections are that cryptocurrencies are very volatile, offer no protection against theft and hacking, lack liquidity, are often the subject of misleading information, lack transparency, and are often used for fraud and money laundering. The statement also warned against the risks of Initial Coin Offerings. The CSSF, however, recognized the value of blockchain technology, noting that it could be used advantageously by the financial sector. Furthermore, the CSSF’s letter stated that while there is no legal framework that specifically applies to cryptocurrencies, the provision of any financial services—including those involving cryptocurrencies—requires an authorization from the Minister of Finance.”
“Despite this warning from its main financial services regulator, Luxembourg appears to see the development of cryptocurrencies in a positive light. In June 2017, the Luxembourger Minister of Finance, Pierre Gramegna, recognized before Parliament that cryptocurrencies are actual currencies, as ‘they are accepted as a means of payment for goods and services by a sufficiently large circle of people.’ He also stated that there was currently no regulation “from a monetary perspective” regarding cryptocurrencies, but that cryptocurrency dealers in Luxembourg are bound by the same rules as any other financial service providers with regards to the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. More recently, Gramegna publicly welcomed the establishment of BitFlyer, a major bitcoin trading platform, as a fully licensed payment service provider in Luxembourg. In an interview shortly thereafter, Gramegna stated that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology were both an ‘unavoidable phenomenon that brings added value and efficient services to consumers.’ Much work remains to be done to provide a legislative and regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, however, as such a framework is largely inexistent at this time. During the welcoming ceremony for BitFlyer, the company’s founder noted that it had taken them two years to obtain their license and that ‘the regulation is unclear. There is no specific law and one must nevertheless protect the consumer.’”
|Macedonia||Banned||Banned||The National Bank of Macedonia has warned that it is illegal for Macedonian residents to have foreign bank accounts, including crypto accounts.|
|Malta||Not regulated/currently developing new regulations||Not regulated/currently developing new regulations|
|Moldova||Not regulated||Partial regulated||Regulation has been passed in Transnistria toward creating a free economic zone for crypto mining.|
|Montenegro||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|The Netherlands||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Norway||Not regulated||Not regulated||Profits from cryptocurrencies are required to be reported as capital gains for taxation purposes. Cryptocurrencies are exempt from Norway’s value-added tax.|
|Poland||Not regulated||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “On July 7, 2017, the Polish National Bank and the Financial Supervision Commission jointly issued a warning against investing in virtual currencies, citing price volatility and the risk of fraud. The regulators clarified that virtual currencies are not considered legal tender in Poland. At the same time they noted that trading in virtual currencies is not an infringement of Polish or European law. The regulators consider that buying, holding, and selling of virtual currencies by financial institutions is not in line with the principles of stable and prudent management, and that having established relations with virtual currency traders could pose legal and reputational risk.”
“On January 24, 2018, Prime Minister Morawiecki stated that Poland will either ban cryptocurrency or introduce regulations to ensure that it does not turn into a pyramid scheme.”
“On April 4, 2018, the Ministry of Finance published guidance on the tax effects of trading in cryptocurrencies. Income from transactions on cryptocurrencies is subject to income tax with two brackets of 18% and 32%, while the act of selling or purchasing digital currencies is considered a transfer of property rights, which is subject to a 1% levy on the value of the transaction.”
|Portugal||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Romania||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Russia||Partially regulated/partially banned||Banned||Per the Law Library of Congress, “A draft law on digital financial assets was published by the Ministry of Finances on January 20, 2018 and introduced in the State Duma on March 20, 2018. The bill defines ‘mining’ as activities aimed at the creation of cryptocurrency with the purpose of receiving compensation in the form of cryptocurrency. Mining is treated as an entrepreneurial activity subject to taxation if the miner exceeds the energy consumption limits established by the government for three months in a row. As to initial coin offerings (ICO), only qualified investors are allowed to participate in them, except for cases to be defined by the Central Bank, according to news reports. Tokens and coins are classified in the bill as property and are not considered legal tender. The bill does not authorize the exchange of cryptocurrency for rubles or foreign currency. The exchange of tokens for rubles and foreign currency is allowed but only through licensed operators. The bill also provides a definition of a ‘smart contract.’”
“The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications has presented its own concept of the draft law on digital financial assets. It recommends introducing the term ‘industrial mining,’ registering miners with the tax office, and setting forth requirements for energy consumption. It also recommends exempting miners from taxation for a period of two years to stimulate their activities. Earlier the Ministry had offered to create a special exchange platform for the miners to ensure the transparency of cryptocurrency exchange.”
Separately, amendments were introduced to the Civil Code in order to protect the rights of the owners of cryptocurrency coins and tokens. The document defines “digital money” and “digital rights,” and provides for their judicial protection. The authors say that these regulations will allow coins and tokens to be included in a bankruptcy estate or a deceased person’s estate.”
Cryptocurrency market sites are currently banned for access on Russian territory, and current court decisions ruled that bitcoin is a currency surrogate that is banned in Russia.
|Serbia||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Slovakia||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Slovenia||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Spain||Not regulated/exempt from value-added tax||Not regulated|
|Sweden||Not regulated||Not regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) has made the determination that bitcoins are subject to its authority, as trade in bitcoins (i.e., offering a site where bitcoins can be bought and sold similar to an exchange) is a financial service (annan finansiell verksamhet) and thus subject to mandatory reporting requirements. In 2017, the Authority issued a report titled The Authority’s Role in Innovation, which among other things described its role in relation to novel concepts such as bitcoin. The report described ICOs as investment projects and means of securing capital. The Authority has also issued warnings against the use of ICOs, noting that they are unregulated and not subject to its review. It referred to the European Supervisory Authority for its interpretation that ICOs may be regulated by the Prospectus Directive, the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID), the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD), and the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The Authority’s 2017 report stated that it is unaware of any Swedish corporation that secures funding through ICOs.”
“In March of 2018 the Swedish Central Bank announced that ‘[b]itcoins are not money.’ The announcement explained that cryptocurrencies are not seen as currencies, referencing a new financial report on cryptocurrencies written by the Central Bank of Sweden staff. The Central Bank of Sweden is considering launching an e-currency, but the project is still in the review stage.”
“In 2015 the Swedish Tax Authority published a guideline on how it will view and tax mined bitcoins for the 2014 tax year. Unless specific conditions are met the digital currency mined is considered income from a hobby, and generally tax exempt. The Tax Authority has not issued a determination on the applicability of the Income Tax Act with respect to potential capital gains from bitcoins.”
“The Swedish Skatterättsnämnden (Swedish Tax Board) issued a preliminary ruling in 2013 on value-added tax (VAT) and bitcoins, stating that trade in bitcoins is not subject to Swedish VAT, but is instead subject to Financial Supervisory Authority regulations and treated as a currency. The decision was appealed by the Swedish Tax Authority. The Swedish Administrative Supreme Court ruled that bitcoins and similar cryptocurrencies are not subject to VAT. That decision was rendered following a preliminary judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union holding that cryptocurrencies are exempt from VAT.”
“In 2014 representatives of the Swedish Enforcement Authority announced to Swedish media outlets that it would start to investigate and seize bitcoin holdings when collecting funds from indebted individuals. The first seized bitcoins were auctioned off online in 2017.”
“In a response to a question from a member of Parliament the Swedish government has advised caution in the use of cryptocurrencies by citizens, as it is unregulated and carries risk.”
|Switzerland||Regulated||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Switzerland classifies virtual currencies as assets (property). It has relaxed regulatory burdens on and entry barriers for innovative Fintech companies, while keeping risks associated with Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies related to investor protection, financial crime, and cyber threats in mind. There are currently no ICO-specific regulations, but depending on how the ICO is designed, financial market laws may be applicable. This is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Money laundering and securities regulation are the most relevant laws in this respect. Cryptocurrencies may also be subject to wealth, income, and capital gains tax.”
“In 2014, the Swiss Federal Council, the Swiss government, published a report on virtual currencies that explained their economic significance, legal treatment, and risks. The term ‘virtual currencies’ is generally used synonymously with ‘cryptocurrencies.’ The report stated that a virtual currency is a ‘digital representation of a value which can be traded on the Internet’ and takes on the role of money, but is not regarded as legal tender and therefore should be classified as an asset (property). It concluded at that point that the economic importance of virtual currencies as a means of payment was marginal and would remain so.”
“This evaluation has changed since publication of the report. The Federal Council still cautions against risks in the areas of money laundering, terrorist financing, and investor protection, but emphasizes the advantages and potential that new technologies, in particular blockchain technologies, have to offer. In light of this, regulatory barriers for Fintech firms, including providers of mobile payment systems, virtual currencies, and online peer-to-peer lending, were reduced by amending the Banking Regulation. By exempting providers that accept public funds up to a total value of CHF1 million (approximately US$1.05 million) from the requirement to have a banking license, Switzerland aims to create a means for companies to ‘test innovative business ideas within a limited framework without having to comply with costly and time-consuming regulations’ (regulatory sandbox). Firms that take advantage of this exemption must inform their customers in writing that the firm is not subject to supervision by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Eidgenössische Finanzmarktaufsicht, FINMA) and that the deposits are not protected by deposit insurance.”
“Furthermore, in January 2018, the Swiss State Secretariat for International Finance (Staatssekretariat für internationale Finanzfragen, SIF) reported that it would set up a working group on blockchain and initial coin offerings (ICOs). The working group will work together with the Federal Ministry of Justice and FINMA and involve interested businesses. It will study the legal framework for financial sector-specific use of blockchain technology with a particular focus on ICOs and report back to the Federal Council by the end of 2018. The goal is to become a ‘blockchain and fintech nation in international terms.’”
|Ukraine||Not regulated/currently drafting new regulations||Not regulated/currently drafting new regulations|
|United Kingdom||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Africa and the Middle East:|
|Bahrain||Partially banned||Partially banned||The use of bitcoin within Bahrain is forbidden, although Bahrain citizens can invest in bitcoin and bitcoin businesses outside of Bahrain.|
|Egypt||Banned||Banned||Cryptocurrency is considered haram or prohibited under Sharia in Egypt.|
|Ghana||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Iran||Not regulated||Banking ban||Per the Legal Library of Congress, “Iran’s Central Bank announced in late April 2018 that it was prohibiting all Iranian financial institutions, including banks, credit institutions, and currency exchanges, from handling cryptocurrencies. The Central Bank’s decision was in line with the Iran’s recent efforts to address deficiencies in its policies on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism—efforts undertaken to comply with the action plan of the Financial Action Task Force on Money-Laundering (FATF). The Bank’s decision was preceded by debate between those in the country who were concerned about the risks inherent in the use of cryptocurrencies and those who believe their use is the wave of the future and essential to the country’s financial stability in light of US financial sanctions.”|
|Iraq||Banned||Banned||Cryptocurrencies are banned in Iraq as a response to the nation’s anti-money laundering legislation.|
|Israel||Not regulated||Regulated||Per the Legal Library of Congress, “In accordance with regulations issued in 2016, virtual currency is considered a ‘financial asset’ in Israel, for which the provision of financial services requires a license. As a financial asset, trade in virtual currency is subject to capital gains taxation.”
“In 2014 the Bank of Israel (Israel’s central bank), together with several regulatory agencies, issued a warning about the dangers associated with the use of virtual currency, including bitcoin. In a statement made by the Bank in January 2018 it clarified that it does not recognize virtual currencies as actual currencies, but rather as a financial asset. Although virtual currencies are not recognized as actual currency by the Bank of Israel, the Israel Tax Authority has proposed that the use of virtual currencies should be considered as a ‘means of virtual payment’ and subject to taxation.”
“The legitimacy of a bank’s refusal to provide banking services to a company that trades in bitcoin is currently under review by the Israeli Supreme Court. The Court has issued a temporary injunction against the bank’s complete blockage of the company’s activities in the account.”
|Jordan||Not regulated/discouraged||Banking ban|
|Kenya||Not regulated/discouraged||Not regulated|
|Kuwait||Not regulated||Banking ban||From the Legal Library of Congress, “Kuwait’s Ministry of Finance does not recognize cryptocurrencies for purposes of official commercial transactions. Similarly, the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) prohibits the banking sector and companies under its control from trading in cryptocurrencies. The prohibition includes acceptance of cryptocurrency usage in e-payment transactions, and mediation between the parties to cryptocurrency transactions. The CBK has asked the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to warn consumers about the risks of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”
“In January 2018, the CBK confirmed news that it was creating an infrastructure for the financial and banking sector in the country including the issuance of an e-currency, which it distinguished from virtual currencies. The establishment of a local digital currency will fall under the umbrella of e-payments, the statement said. The Central Bank highlighted that the local digital currency will have the same characteristics as paper money, such as an issuance number. It will also be monitored by the Kuwaiti government. Furthermore, it could be exchanged with other currencies as well as used to pay for goods and services.”
|Lebanon||Not regulated/plans to launch national cryptocurrency||Not regulated|
|Lesotho||Not regulated/discouraged||Banned||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Bank issued a follow-up statement in February 2018, where in addition to providing information that reinforced the contents of the previous statement, it noted that cryptocurrencies are neither legal tender in Lesotho nor considered foreign currency. It also barred the operation of individuals and entities that promote investment in cryptocurrency because any and all investment advisors must be licensed.”|
|Mozambique||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Namibia||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Nigeria||Not regulated||Not regulated||The Central Bank of Nigeria temporarily banned all Nigerian banks from accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies before clarifying its stance. The deputy director of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Banking and Payments System is quoted as saying, “Central bank cannot control or regulate bitcoin. Central bank cannot control or regulate blockchain. Just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the Internet. We don’t own it.”|
|Oman||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Qatar||Not regulated||Banking ban|
|Saudi Arabia||Not regulated||Not regulated/support for interbank cryptocurrency|
|South Africa||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Swaziland||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Turkey||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Uganda||Not regulated/discouraged||Not regulated|
|United Arab Emirates||Banned/contradictory stance/de facto acceptance||Banned/contradictory stance/de facto acceptance||Technically, there is an absolute ban on cryptocurrencies in the UAE. Per the Law Library of Congress, “Under article D.7.3 of the Regulatory Framework for Stored Values and an Electronic Payment System, issued by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates in January 2017, all transactions in ‘virtual currencies’ (encompassing cryptocurrencies in Arabic) are prohibited.”
In practice, Dubai has issued licenses to trade cryptocurrencies. The UAE also is working with Saudi Arabia to develop an interbank cryptocurrency to facilitate cross-border payments and have established a regulatory “sandbox” for new blockchain projects.
With the UAE government seeking 50 percent of all government transactions conducted on blockchain by 2021, the Regulatory Framework contradiction is likely to be resolved via repeal. However, the legal action is currently not on the legislative agenda and the governor of the UAE Central Bank has issued a statement asserting that article D.7.3 did not include cryptocurrencies or blockchain technologies. The bank asserts that a proper regulatory framework is being developed.
|Zambia||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Zimbabwe||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Asia and Oceania:|
|Australia||Regulated||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Regulatory approaches to digital currencies have been considered in some detail in Australia in recent years. A Senate committee completed its inquiry into this issue in 2015, providing an overview of existing legislation and the views of relevant agencies, considering risks and opportunities arising from the advent of digital currencies, and recommending several changes as well as ongoing monitoring and research. At that time, the Australian Taxation Office had already produced several public rulings regarding different aspects of the tax treatment of digital currencies, holding that transactions involving such currencies should be treated akin to barter arrangements for the purposes of income tax. In line with the Senate committee’s recommendations, provisions in the goods and services tax legislation were subsequently amended to avoid a double taxation effect with regard to digital currency transactions. Guidance from the ATO also addresses the capital gains tax and fringe benefit tax consequences of utilizing digital currencies.”
“The Senate committee also recommended that digital currency exchange businesses be brought under the anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing (AML/CTF) legislation. Changes to this legislation were subsequently enacted in 2017, with the effect that such businesses will now need to register with the relevant regulatory body, implement an AML/CTF program, maintain certain records, and report suspicious transactions.”
“Other areas covered by the committee’s report included financial regulation and consumer protection, and payments system regulation. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has published guidance on its website regarding the risks of investing in digital currencies. This includes the fact that these investments are generally not regulated, as they are not considered to be financial products under the relevant legislation.”
“Australia’s consumer protection agency reported that it received a large number of consumer complaints in 2017 involving cryptocurrency scams.”
|Brunei||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Cambodia||Unclear||Unclear||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The status of cryptocurrencies in Cambodia is ambiguous. The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) ‘signed an agreement with a Japanese firm . . . to develop a blockchain-based project for its own internal use, which would track interbank lending and transactions’ in April 2017. However, it only addresses interbank transactions. The NBC has ‘asked banks in Cambodia not to allow people to conduct transactions with cryptocurrencies.’”
“At the Fourth Annual NBC Macroeconomic Conference on December 5, 2017, NBC Director General Chea Serey stated that activities of a handful of companies operating in Cambodia that tried to persuade people to use cryptocurrencies for everyday purchases and other financial transactions were ‘not legal as digital currencies are not issued or backed up by any government.’ However, she also stated that ‘digital currencies are not illegal in the Kingdom’ and ‘asked users to be wary of them and extremely careful when using them.’ In a December 29, 2017, press release the NBC reaffirmed that it ‘never allowed the purchase-sale and circulation of any form of cryptocurrencies.’”
|China||Not regulated/tolerated||Banned||China’s position on cryptocurrencies has been fluid and reflective of Shanghai’s calculations and future planning. Currently, there is a shutdown on crypto assets in China in reflection of the possibility of the Chinese government starting a government-sponsored and controlled coin.
Per the Law Library of Congress, “China does not recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender and the banking system is not accepting cryptocurrencies or providing relevant services. The government has taken a series of regulatory measures to crack down on activities related to cryptocurrencies for purposes of investor protection and financial risk prevention. Those measures include announcing that initial coin offerings are illegal, restricting the primary business of cryptocurrency trading platforms, and discouraging Bitcoin mining. In the meantime, China’s central bank is reportedly considering issuing its own digital currency.”
|Hong Kong||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Regulated/currently developing regulations||Per China’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy, Hong Kong can establish its own financial policies and laws. Hong Kong has traditionally stood as an oasis for Chinese crypto businesses that were crippled by China’s crackdown on ICOs.
Fears that Hong Kong’s open attitude to cryptocurrencies are creating potential avenues for criminal activities – as well as pressure from mainland China – has led Hong Kong to create a regulatory framework for crypto assets. This includes registration of crypto businesses, recognition of certain classes of tokens as securities, and strengthened custodial requirements.
|India||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Banking ban/currently developing regulations||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The government of India stated in early 2018 that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are not legal tender in India. While the government has not yet enacted a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has advised caution on their use and has issued three notifications that ‘cautioned users, holders and traders on the risk of these currencies and clarified that it has not given any licence or authorisation to any entity or company to operate such schemes or deals.’”
“Most recently, on April 6, 2018, the RBI issued a notification prohibiting banks, lenders and other regulated financial institutions from ‘dealing with virtual currencies,’ which stipulated that ‘[i]n view of the associated risks, it has been decided that, with immediate effect, entities regulated by the Reserve Bank shall not deal in VCs or provide services for facilitating any person or entity in dealing with or settling VCs. Such services include maintaining accounts, registering, trading, settling, clearing, giving loans against virtual tokens, accepting them as collateral, opening accounts of exchanges dealing with them and transfer / receipt of money in accounts relating to purchase/ sale of VCs.’ Moreover, the RBI stated that “[r]egulated entities which already provide such services shall exit the relationship within three months from the date of this circular.” However, Deputy Governor B.P. Kanungo, in a policy press conference, did ‘recognize that the blockchain technology or the distributed ledger technology that lies beneath the virtual currencies has potential benefits for financial inclusion and enhancing the efficiency of the financial system’ and stated that the RBI has ‘constituted an inter-departmental committee in Reserve Bank of India who will produce a report and they will explore the feasibility and desirability of issuing a digital currency by the central bank.’”
“Reports in early 2018 indicated that the government is in the process of drafting a law to regulate trade of cryptocurrencies in India and ‘has formed a committee to fast track the process,’ according to the Hindustani Times. The government has expressed two main concerns that the law will address: “the source of money being used to trade in [cryptocurrencies]; and regulation of exchanges of VC [virtual currency] to protect the common man,” one government official was quoted as saying.”
“An interdisciplinary committee, chaired by the Special Secretary (Economic Affairs), was established in April 2017 ‘to examine the existing framework with regard to Virtual Currencies.’ The committee has nine members including representatives from the Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Financial Services, Department of Revenue (CBDT), Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Reserve Bank of India, National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), and State Bank of India. The role of the committee is to “‘(i) take stock of the present status of Virtual Currencies both in India and globally; (ii) examine the existing global regulatory and legal structures governing Virtual Currencies; (iii) suggest measures for dealing with such Virtual Currencies including issues relating to consumer protection, money laundering, etc.; and (iv) examine any other matter related to Virtual Currencies which may be relevant.’”
“On August 7, 2017, Business Line reported that the committee had submitted its report, but details of the report had not been made available to the public.”
“On December 29, 2017, India’s Ministry of Finance released a press statement that cautioned investors about the ‘real and heightened’ risks of trading in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, saying virtual currency investments are similar to ‘Ponzi schemes.’ According to a February 1, 2018, news report, the Minister of Finance told lawmakers in Parliament that ‘[t]he government does not consider cryptocurrencies legal tender or coin and will take all measures to eliminate use of these crypto-assets in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system,’ but ‘[t]he government will explore use of blockchain technology proactively for ushering in [the] digital economy.’”
“On November 13, 2017, the Supreme Court of India admitted under article 32 of the Constitution a Public Interest Litigation writ petition against the Union of India and issued a notice to the Ministry of Finance, Minister of Law and Justice, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Securities and Exchange Board of India, and Reserve Bank of India. The petition seeks ‘a regulatory framework to be laid down on Crypto Currency and wanted that the virtual currency be made accountable to the exchequer.’”
|Indonesia||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Japan||Regulated||Regulated||Japan is one of the most permissive nations toward crypto assets. However, high profile exchange hacks, including the Mt Gox hack, has led the nation to embrace strong crypto regulations.
From the Law Library of Congress, “Since April 2017, cryptocurrency exchange businesses operating in Japan have been regulated by the Payment Services Act. Cryptocurrency exchange businesses must be registered, keep records, take security measures, and take measures to protect customers, among other things. Cryptocurrency exchanges are also subject to money laundering regulations.”
|Kazakhstan||Not regulated/proposed ban||Not regulated/proposed ban|
|Kyrgyzstan||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Macau||Not regulated||Not regulated/de facto banking ban||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The Monetary Authority of Macau (AMCM) issued a statement on September 27, 2017, warning the financial industry and the public about the risks of virtual commodities and tokens. ‘Any trading of these commodities involves considerable risks, including but not limited to those relating to money laundering and terrorism financing, against which all participants should remain vigilant,’ the statement said. According to the statement, the AMCM had issued a notice to banks and payment institutions in Macau to warn them not to participate in or provide, directly or indirectly, any relevant financial services, following a similar ban by Chinese authorities on the mainland on initial coin offerings (ICOs).”|
|Malaysia||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated/currently developing regulations|
|Marshall Islands||Not regulated/issuing national cryptocurrency||Not regulated||The Marshall Islands is issuing a national cryptocurrency called the Sovereign, which would be used – along with the US dollar – as the island’s national currency.|
|New Zealand||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Pakistan||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Philippines||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP, i.e., the Philippines Central Bank) has issued guidelines concerning virtual currencies (VCs). Specifically, these Guidelines provide that since VCs are not backed by a central bank or a particular commodity and are not guaranteed by any country, they are not legal tender. However, since they are used as a conduit to provide certain financial services, such as remittances and payment transactions, entities that provide such services using VCs must register with the BSP and adopt adequate measures to mitigate and manage risks associated with such currencies. In addition, the Guidelines provide for penalties applicable to VC entities that conduct operations without the appropriate authorization from the BSP.”|
|Samoa||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Singapore||Not regulated||Not regulated/developing new regulations|
|South Korea||Regulated||Regulated||Per the Law Library of Congress, “The South Korean government implemented a rule that allows trades in cryptocurrencies only from real-name bank accounts (‘real-name account system’) beginning January 30, 2018. Cryptocurrency dealers must have contracts with banks concerning cryptocurrency trades. The banks examine dealers’ management and cyber security systems before signing such contracts. In order to make a deposit into their e-wallet at a cryptocurrency dealer, a cryptocurrency trader must have an account at a bank where the cryptocurrency dealer also has an account. The bank checks the trader’s (customer’s) identity when it opens an account for the trader, and the trader reports his/her bank account to the dealer. The dealer also checks the identity of the trader and applies for registration of the trader’s account with the bank. Anonymous cryptocurrency traders may withdraw from their cryptocurrency accounts but cannot make a new deposit. Minors, as well as foreigners, regardless of their place of residence, are prohibited from trading in cryptocurrencies.”|
|Taiwan||Not regulated||Banking ban|
|Tajikistan||Not regulated/not recognized as legal tender||Not regulated|
|Thailand||Not regulated/currently developing new regulations||Banking ban||Per the Law Library of Congress,” The Bank of Thailand issued a circular on February 12, 2018, asking financial institutions to refrain from doing any business involving cryptocurrencies. Bangkok Bank halted transactions involving the trading of cryptocurrencies with a private Thai company, Thai Digital Asset Exchange (TDAX), on February 24, 2018. On February 27, 2018, Krungthai Bank, a state-owned financial institution, halted transactions related to cryptocurrencies with TDAX through the bank’s accounts. According to a news article, the ban will continue even after a new regulation (discussed below) is issued.”
“Though the government expects new laws regarding cryptocurrencies will be enacted in the future, it decided to implement temporary measures to protect cryptocurrency investors. According to news articles, on March 13, 2018, the Cabinet approved the principles of the drafts of two Royal Decrees, one to regulate digital currencies, including cryptocurrencies, transactions, and initial coin offerings (ICOs), and the other to amend the Revenue Code to collect capital gains taxes on cryptocurrencies. The Decrees would require all digital asset transactions, including those of digital asset exchanges, brokers, and dealers, to be registered with the relevant authorities.”
|Uzbekistan||Not regulated||Not regulated/currently developing regulations|
|Vanuatu||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Vietnam||Banned/currently developing new regulations||Banned|