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Category Archive: compliance

European Union wants to monitor virtual currencies

On February 2nd the European Commission announced the decision to propose a new regulation for digital currency exchanges and wallet service providers.
In charge of this will be the European Council that has a mandate to do so by next June.

The objective of the new rules will be “to help identify the users who trade in virtual currencies” and also put an end to “the anonymity associated with such exchanges“,

These were the words of Valdis Dombrovskis during yesterday’s press conference: 

By June at the latest we will propose measures to have better control of payment forms such as virtual currencies and anonymous pre-paid cards.” 
Dombrovskis continued by saying that the Commission wants to control and maybe prohibit transactions from high-risk countries that enter the EU: “In June the Commission will come up with an EU blacklist of such countries“, he said. 

Dombrovskis previously commented: “We must cut off terrorists’ access to funds, enable authorities to better track financial flows to prevent devastating attacks such as those in Paris last year, and ensure that money laundering and terrorist financing is sanctioned in all Member States. We want to improve the oversight of the many financial means used by terrorists, from cash and cultural artefacts to virtual currencies and anonymous pre-paid cards, while avoiding unnecessary obstacles to the functioning of payments and financial markets for ordinary, law-abiding citizens”.

So this initiative clearly aims at fighting the potential use of virtual currencies by terrorists or criminals, although there isn’t so much evidence of such use.
In fact, a few days ago Europol concluded that there is no connection between Bitcoin and terrorism: “Despite third party reporting suggesting the use of anonymous currencies like Bitcoin by terrorists to finance their activities, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement”, said Europol.

Virtual currencies and their underlying technologies can provide faster and cheaper financial services, and can become a powerful tool for deepening financial inclusion in the developing world,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who presented IMF paper at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, during the panel Transformation of Finance.

A conclusion of the report is that virtual currencies fall short of the legal concept of currency or money. While acknowledging that there is no generally accepted legal definition of currency or money, the authors note that both are associated with the power of the state to issue currency and regulate the monetary system.

About the author: Amelia Tomasicchio is a writer and a journalist of Bitcoin-related news and articles. She started writing about Bitcoin in 2014 and she graduated in Rome with an essay about movie industry related to Bitcoin.

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Amelia Tomasicchio

Australia investigating banks for anti-competitive behavior when closing Bitcoin company accounts


Australian authorities are looking into the bank account closures of several Bitcoin companies over the last few years. Specifically, the investigation is looking at anti-competitive behavior. Over the last year, bank actions have increasingly embraced blockchain technology instead of shunning it in the form of bank account closures. Though this type of account closure, for simply being associated with Bitcoin, is a common occurence in the United States, China, and some European countries as well, the Australian authorities are the first to look into at scale – a harrowing victory for those using blockchain technology. The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman, Rod Sims, told the Australian Financial Review:

We are asking the banks why they acted as they did and what contact there was between them.

If ground reports from major Bitcoin companies such as BTC-e and OKCoin, that lost their accounts at the National Australia Bank, are to be believed, the contact was sparse and uninformative. Sims confirmed that the investigation had been ongoing for some time. Australian Senator Matthew Canavan also commented on the investigation:

We have strong laws against one business obstructing another business competing against it. These laws are even tougher for those companies that have the privileged position of a significant market share. Our banks wield great influence in the market and they have a great responsibility under our laws to not misuse that position. I am not sure if that has happened in this instance but there is no doubt that digital currencies do pose a threat to business of banks.

Australian Senate that Might Actually Understand Bitcoin and its Promise 

The investigation started as a result of Senatorial interest after the Australian government committed to a deeper understanding of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. One of the conclusions of said research, which has been shared by other governments in the world, was that existing financial laws should be more than enough to prosecute those using Bitcoin for illegal activities. Australia has also had brushes with Bitcoin advocacy groups when a Goods and Services tax was enforced on Bitcoin. Recently, the European Union has also joined the United Kingdom in not enforcing a Value Added Tax on Bitcoin.
A Labor Party Senator, Sam Dastyari, was not surprised to hear about the ACCC investigation. He had previously chaired the Senate investigation into digital currencies. At this time, banks such as the National Australia Bank and other similarly sized institutions around the world are delving into blockchain technology. If anything, this is a clear indication that the swift actions of last year, where both domestic and international Bitcoin companies lost their accounts at Australian banks, were anti-competitive in spirit. Even without the emerging facts regarding bank’s research, investment, and involvement with blockchain projects, the majority of domestic companies brought down by Australian bank action were providing services that were in essence competing with banks.

Australia has a large immigrant population from South East Asia that sends remittances back home. Some of the largest Bitcoin remittance companies are based in South East Asia in countries like the Phillipines or India. In Indonesia, Bitcoin is buyable at any of ten thousand plus IndoMaret stores. Australia now seems aptly prepared to benefit from the coming Bitcoin technology boom (bubble as called by some). Once the investigation is over, and banks are 100% clear on what not to do to Bitcoin companies, expect to see more Bitcoin companies return to Australia.

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EU’s Top Court Rules That Bitcoin Exchange Is Tax-Free

(Bloomberg) Bitcoin and other virtual currencies can be exchanged tax free, the
European Union’s top court said in a ruling that puts them on a more
equal footing with traditional cash.
Value added tax — a type of
sales levy — needn’t be applied because the business involves “the
exchange of different means of payment,” the EU Court of Justice in
Luxembourg ruled Thursday. The case was triggered by a dispute in
Sweden, where David Hedqvist set up a service for the exchange of
mainstream money for bitcoin and vice versa.
Bitcoin
currency, introduced in 2008 by a programmer or group of programmers
under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, has no central issuing authority and
uses a public ledger to verify encrypted transactions. It has gained
traction with merchants selling legitimate products but also has been
used to facilitate illegal transactions because money can be transferred
anonymously.
“Transactions
to exchange traditional currencies for units of the bitcoin virtual
currency (and vice versa) constitute the supply of services” under the
bloc’s law “since they consist of the exchange of different means of
payment,” the court ruled. As such they are exempt from value-added
taxes, it said.
To exclude such transactions from the tax
exemptions given to traditional exchanges “would deprive it of part of
its effects,” given that the exemption’s aim is to counter “the
difficulties connected with determining the taxable amount and the
amount of VAT deductible” in cases of taxation of financial
transactions, the court said.

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Goodbye For Now, NYC

After carefully considering the recent introduction of the BitLicense, HolyTransaction has decided to suspend its business within the state of New York, until such time that more reasonable regulations are put into law. It is unfortunate that the politics in New York have led to this stifling of innovation. Our community is still new, still growing. To limit the possibilities of this technology now would be akin to cutting a flower before it has bloomed.
For those who do not know, BitLicense is over regulating in a number of unfortunate ways. First, and most often cited, is the cost for a business to obtain the license itself. BitStamp has estimated that they have paid nearly $100,000 to apply, between legal fee’s, time allocation, and maintaining compliance.
What happens when every state in the U.S., or every country in the world, crafts their own BitLicense? Businesses will be expected to pay for separate licenses in every area in which they operate; potentially a multi-million dollar requirement that could shut the lights off at many of crypto companies, leaving standing only those who have chosen to comply with rules set out by the very institutions that Bitcoin has rallied against. Abandoning business in states who insist upon excessive profiteering from unnecessary regulation is our best option for the moment.
Our most significant qualms with the BitLicense are directly related to the implications for our customers and their privacy. Some countries have taken a divisive stance on compliance that has led to outrage and feelings of betrayal amongst many of Bitcoins core users. KYC and AML laws have been forced upon every company in the U.S., for instance, that directly hold or handle their customers money. You may have noticed that wallets, or those who once allowed you to trade cash for coins, have suddenly become very interested in your private information. While it has led many to revile these companies to whom they were once loyal, the truth is that these businesses have no choice. 
BitLicense makes its greatest error though in its premature attempt to define what Bitcoin is. The blockchain is such a new frontier for technology that confining the tools built on top of its framework to the parameters of “money” or “property” would be limiting. The only technology with which Bitcoin compares is the Internet, which was once considered to serve the near-exclusive function of sending super fast, super cheap messages in the form of e-mail. Consider what the Internet would be today if it had not been allowed to grow in its earliest years; if it had instead been listed as a postal technology, and had then been regulated as such. This would have limited its development and, ultimately, it would have never become the open forum of information and discourse that our modern world is reliant upon. You cannot know what a technology will become tomorrow if you insist on defining it today.
The circumstances surrounding our and many other company’s exit from New York are unfortunate, but we are holding out hope that future rulings from other jurisdictions will be more reasonable. To our customers, our friends, and our supporters who are affected by this change, we sincerely hope that you will continue to work alongside us to keep the Blockchain open and free, and that we at HolyTransaction will be able to be of service to you again very soon.

Open your free digital wallet here to store your cryptocurrencies in a safe place.

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