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Rules for renegades

The peer-to-peer digital currency Bitcoin made its debut in and with it ushered in a new era of cryptocurrency. While tax authorities, enforcement agencies, and regulators worldwide are still debating best practices, one pertinent question: is Bitcoin legal or illegal? The answer—it depends on the location and activity of the user.

Bitcoins are not issued, endorsed, or regulated by any central bank. Instead, they are created through a computer-generated process known as mining.

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In addition to being a cryptocurrency unrelated to any government, Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system since it does not exist in a physical form. As such, it offers a convenient way to conduct cross-border transactions with no exchange rate fees. It also allows users to remain anonymous. Consumers have greater ability to purchase goods and services with Bitcoin directly at online retailers, pull cash out of Bitcoin ATMs, and use Bitcoin at some brick-and-mortar stores.

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While Bitcoin appears at glance to be a well-established virtual currency system, there are still no uniform international laws that regulate Bitcoin. Bitcoin can be used anonymously to conduct transactions between any account holders, anywhere and anytime across the globe, which makes it attractive to criminals and terror organizations. They may use Bitcoin to buy or sell illegal goods like drugs or weapons. Most countries have not clearly determined the legality of Bitcoin, preferring instead to take a wait-and-see approach.

Some countries have indirectly assented to the legal use of Bitcoin by enacting some regulatory oversight. However, Bitcoin is never legally acceptable as a substitute for a country's legal tender. The United States has taken a generally positive stance toward Bitcoin, though several government agencies work to prevent or reduce Bitcoin use for illegal transactions. The U. This places it under the Bank Secrecy Act , which requires exchanges and payment processors to adhere to certain responsibilities like reporting, registration, and record keeping.

Like its southern neighbor, the United States, Canada maintains a generally Bitcoin-friendly stance while also ensuring the cryptocurrency is not used for money laundering. The taxation also depends on whether the individual has a buying-selling business or is only concerned with investing. Canada considers Bitcoin exchanges to be money service businesses. This brings them under the purview of the anti-money laundering AML laws. Similar to Canada, Australia considers Bitcoin neither money nor a foreign currency, with the Australian Taxation Office ATO ruling it an asset for capital gains tax purposes.

On Oct. Additionally, some individual EU countries have also developed their own Bitcoin stances. Bitcoin is treated as a commodity in Finland and not as a currency. In Cyprus , Bitcoin is not controlled or regulated either.

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Bitcoin is under certain tax regulations in the U. While Bitcoin is welcomed in many parts of the world, a few countries are wary because of its volatility, decentralized nature, perceived threat to current monetary systems, and links to illicit activities like drug trafficking and money laundering. Some nations have outright banned the digital currency, while others have tried to cut off any support from the banking and financial system essential for its trading and use.

Bitcoin is essentially banned in China. All banks and other financial institutions like payment processors are prohibited from transacting or dealing in Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency exchanges are banned. Bitcoin is not regulated in Russia, though its use as payment for goods or services is illegal.

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Vietnam's government and its state bank maintain that Bitcoin is not a legitimate payment method, though it is not regulated as an investment. El Banco Central de Bolivia has banned the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Columbia does not allow Bitcoin use or investment. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were banned in Ecuador by a majority vote in the national assembly. Although Bitcoin is now almost 10 years old, many countries still do not have explicit systems that restrict, regulate, or ban the cryptocurrency. The decentralized and anonymous nature of Bitcoin has challenged many governments on how to allow legal use while preventing criminal transactions.

Many countries are still analyzing ways to regulate the cryptocurrency.

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Overall, Bitcoin remains in a legal gray area for much of the world. Dish Newsroom. Accessed Oct. For crypto, specifically, a priority will most likely be a case the S. The Ripple case is a moment of reckoning for many cryptocurrencies issued and distributed by companies or people, unlike Bitcoin, which is released via a decentralized network of computers and considered by most to be a commodity, which has fewer rules for buying and selling. He declined to predict what Mr.

In , Mr. Two other issues to watch at the S. Will it ever approve a Bitcoin exchange traded fund? Many have tried , and it would be a major move toward mainstreaming crypto investment. New rules for brokers holding digital assets. First announced on Dec. It showed the crypto industry could force a pivot by a powerful agency. Yet, the rule fails to explain the difference in risk.

At her confirmation hearing, she suggested that many cryptocurrency transactions were associated with illicit activity, which Ms. Picked for the same gig in , his nomination was withdrawn by the Trump administration.

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Since then, Mr. Massad, of Harvard, said. Otherwise, too much crypto activity will be left unregulated for too long.

A case in point, perhaps, is the civil enforcement action filed in the fall by the C. In a companion criminal case , the Department of Justice contends that BitMEX execs deliberately flouted anti-money laundering rules. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency briefly had a crypto insider at its helm: Brian Brooks left his job as chief legal counsel at Coinbase to become O. Michael Barr, the dean of public policy at the University of Michigan who served as an assistant Treasury secretary under the Obama administration, is a leading candidate for the top O.

The O. Irvine, to lead the agency and prioritize racial and economic equity. In Senate testimony in , Ms. What three crypto market watchers predict for rules and regulators in Wants: A robust regulator to simplify the process for entrepreneurs. Person to watch: Mr. On the Hill, the S. Expects: Scrutiny on decentralized finance, or DeFi , after its banner year in The industry claims to seek clarity. He may provide it.