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Back to Index of Legal Reports. This report surveys forty foreign jurisdictions and the European Union, reporting on any regulations or statements from central banks or government offices on the handling of bitcoins as well as any significant use of bitcoins in business transactions. Of those countries surveyed, only a very few, notably China and Brazil, have specific regulations applicable to bitcoin use. Overall, the findings of this report reveal that the debate over how to deal with this new virtual currency is still in its infancy.
However, journalists have reportedly obtained documents indicating that Alderney is trying to take the lead and become the central hub for the bitcoin, by minting and issuing physical bitcoins and creating an international center with a bitcoin storage vault service that complies with anti-money laundering rules.
Under the National Constitution of Argentina  the only authority capable of issuing legal currency is the Central Bank. 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 control over foreign currencies. According to the guidance paper and draft rulings, Bitcoin transactions will be treated "like barter transactions with similar taxation consequences. Additional information on this topic is available. The Belgian Finance Minister, in response to a question by a Belgian senator, stated in July that while the Bitcoin system seems to be somewhat problematic as a potential tool for money laundering and other illegal activities, such problems should not be overstated.
He also stated that, based on studies from the Belgian central bank Banque nationale de Belgique and the European Central Bank, the bitcoin does not present any significant risks to price stability, to the financial system in general, or to its individual users. Finally, in this same statement, the Minister of Finance indicated that government intervention with regard to the Bitcoin system does not appear necessary at the present time.
On October 9, , Brazil enacted Law No. Article 11 determines that the penalties provided for in the legislation applicable to financial institutions applies to the infractions set forth in Law No. Canada does not have a specific law or regulation that regulates bitcoins. Nevertheless, these payment systems should be designed and operated to meet the needs of Canadians which would include convenience and ease of use, price, reliability, safety, and effective redress mechanisms.
On February 11, , the Canadian Finance Minister unveiled the Federal Budget for , which included a brief mention of Canadian government plans to introduce anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations for virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. The new law will treat virtual currencies, including Bitcoin, as "money service businesses" for the purposes of the anti-money laundering law.
According to news reports, there are no merchants that accept bitcoins in Chile as of yet. Buying virtual currencies in Chile is still very cumbersome. Interest in acquiring bitcoins is slowly growing. However, because there is no regulation on the use of bitcoins, transactions are informal in nature and mainly conducted among friends. On December 3, , the central bank of China and four other central government ministries and commissions jointly issued the Notice on Precautions Against the Risks of Bitcoins.
Banks and payment institutions in China are prohibited from dealing in bitcoins. The Notice further required strengthening the oversight of Internet websites providing bitcoin registration, trading, and other services. It also warned about the risks of using the Bitcoin system for money laundering. On December 6, , the Croatian National Bank CNB reportedly conducted a discussion on the circulation of digital currencies and concluded that the bitcoin is not illegal in Croatia: According to the same report,.
The use of bitcoins is not regulated in Cyprus. However, the Danish Tax Authority has not published any comment as to whether Bitcoin earnings should be taxed. On March 18, , the Danish Central Bank issued a statement declaring that Bitcoin is not a currency. According to the statement, "Bitcoin does not have any real trading value compared to gold and silver, and thus is more similar to glass beads.
The Danish Central Bank went on to point out that Bitcoins are not protected by any national laws or guarantees, such as a deposit guarantee. On April 1 , the Tax Authority published a binding reply in which it declared that an invoice cannot be issued in Bitcoins, but must instead be issued in Danish Kroner or another recognized currency. The Authority went on to state that any losses in Bitcoins cannot be deducted as a cost of doing business. In Estonia, the use of bitcoins is not regulated or otherwise controlled by the government.
On December 19, , the Estonian business information Web portal Dv. Nymmel said that according to Bank of Estonia estimates, the bitcoin does not create any threat to financial or price stability because of its limited virtual area of circulation. In March , Estonian Tax Authority defined the official government position that Bitcoin is an alternative means of payment and income derived from Bitcoin transactions constitutes capital gain subject to taxation.
The European Union EU has passed no specific legislation relative to the status of the bitcoin as a currency. In October , the European Central Bank issued a report on virtual currency schemes that discusses the Bitcoin system and briefly analyzes its legal status under existing EU legislation. On December 13, , the European Banking Authority EBA , the regulatory agency of the EU responsible for advising EU institutions on banking, e-money regulation, and payments, issued a warning on the dangers associated with transactions, such as buying, holding, or trading virtual currencies.
The EBA pointed out that since the bitcoin is not regulated, consumers are not protected and are at risk of losing their money and that consumers may still be liable for taxes when using virtual currencies. The Finish Tax Authority, Vero Skatt, has issued instructions for the taxation of virtual currencies, including the bitcoin. When transferred to another currency, the rules on taxation of capital gains apply. When the currency is used as a form of payment for goods and services, it is treated as a trade, and the increase in value that the currency might have gained after it was obtained is taxable.
A court decision that is mentioned in the Banque de France report found that a company that acted as an exchange for bitcoins should be considered a payment service provider, subject to oversight from the French Prudential Supervisory Authority.
Accordingly, bitcoins are units that are not expressed in the form of legal tender. Instead, they are units of value that have the function of private means of payment within private trading exchanges, or they are substitute currencies that are used as a means of payment in multilateral trading transactions on the basis of legal agreements of private law.
However, licensing could become necessary under various circumstances, such as the creation or maintenance of a market in bitcoins. The tax treatment of bitcoins has been discussed in some statements by the Federal Ministry of Finance. Among the opinions voiced by the Ministry is a statement on the possibility of value-added tax liability for bitcoin transfers, the lack of income tax effects for the underlying transaction when bitcoins are used as a means of payment, and the lack of long-term capital gains liability for bitcoins that are held for longer than one year.
No specific legislation on bitcoins exists in Greece, nor has the National Bank of Greece issued any statement on bitcoins. A private company has listed a few businesses that accept bitcoins as a form of payment, however. However, our existing laws such as the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance provide sanctions against unlawful acts involving bitcoins, such as fraud or money laundering. On March 19, the Central Bank of Iceland issued a statement explaining the legal status of digital coins in Iceland.
The coins are not a recognized and protected currency, and purchasing them may violate the Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act, which specifies that Icelandic currency cannot leave the country. Additional information on the topic is available. There appears to be no explicit legal framework that regulates, restricts, or bans bitcoins in India. It is not regulated by the central bank so there are risks. On February 6, , Bank Indonesia issued a statement on bitcoin and other virtual currencies.
The Central Bank of Ireland has not published a statement on its website regarding bitcoins. The Revenue Commissioners in Ireland are monitoring the development of the bitcoin and considering its implications for possible taxation, with the most likely areas of taxation being in the taxation of any gains, as well as value-added tax, which is a charge on goods and services. According to media reports, officials from the Ministry of Justice and Bank of Israel have been conducting discussions on the implications of using bitcoins, particularly in illicit transactions.
An incident of an alleged attempted extortion involving a request for payment in bitcoins was reported on December 19, At least three Israeli banks have received emails from an unknown individual threatening to release the personal details of millions of their customers unless the payment was made. On October 29, , the European Central Bank published a report titled Virtual Currency Schemes ,  which studies relevant economic and legal aspects of the Bitcoin system.
A European Directive of regulates the use of electronic currencies including the bitcoin with the aim of harmonizing payment methods, increasing competition, and facilitating market access. The Decree allows the use of electronic currencies in accordance with the EU Directive at the level of the European Central Bank, and by the central banks of European Members, the Italian public administration at the regional and local government levels, and the Italian postal system. However, the use of electronic currency is restricted to banks and electronic money institutions—that is, private legal entities duly authorized and registered by the Central Bank of Italy.
Aside from these developments, Italy does not regulate bitcoin use by private individuals, and currently the implementation of initiatives concerning the use of electronic currencies lies with the EU.
There are at present no laws in Japan regulating the use of bitcoins. The amendment to the Payment Services Act included virtual currency exchanges regulation. Virtual currency exchanges operating in Japan will be required to register with the Financial Services Agency.
The amendment will be effective by early June in Bank Negara Malaysia officials apparently met with local bitcoin proponents in November to learn more about the currency. The Central Bank does not regulate the operations of Bitcoin. The public is therefore advised to be cautious of the risks associated with the usage of such digital currency.
Malta currently does not have any regulations specifically pertaining to bitcoins, nor does there appear to be any official government statement on the recognition or policy towards the bitcoin.
In October , a Maltese company launched the first bitcoin hedge fund. Virtual currencies such as bitcoins currently do not fall within the scope of the Act on Financial Supervision Wet op het financieel toezicht of the Netherlands, as the Dutch Minister of Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, recently emphasized.
He emphasized that currently, despite the watchful eye of government authorities on the future development of virtual currencies, in principle the consumer is solely responsible for their use. The Dutch Central Bank De Nederlandsche Bank, DNB recently called attention to the risks posed by the purchase of virtual currencies, including bitcoins and litecoins,  and warned consumers to be wary. Nevertheless, Dutch regulators have not imposed licensing restrictions on virtual currency businesses.
On May 14, , a district court in a decision in a civil suit involving an uncompleted Bitcoin transaction between two parties, ruled that Bitcoin, like gold, is a medium of exchange that is an acceptable form of payment in the country but that cannot be defined as legal tender, common money, or electronic money.
However, the Reserve Bank has no direct power over any form of alternative payments medium. Who knows at this point? There is still a lot for the world to learn on this issue. It appears that Nicaragua has not yet promulgated any legislation regulating bitcoins, nor has the Central Bank of Nicaragua issued any rulings or guidelines on the subject. However, news reports indicate that bitcoins are being used in the country. Simon is reportedly interested in promoting the use of bitcoins in Nicaragua and advanced some ideas related to their use.
The Norwegian Tax Authority has issued a principle statement that bitcoins will be treated as capital property, at least for tax-related purposes. Capital property legislation allows for deductions for losses and taxes on winnings. Although travel currencies are exempted from the capital gains tax, bitcoins are not as the bitcoin and other virtual currencies are not recognized as travel currencies.
The use of the bitcoin in Poland is not regulated by a legal act at present. On December 21, , the Russian website Coinspot. Wozniak was more certain about the taxation of bitcoin transactions. He said that all types of income must be taxed under Polish law, and the law makes no distinction among the types of payments used to conduct transactions, including bitcoin payments.