Legality of Bitcoin by country

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Bitcoin, the first and by-far-largest cryptocurrency, has been a point of contention ever since it took public stage in late 2013. Since it directly bypasses the established financial systems of sovereign nations, making a new form of virtual currency in a decentralized format accessible to anyone with a computer (and perhaps profitable for people with suitable ASICs), various countries, approaching it as an illegal commodity, have taken steps to curb its usage, often by citing its use in illegal contexts and thereby taxing it as foreign income or banning the cryptocurrency entirely. Other countries, however, have simply allowed it, justifying by noting Bitcoin's lack of usability as 'money' within their borders—in other words, that it isn't legal tender.

The following sections enumerate the legal status of Bitcoin in those countries that have taken steps to address it.

List of legal status by country[edit]

Legal status of bitcoin.png
Country Legal? Notes
 Algeria Yes
 Australia Yes The Australian government has been warm towards Bitcoin. Companies are allowed to trade in Bitcoins, and buying or mining Bitcoins is not considered illegal. The Australian government has released tax guidelines for the country.[1] The Australian Taxation Office has announced that it intends to work Bitcoin capital gains and sales tax guidelines into its system for users to declare on tax returns this year.[2] On 9 April 2014, the National Australia Bank (NAB) has decided to dissociate itself from bitcoin, informing bitcoin-related customers it will be closing their accounts next month.[3]
 Austria Yes
 Bangladesh No Bangladesh's central bank on Monday September 15, 2014 warned against dealing in Bitcoin, saying anybody caught using the virtual currency could be jailed under the country's strict anti-money laundering laws.[4]
 Belgium Yes The government has decided to take a hands-off approach to the currency. Belgium's finance minister has publicly stated that he sees no problem with the currency and that the national bank would have no objections to it. The country's money laundering agency has also not released any guidelines or warnings against the currency.[5]
 Bolivia No The Central Bank of Bolivia (BCB for short in Spanish Banco Central de Bolivia) released a resolution stating that cryptocurrency is not allowed in Bolivia.[6] They explicitly ban the bitcoin (among other kinds of cryptocurrency) and allow only the trade with the national currency (bolivianos) and U.S. dollars. The BCB thinks the cryptocurrency will permit enterprises to evade taxes, they also think that cryptocurrency is dangerous for the economy, since it is not regulated by any state.[7]
 Brazil Yes The Brazilian tax authority followed in the Internal Revenue Service’s footsteps today in requiring bitcoin holders in Brazil to file capital gains on their tax returns. Like the IRS, Brazil is refraining from call it a currency, but instead requires people to file capital gains like any other security. The tax is good on holders of R$1,000 or more in bitcoin, which is around $450. Those who have over R$35,000 in bitcoin accounts pay a 15% capital gain charge as well to the Brazilian government. Gains (and losses) are to be filed annually with tax returns.[8]
 Bulgaria Yes On 2 April 2014, the Bulgarian National Revenue Agency issued a statement concerning the taxing of bitcoin. For the purpose of applying laws governing income taxes bitcoin is considered a financial instrument. The taxable income is determined by the sum of the profits from transactions with bitcoin decreased by the sum ot losses from transactions with bitcoin. The profit or loss from a transaction is calculated based on the comparison between the sale price and the aquistion price of bitcoin.[9]
 Canada Yes On 5 November 2013, the Canada Revenue Agency issued a statement[10] clarifying the tax treatment of Bitcoin. The statement is a brief outline which states that tax rules apply when Bitcoin is used to pay for goods and services in the same way the rules apply for barter transactions.[11]

In Canada, the federal government announced that it was going to regulate Bitcoin under its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.[12] The Quebec government agency, the Autorité des marches financiers, also announced that it would prosecute violations of the Securities Act (Loi sur les valeurs mobilières), the Derivatives Act (Loi sur les instruments dérivés) and the Money Services Businesses Act (Loi sur les enterprises de services monétaires) for Bitcoin transactions, particularly those involving Bitcoin ATMs.[13]

 China (PRC) Restricted
(Mainland)
On 5 December 2013, China Central Bank barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin transactions, moving to regulate the virtual currency. The People's Bank of China said financial institutions and payment companies can’t give pricing in Bitcoin, buy and sell the virtual currency or insure Bitcoin-linked products, according to a statement on the central bank’s website.[14] On 16 December it was speculated that the People's Bank of China had issued a new ban on third-party payment processors from doing business with Bitcoin exchanges,[15] however a statement from BTC China suggests this isn't accurate, and rather payment processors had voluntarily withdrawn their services.[16] Trading bitcoins by individuals is however legal in China.[17]
 Hong Kong SAR Yes On 16 November 2013, Norman Chan, the chief executive of Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said that bitcoins is only a virtual commodity. He also decided that bitcoins will not be regulated by HKMA. However, the authority will be closely watching the usage of bitcoins locally and its development overseas.[18]
 Taiwan Restricted On 21 November 2013, Perng Fai-nan, the governor of Central Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) (CBC) said that the central bank view bitcoins similar to precious metals transactions and has adopted measures to prevent money laundering in bitcoins.[19]

On 6 December 2013, Perng Fai-nan said that Bitcoins is only used in certain communities. Besides, he also opined that the value of Bitcoin is a bubble and is highly volatile. Therefore he advised the public against the speculation of bitcoins to prevent making a loss during the process. The central bank is closely watching the development of Bitcoin and plan to impose regulations in the future.[20]

On 31 December 2013, Financial Supervisory Commission (Republic of China) (FSC) and CBC issued a joint statement which warns against the use of bitcoins. It is stated that bitcoins remains highly volatile, highly speculative, vulnerable to cyber attacks, malicious defaults, theft, and is not entitled to legal claims or guarantee of conversion.[21]

On 5 January 2014, FSC chairman Tseng Ming-chung stated that FSC will not allow the installation of Bitcoin ATM in Taiwan because bitcoin is not a currency and it should not be accepted by individuals and banks as payment.[22]

 Colombia Yes On 26 March 2014, The Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia (SFC), the government body responsible for overseeing financial systems in Colombia, stated that “The Bitcoin is an asset that has no equivalent statutory legal tender in Colombia since it was not recognized as currency in the country”, and made it clear that "supervised (financial) entities are not authorized to guard, invest or mediate these instruments (Bitcoins). Additionally it is for people to know and accept the risks inherent in their operations with ‘virtual currency’ risks".[23]
 Denmark Yes On 17 December 2013, Denmark's Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) has issued a statement that echoes EBA's warning. In addition, FSA says that doing business with Bitcoin does not fall under its regulatory authority and therefore FSA does not currently prevent anyone from opening such businesses.[24][25] FSA's chief legal adviser says that Denmark might consider amending existing financial legislation to cover virtual currencies.[26] In March 2014, the Danish Tax Board, the nation's top tax authority, declared that personal profits and losses from Bitcoin trading would not be taxed, although Bitcoin trading businesses would be taxed.[27]
 Ecuador No The National Assembly of Ecuador banned bitcoins including other decentralized digital/crypto currencies. Due to the establishment of a new, state-run currency.[28]
 Finland Yes Finland issued a regulatory guide to Bitcoin in September 2013, which imposed capital gains tax on bitcoins, and taxes bitcoins produced by mining as earned income.[29]
 Germany Yes On 19 August 2013, the German Finance Ministry announced that Bitcoin is now essentially a "Unit of account" and can be used for the purpose of tax and trading in the country. It is not classified as a foreign currency or e–money but stands as "private money" which can be used in "multilateral clearing circles", according to the ministry.[30]
 Iceland No[dubious ] Due to the capital controls put in place in 2008 to stop money flight on the króna, buying and selling Bitcoin in Iceland, which appears to consider Bitcoin as a foreign currency, is Illegal.[citation needed] The Icelandic Central Bank confirmed that "it is prohibited to engage in foreign exchange trading with the electronic currency Bitcoin, according to the Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act",[31] however commentators suggest bitcoins mined within Iceland could be freely traded.[citation needed]
 India Restricted In June 2013, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a notice acknowledging that virtual currencies posed legal, regulatory and operational challenges.[32] In August 2013, a spokesperson wrote in an email that Bitcoin was under observation.[33]

On 24 December 2013, the Reserve Bank of India issued an advisory to the Indian public not to indulge in buying or selling of virtual currencies, including Bitcoins.[34][35] Following the announcement Bitcoin operators in the country began suspending operations.[36]

The first raid in India was undertaken a couple of days later in Ahmedabad by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the office of the website, buysellbit.co.in, that provided a platform to trade in this virtual currency. The preliminary investigations found it to be in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).[37]

On 28 December 2013, the Deputy Governor of the RBI, K. C. Chakrabarty, made a statement that RBI had no plans to regulate Bitcoins.[38][39]

The consolidated legal position in the month of August 2014 is that the legality of Bitcoin is in doubt in India.[40][41] The Reserve Bank of India has cautioned users of virtual currencies of various legal risks.[42][43] Indian law enforcement agency Enforcement Directorate also searched the office and website of a Bitcoin entrepreneur to analyse any possible legal violation.[44] ED believes that Bitcoins money can be used for hawala transactions and funding terror operations.[45]

 Indonesia Restricted On 21 December 2013, Difi Ahmad, the executive director of communication at Bank Indonesia (BI) said that Bitcoin is a potential payment method but could potentially used in scams and money laundering operations. Since it is not regulated by banks, it has its associated risks. The central bank of Indonesia is currently studying Bitcoins and they have no plans to issue regulations on it.[46]

On 16 January 2014, Ronald Waas, deputy governor of Bank Indonesia said that bitcoins usage would break a number of laws including Undang-undang Bank Indonesia (Bank Indonesia Act), Undang-undang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik (Information and Electronic Transaction Act), and Undang-undang Mata Uang (Monetary Act). For example, Undang-undang Mata Uang states that Rupiah is the only legal tender in the country. He also strongly advised the public against using bitcoins because security of bitcoins transactions are not guaranteed. However, currently BI does not have detailed policies of regulating or banning bitcoins usage.[47][48]

On 6 February 2014, Bank Indonesia is stating that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are not currencies or legal tender in Indonesia. The people are urged to exercise caution towards Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. All risks regarding ownership or use of Bitcoin are borne by the owner or user of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies.[49]

 Israel Yes The Israeli Tax Authority is said to be considering a tax on bitcoin, but no statements have been made until today. However, the Israel Bar Association considers the virtual currency an appropriate form of payment for attorneys.[50]
 Japan Yes On 7 March 2014, the Japanese government, in response to a series of questions asked in the National Diet, made a cabinet decision on the legal treatment of bitcoins in the form of answers to the questions.[51] The decision did not see bitcoin as currency nor bond under the current Banking Act and Financial Instruments and Exchange Law, prohibiting banks and securities companies to deal bitcoins. The decision also acknowledges that there is no laws to unconditionally prohibit individuals or legal entities to receive bitcoins in exchange of goods or services. Taxes may be applicable to bitcoins.
 Jordan Restricted The Central Bank of Jordan prohibits banks, currency exchanges, financial companies, and payment service companies from dealing in bitcoins or other digital currencies.[52] While it warned the public of risks of bitcoins, and that they are not legal tender, bitcoins are still accepted by small businesses and merchants.[52][53]
 Lebanon Restricted On 19 December 2013, the Bank of Lebanon issued a warning against purchasing, keeping or using digital currencies, citing volatility, potential losses, and other risks.[54] It also pointed out that the issuance and use of "e-money" by financial institutions and exchange institutions is prohibited under a decree issued in 2000.[54]
 Lithuania Yes Bank of Lithuania released a warning in 31 January 2014 that Bitcoin is not recognized as legal tender in Lithuania and that Bitcoin users should be aware of high risks that comes with the usage of it.[55]
 Malaysia Yes Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) issued a statement on 6 January 2014 that Bitcoin is not recognised as a legal tender in Malaysia. The central bank will not regulate Bitcoin operations at the moment and users should aware of the risks associated with Bitcoins usage.[56][57]
 Norway Yes The Norwegian Tax Administration stated in December 2013 that they don't define Bitcoin as money but regard it as an asset. Profits are subjected to wealth tax. In business, use of Bitcoin falls under the sales tax regulation.[58]
 Philippines Yes On 6 March 2014, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) issued a statement on risks associated with Bitcoin trading and usage. Bitcoin exchanges are not regulated by BSP at the moment. BSP will be monitoring the possibility of Bitcoin usage in money laundering and other illegal purposes.[59]
 Poland Yes Poland made a first official announcement on the legality of Bitcoin on 18 December 2013 stating Bitcoin is "not illegal".[60] The announcement was made by Szymon Woźniak of the Ministry of Finance but further also clarified that while not Illegal, bitcoin cannot be considered legal as a form of tender, as yet.
 Russia Yes On January 27, 2014 the Bank of Russia issued a statement on Bitcoin usage in which it was characterized as money substitute banned for emission in Russia. The Bank warned against potential illegal usage of such substitutes, including money laundering and financing terrorist activities. It also stated that exchanging money substitutes for any hard currency would be regarded suspicious.[61] In February 2014, Russia's Prosecutor General's Office claimed that Bitcoin is a money substitute and "cannot be used by individuals or legal entities".[62] However, the Central Bank clarified that there are no plans for immediate ban on any cryptocurrencies; the government intents to prevent illegal usage of such currencies, and to develop legal framework protecting citizens and legal entities that use the cryptocurrencies.[63]
 Slovenia Yes On December 23, 2013 the Slovenian Ministry of Finance made an announcement [64] stating that Bitcoin is not a currency nor an Asset. There is no capital gains tax chargeable on Bitcoin however Bitcoin mining is taxed and business selling goods/services in Bitcoin are also taxed.
 Singapore Yes On September 22, 2013, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) warned users of the risks associated with using Bitcoin stating "If bitcoin ceases to operate, there may not be an identifiable party responsible for refunding their monies or for them to seek recourse"[65] and in December 2013 made a followup statement regarding Bitcoin stating “Whether or not businesses accept Bitcoins in exchange for their goods and services is a commercial decision in which MAS does not intervene”[66] In January 2014, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has issued a series of tax guidelines on Bitcoins. It is stated that bitcoin transactions may be treated as a barter exchange if it is used as a payment method for real goods and services. Businesses that deal with bitcoin currency exchanges will be taxed based on their sales of bitcoins.[67]
 South Korea Yes
  Switzerland Yes On 5 December 2013 a proposal was put forth by 45 members of the Swiss Parliament for digital sustainability (Pardigli), that calls on the Swiss government to evaluate the opportunities for utilization of Bitcoin by the country’s financial sector.[68] It also seeks clarification on the Bitcoin’s legal standing with respect to VAT, securities and anti-money laundering laws.[69]
 Thailand Yes In July 2013, Bitcoin Company Limited said it had given a presentation to the Bank of Thailand about how the currency works in a bid to operate in the country. At the end of the meeting, "senior members of the Foreign Exchange Administration and Policy Department advised that due to lack of existing applicable laws, capital controls and the fact that Bitcoin straddles multiple financial facets... Bitcoin activities are illegal in Thailand". The ruling means it is illegal to buy and sell bitcoins, buy or sell any goods or services in exchange for bitcoins, send any bitcoins to anyone outside of Thailand, or receive bitcoins from anyone outside the country.[70] However, since February 15, 2014, according to a letter from the Bank of Thailand, the current situation is that Bitcoin can be traded in Thailand so long as it’s only converted to/from Thai baht.[71] So Bitcoin cannot be used as a way of converting foreign currencies in the nation. Bank of Thailand says it has no plans to expand the laws to regulate Bitcoin.[71]
 Turkey Yes Bitcoin is not regulated as it is not considered to be electronic money according to the law.[72][73]
 United Kingdom Yes Bitcoin is treated as 'private money'. When Bitcoin is exchanged for Sterling or for foreign currencies, such as Euros or Dollars, no VAT will be due on the value of the Bitcoins themselves. However, in all instances, VAT will be due in the normal way from suppliers of any goods or services sold in exchange for Bitcoin or other similar cryptocurrency. Profits and losses on cryptocurrencies are subject to capital gains tax.[74]
 United States Yes On 18 November 2013, the United States Senate held a committee hearing titled Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats and Promises of Virtual Currencies to discuss virtual currencies.[75] At this hearing, held by senator Tom Carper, Bitcoin and other currencies were received generally positively, with it being stated that Bitcoin was a "legal means of exchange" and that "online payment systems, both centralized and decentralized, offer legitimate financial services" by US officials such as Peter Kadzik and Mythili Raman.[76][77] It was noted, however, that the Justice Department's Criminal Division has seen an increased use of virtual currencies for illegal purposes such as drugs and child pornography.[78]

After the Government Accountability Office recommended that the Internal Revenue Service make its position clear on Bitcoin,[79] the IRS announced in March 2014 that opted to consider Bitcoin a form of 'property' rather than a currency, meaning that every transaction where Bitcoin is used as payment would be subjected to capital gains tax.[80] The IRS also announced that Bitcoin mining activity would be taxed as income on the basis of fair market value as of the date of the specific activity, and that all of the foregoing guidance would be applied retroactively. On the other hand, US Treasury authorities subject Bitcoin to money transmitter regulations, which imposes fairly high regulatory burden on any entity that would envisage, for instance, to operate an ATM for Bitcoin. In March 2013, FinCEN issued an advisory that their rules for combating money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the state-by-state licensing as money transmitters apply to virtual currency businesses, which must collect and report relevant data.[79]

The FEC deadlocked on Nov 21, 2013 on whether to allow Bitcoin in political campaigns.[81] Their decision was split across party lines (three members Democrat voting nay, three Republicans voting yay). While their decision covered group donations, political Bitcoin pioneers New Hampshire House member Mark Warden and Southern California politician Michael B. Glenn acted independently in accepting Bitcoin, and paved the way for others to follow suit. As of January 2014, both Warden and Glenn continue to accept Bitcoin donations. Other candidates accepting began to regularly emerge in late-January 2014.[82][83][84][85][86][87]

 Vietnam Yes The State Bank of Vietnam released a warning statement on 28 February 2014 which states that the use of virtual currency Bitcoin and other similar means of payment is not legally recognized and protected, according to the current law on currency and banking in Vietnam, and that investment in such the currencies was potentially very risky.[88]

External links[edit]

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