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Home > Courses > Cryptocurrency Regulation > Cryptocurrency Regulation Basics > Is Bitcoin Legal in the US and Around the World?

Is Bitcoin Legal in the US and Around the World?

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Is Bitcoin Legal?

On Halloween 2008 the world was revolutionized with the release of the Bitcoin White Paper. Inside that amazing document, we learned about a new form of money.

Satoshi told us in the White Paper that Bitcoin was created to free us from the bonds of financial slavery that the governments and banks had held us in for 1000s of years, keeping the rich in their lofty position; while the rest of us struggled to survive. Of course, governments and banks can't deal very well with that sort of freedom. But, since there are BILLIONS of dollars in cryptos at this point, outlawing the system isn't an option. So, laws are being put into place as the government catches up to give us, in the cryptosphere, protection, and clarification; while they claim "Caesar's Share."


SEC


The US SEC has not yet approved or registered any exchange-traded products holding cryptocurrencies or other assets related to cryptocurrencies for listing or trading. However, that department has not been silent on the matter of cryptos. In July 2017, the SEC issued an investor bulletin about ICOs, saying they can be “fair and lawful investment opportunities; but, can be misused." Since then, the SEC has issued three Cease and Desist in the exposure of three alleged frauds and initiated legal actions against the sponsors of two different ICOs. SEC Chairman Clayton has also expressed concern about market participants who extend to customers credit in the U.S., promising upcoming regulation in this area.


CFTC


The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has declared Bitcoin to be a commodity and announced that fraud and manipulation involving bitcoin traded in interstate commerce and the regulation of commodity futures tied directly to bitcoin is under its authority. The CFTC allowed the CME and CBOE to launch bitcoin futures. CFTC also approved a platform for the trading and clearing of virtual currency derivatives for LedgerX, LLC, a swap execution facility and derivatives clearing organization.


IRS, FinCEN


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says bitcoin must be treated as property for tax purposes. That means a capital gain or loss should be recorded as an exchange involving the property. It should be treated like inventory if it is held for resale, and therefore an ordinary gain or loss recorded. If used as payment, it should be treated like currency but must be converted, and its fair market value checked on an exchange.

Several U.S. states plan to approve the acceptance or promotion of bitcoin and blockchain technology at the State level. At the same time, some have already passed them into law, according to Bitcoin Magazine. These include Arizona (which has formally recognized smart contracts), Vermont (which has declared the blockchain may be used as evidence in legal proceedings), and Delaware (which has a pending initiative authorizing the registration of shares of Delaware companies in blockchain form). In addition, as a group, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws voted in July to approve a model act providing for the regulation of digital currency businesses at the state level.

In November 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it planned to review FinCEN’s cryptocurrency practices related to money laundering and terrorism financing risks. FinCEN’s Guidance FIN-2013-G001 declared that “virtual currency does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.” In November, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said he had established working groups at treasury to look at bitcoin and that it is something they will be watching “very carefully.”

Around the globe


So, the US governments have most definitely taken notice of our little crypto revolution with various responses. Around the world, there have been similar government investigations and regulations. Some countries have stated that issuers and intermediaries of virtual currencies and “security” tokens may be subject to law, depending upon the product and service's nature. Others have flatly declared that virtual currencies are not legal tender, keeping their Central Banks as the only authority that may issue legal tender. Some countries have regulated (though not many as harshly as the US to date) companies offering financial services involving virtual currencies. At the same time, others have not even spoken on the matter. Many countries have created laws in which digital currency exchanges will be subject to registration and regulation by existing and upcoming Anti-Terrorism laws. Some countries have outlawed trading; others encourage it.

There are many laws around the globe currently in effect, and many more in the planning stage in response to this new technology. In most places, the one universal thought is governmental panic as the laws are brought into line with the new world we have created out of Satoshi's gift of Bitcoin. Individuals, businesses, groups, and governments have all created their cryptos since Bitcoin. Laws have been made in response to many. Those laws may get more brutal in some jurisdictions; many will also fall away, be amended, and revoked entirely over the coming years. These are all growing pains of our cryptosphere.

While it isn't likely that any government will allow Bitcoin and its brethren to overtake a national currency; it is sure that one day shortly, BTC, ETH, LTC, XMR, BCH, Doge, and others will be accepted as payment methods; just as PayPal is now. That platform went through its growing pains and legal issues, as did credit /debit cards before it. Bitcoin and the cryptos will also survive this process; with our help.

Online and off, the governments realize Bitcoin massively changed the world. They also recognize that it is too late to stop now that billion-dollar corporations are involved in this world of electronic money and speculation we have built from that first White Paper. What we, in the crypto sphere, must do is keep our heads about us, monitor new laws relevant to our locales, and adjust our way of doing business accordingly. 

Although the spirit of freedom was Satoshi's gift, rebellion and lawlessness are not a part of that freedom. So, when in doubt, consult a lawyer in your area, pay your taxes as dictated by your country's laws, and Happy HODLing, our friends! 



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