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On July 13, 2017, the Bank of Albania declared that the legal and regulatory framework then in place did not envisage carrying out operations with cryptocurrency in Albania and users were exposed to certain risks. The Bank noted that because of the high degree of anonymity, transactions in such currency may be misused for criminal activities, including money laundering, terrorism financing, or the smuggling of goods. The Bank urged the Albanian public to be mature and responsible in the administration of the savings or liquidity they possess, while national and international stakeholders intensively work to adequately regulate and supervise cryptocurrency.
On March 1, 2018, the government of Armenia published a document stating that adoption of a proposed law on cryptocurrencies is not advisable given that the majority of the leading countries urge people to refrain from operations with cryptocurrencies. The document was prepared in response to a draft law on the development of digital technologies introduced by an opposition political party that would provide for the liberalization of mining activities and their exemption from taxes until the end of 2023.
On February 12, 2018, the chairman of the board of Azerbaijan’s Central Bank, Elman Rustamov, stated that cryptocurrency is a very volatile instrument and urged the population to be more careful in dealing with cryptocurrencies. Earlier in January it was reported that a working group has been established to develop a draft law on the regulation of trade in cryptocurrencies.
In Belarus the Presidential Decree on the development of the digital economy came into effect on March 28, 2018. It permits buying, selling, exchanging, and mining cryptocurrency. Most of the tax and currency regulations in the decree extend only to legal entities operating on the territory of the High Technologies Park, a special economic zone. However, individuals are permitted to engage in mining; acquire tokens; and exchange, sell, donate, bequeath, and otherwise dispose of cryptocurrency. Income generated by mining and operations in cryptocurrencies is exempt from taxation until 2023. The Decree also provides for the possibility of the creation of ICO operators in the High Technologies Park. The Park will also host a crypto-exchange and mining operators.
The Decree has not established rules for the operation of ICO operators and the crypto-exchange; these areas will be left to self-regulation. The exchange of cryptocurrency for fiat money must be approved by the National Bank. Operators of cryptocurrency exchanges will be treated as high-risk clients similar to operators of lottery games and casinos.
Businesses operating in the Park are exempt from taxes and only have to pay 1% of their turnover to the government. This arrangement is guaranteed by the government to last until 2049. The minimum capital requirements are 1 million Belarusian rubles (approximately, US$505,000) for the operator of a crypto-platform and 200,000 rubles (approximately US$101,000) for the operator of a cryptocurrency exchange office.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
On January 9, 2018, the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced that the convertible mark (the currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is the only legal means of payment in the country, and it is not possible to exchange bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies for convertible mark. At the same time, the Bank stated that there were no plans to limit or prevent the purchase of and trading in virtual currencies.
On December 20, 2017, the National Bank of Georgia confirmed that cryptocurrency is not legal tender in Georgia and is not regulated by Georgian law. The Bank urged Georgian citizens to be careful in dealing with cryptocurrencies.
The government of Gibraltar recently introduced regulations governing the provision of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and is currently in the process of introducing draft legislation to regulate initial coin offerings (ICOs). It is also considering a further regulatory framework that would address the sale and promotion of tokens to complement the DLT regulations.
On October 12, 2017, the government of Gibraltar introduced the Financial Services (Distributed Ledger Technology Providers) Regulations 2017 under the Financial Services (Investment and Fiduciary Services) Act. These Regulations entered into force on January 1, 2018. The regulatory framework covers firms that operate in or from Gibraltar and provide DLT services, defined in the Financial Services (Investment and Fiduciary Services) Act as “carrying on by way of business, in or from Gibraltar, the use of distributed ledger technology for storing or transmitting value belonging to others.” The regulations require these firms to apply for a license from the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission to become a DLT provider.
DLT license holders are also required to pay an annual fee, charged at a flat rate of £10,000 (approximately US$14,000), although an additional fee of up to £20,000 (approximately US$28,000) may be charged “depending upon the complexity of regulating the DLT Provider.” Companies that are currently licensed under the existing financial legislation in Gibraltar and use DLT to
improve their controls, procedures and processes will not need to obtain a separate licence under the DLT framework, unless the activities are not currently caught within the scope of the licence they hold... However, if [they] are licensed as a bank, but intend to provide virtual currency wallets and/or services [they] will be required to obtain a licence under the DLT regime.
DLT providers must comply with Gibraltar’s requirements concerning anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism, as well as those of any jurisdiction in which they also operate.
Under the Regulations the provision of DLT services without a license is an offense, punishable with a fine of up to £10,000 (approximately US$14,000). The government of Gibraltar claims that the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission is the first regulator to introduce a framework regulating Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). The aim of introducing the legislation is to protect consumers and the reputation of Gibraltar as a well-regulated and safe environment for firms that use DLT, and enable Gibraltar to prosper from the use and growth of new financial technology.
The government of Gibraltar has expressed concern over the use of tokenized digital assets (tokens) and cryptocurrency given by companies to raise capital and bypass the traditional, regulated, capital-raising process required by financial institutions or venture capitalists. It is currently working to develop legislation to regulate the use of tokens, “essentially those created and traded using [DLT]” that will align with the DLT regulations and expects a bill to be before Parliament by the second quarter of 2018.
Guernsey is a Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom and is a low-tax jurisdiction with a large financial sector. In 2014, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, which is responsible for supervising and regulating licensees from the banking, fiduciary, insurance, and investment sectors, issued a statement that the Commission was adopting a cautionary approach towards “virtual currencies” and may refuse application to register financial service businesses if virtual currency is involved.Specifically,
the Commission has a policy of encouraging innovation. Virtual currencies are an area of innovation which the Commission continues to monitor closely while recognising that there are currently significant risks associated with them. In the light of those risks, the Commission will adopt a cautious approach and may well refuse applications to register financial services business where the use of virtual currency is involved. However, this approach will be regularly reviewed in the light of international developments.
In 2015, a report commissioned by the Guernsey government noted that the major drawback for cryptocurrencies was the difficulty in complying with international anti-money laundering standards. Three years after the issuance of the first statement, on February 27, 2018, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission issued a further statement that it believes there are “significant risks in the use of virtual or crypto currencies especially for retail customers. Nevertheless, we understand that professional investors with a high-risk appetite may wish to invest in this developing sector.”
The Financial Services Commission has stated that it will assess any application on its individual merits against the criteria used for asset types or structures, as cryptocurrencies “could interact with [the countries] regulatory laws in a number of ways.” Applicants must demonstrate how they will comply with the laws and rules to counter financial crime and terrorist financing, with particularly regard to establishing the identity of both investors and beneficial owners. The Commission has stated that it would continue to be cautious to approve applications for initial coin offerings that could later be traded on the secondary market due to the risk of fraud and money laundering, along with applications for any kinds of digital currency exchanges.
The legality of cryptocurrencies in Iceland is unclear. In 2014, the Central Bank of Iceland, in anticipation of the launch of the Icelandic peer-to-peer cryptocurrency Auroracoin, announced that bitcoin was not a recognized currency and even if it was, purchases of bitcoins would still be illegal as such purchases would have violated the foreign transactions restrictions then in place. The Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act then specified that Icelandic currency could not leave the country. A purchase of an overseas-based cryptocurrency would have been a violation of the Act, as the cryptocurrency would have been considered purchased from abroad.
Since then, however, Iceland has eased its foreign exchange and asset control rules and now allows for cross-border transactions of Icelandic krónur. However, according to the Icelandic Central Bank, restrictions on so-called offshore króna assets and special reserve requirements for specified investments in connection with new inflows of foreign currency will remain in place. For example, there is still a requirement to notify the Icelandic Central Bank of international purchases of Icelandic krónur and derivative transactions, and rules also require a special reserve when there is an inflow of a foreign currency into Iceland. Restrictions will also remain in place on “i) derivatives trading for purposes other than hedging; ii) foreign exchange transactions carried out between residents and non-residents without the intermediation of a financial undertaking; and iii) in certain instances, foreign-denominated lending by residents to non-residents.” It is possible that trade and investments in cryptocurrencies would be limited by these regulations. Because cross-border transactions with Icelandic krónur are allowed, however, bitcoins would not be limited for this reason alone.
The Central Bank of Iceland has not commented on whether cryptocurrency transactions are transactions “carried out between residents and nonresidents without the intermediation of a financial undertaking.”
The Icelandic Tax Authority has issued guidelines for filing income taxes for the tax year 2017, requiring that bitcoins be included under section 4.4, “Aðrar eignir áður ótaldar” (Other Assets). The value of cryptocurrency holdings is based on the prevailing exchange rate on December 31 of the tax year.
Reportedly, members of Parliament are considering adopting legislation that would tax companies that mine cryptocurrencies in Iceland, based on their usage of natural resources (electricity).
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man is a Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom and is a low-tax jurisdiction with a robust online gambling industry and burgeoning financial sector. Referred to in some reports as “Bitcoin Island,” many establishments across the Island already accept bitcoins as payment alongside its national currency.
The Isle of Man was an early adopter of legislation to regulate cryptocurrencies within its jurisdiction. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2008 was amended in 2015 to include virtual currency businesses within its regulated sector as a “designated business,” specifically those that are in
the business of issuing, transmitting, transferring, providing safe custody or storage of, administering, managing, lending, buying, selling, exchanging or otherwise trading or intermediating convertible virtual currencies, including crypto-currencies or similar concepts where the concept is accepted by persons as a means of payment for goods.
This amendment brought businesses that engaged in these activities, including those that wish to offer initial coin offerings (ICO), within the ambit of its anti-money laundering laws, requiring the use of know-your-customer practices, such as collecting identifying information, knowing the beneficial owner of any currency, and record keeping and reporting requirements for certain transactions. These businesses are overseen by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority to ensure compliance with these laws.
The Isle of Man distinguishes between four different types of online currencies:
- Digital currency refers to any electronic representation of a fiat currency and this can include representations of virtual currency.
- Virtual currency is a narrower asset and is a digital representation of value which can be traded digitally. The nature of a virtual currency means that it does not need to be centrally controlled or administered. Virtual currency can be either convertible or non-convertible.
- Convertible virtual currency, which includes crypto-currency, can be converted into a fiat currency, either directly, or through an exchange. For a currency to be convertible, there does not need to be set rate or an established benchmark, but that merely a market exists and the ownership rights can be transferred from one person to another, whether for consideration or not.
- Non-convertible virtual currency, once purchased, cannot be transferred to another person and cannot be redeemed for fiat currency, either directly or through an exchange. (Note that the Schedule 4 to POCA [Proceeds of Crime Act] definition does not extend to non-convertible currency businesses).
The Designated Business (Registration and Oversight) Act 2015 provides that virtual currency businesses are designated businesses, requiring such businesses to register with, and be overseen by, the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority. Virtual currency businesses are defined in the Act as those that are in
the business of issuing, transmitting, transferring, providing safe custody or storage of, administering, managing, lending, buying, selling, exchanging or otherwise trading or intermediating convertible virtual currencies, including crypto-currencies or similar concepts where the concept is accepted by persons as a means of payment for goods or services, a unit of account, a store of value or a commodity.
Businesses registered under this Act are required to submit annual returns that show compliance with anti-money laundering laws. The register of companies that engage in cryptocurrencies and operate from the Island has been created using blockchain technology to store the data, making the Isle of Man the first government to use this type of technology to store official data, according to Bloomberg.
For ICOs, the FSA has stated that it will not register an applicant if the ICO provides tokens that do not offer any benefit to the purchaser other than the token itself, because
such characteristics are generally considered by the FSA to pose an unacceptably high risk that the money raised from the ICO could be used for unanticipated and illegal purposes, as well as posing a risk to consumers. It is because of these risks that it is the policy of the FSA to refuse to register this type of business.
The Isle of Man recently amended its online gambling laws to enable operators to accept virtual currencies.
Jersey is a Crown Dependency of the United Kingdom and is a low-tax jurisdiction with a large financial sector. The jurisdiction issued a consultation on the regulation of cryptocurrencies in 2015, noting “the creation of a business-friendly framework that encourages innovation, jobs and growth in both the financial services and digital sectors is a priority for the Government of Jersey.” The majority response to the consultation was that cryptocurrencies should be regulated only to the extent of ensuring compliance with anti-money laundering laws and to counter the financing of terrorism. The government or Jersey rejected “a full prudential and conduct of business regime” for cryptocurrencies, as it considered it was too early to issue such regulations given that cryptocurrencies are in the early stages of development and that doing so could be over-burdensome, and restrict development and innovation.
The result of the consultation was the issuance of a document by the Chief Minister’s Department explaining Jersey’s policy position regarding the regulation of virtual currencies. According to the document,
ultimately, the aim of this policy is to further enhance Jersey’s proposition as a world leading Fintech jurisdiction... and to outline Jersey’s commitment to creating an environment that encourages confidence and innovation in the digital sector whilst protecting the Island from the most prominent money laundering and terrorist financing risks that are presented by virtual currencies in their current form.
Jersey’s anti-money laundering laws and counterterrorism financing laws were extended to cover cryptocurrencies through measures that entered into force on September 26, 2016. “Virtual currencies” are defined in the Proceeds of Crime Act as a currency rather than a commodity, thus enabling it to fall within the current regulatory framework and be regulated by the Jersey Financial Services Commission. Specifically, the Act defines “virtual currency” as
(4) . . . any currency which (whilst not itself being issued by, or legal tender in, any jurisdiction) –
(a) digitally represents value;
(b) is a unit of account;
(c) functions as a medium of exchange; and
(d) is capable of being digitally exchanged for money in any form.
The term “virtual currency exchange” is defined in the Act as “the exchange of virtual currency for money in any form, or vice versa,” with the clarification that “a reference to providing a service to third parties shall not include a company’s providing that service to a connected company.”
Virtual currencies were also brought within the ambit of the Money Laundering (Jersey) Order 2008, which requires individuals operating a “Money Service Business” to register with the Jersey Financial Services Commission and comply with the jurisdiction’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws if they have an annual turnover greater than £150,000 (approximately US$210,000). Subject to certain exemptions, these laws require such businesses to adopt policies and procedures to prevent and detect money laundering and terrorist financing and appoint a money laundering compliance officer and reporting officer, along with ensuring that record keeping and customer due diligence measures are implemented, such as know-your-customer measures to one-off transactions greater than €1,000 (approximately US$1,220).
Businesses that trade in goods and receive payments of €15,000 (approximately US$18,500) and above per transaction in cryptocurrency are classed as “high value dealers” under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1999. Such dealers must be registered and supervised by the Jersey Financial Services Commission and comply with Jersey’s money laundering and counter terrorist financing laws.
At the time of the consultation, the government considered the regulation of distributed ledger and blockchain technology but considered that this area was evolving too quickly to regulate effectively. It opted to actively monitor these areas for development and consideration of regulation in the future.
The Central Bank of Kosovo has issued several warnings about the use of cryptocurrencies. The latest, published on January 31, 2018, reminded persons that virtual money is not recognized as legal tender and that financial losses may result from investing in cryptocurrencies. The Bank also noted the unreliability of virtual platforms for trading in cryptocurrencies and their susceptibility to cybertheft. The Bank said it is considering adapting recommendations made internationally to limit the anonymous use of cryptocurrencies and to enact rules to combat money laundering and terrorist financing via such currencies.
On February 27, 2018, the Bank announced the establishment of a permanent advisory group for evaluating and addressing regulatory challenges related to virtual money.
Liechtenstein has included “virtual currencies” in the latest amendment of its Due Diligence Act. The due diligence obligations codified in the Act serve to combat money laundering, organized crime, and terrorist financing and apply to providers of exchange services, among others. An “exchange office (bureau de change)” is defined as any “natural or legal person whose activities consist in the exchange of legal tender at the official exchange rate or of virtual currencies against legal tender and vice versa.” “Virtual currencies” are defined as “digital monetary units, which can be exchanged for legal tender, used to purchase goods or services or to preserve value and thus assume the function of legal tender.”
The Financial Market Authority of Liechtenstein (Finanzmarktaufsicht, FMA) has issued a factsheet on virtual currencies like bitcoin. It stated that virtual currencies are generally defined as a “digital representation of a (cash equivalent) value that is neither issued by a central bank or a public authority” and do not constitute fiat currency (legal tender). However, it is pointed out that virtual currencies are similar to fiat currencies when they are used as a means of payment or traded on an exchange. The production and the use of virtual currencies as a means of payment are currently not subject to any licensing requirement governed by specialized legislation. However, the FMA states that depending on the specific design of the business model, licensing requirements might apply. Business models are assessed on a case-by-case basis. In particular, due diligence requirements according to the Due Diligence Act may apply.
The FMA has also issued a factsheet on ICOs. Depending on the specific design and the function of the tokens, tokens may constitute financial instruments if they have characteristics of equity securities or other investments. Activities relating to financial instruments are subject to licensing by the FMA. The FMA assesses ICOs on a case-by-case basis.
On September 28, 2016, the National Bank of Macedonia issued a warning against cryptocurrencies. The Bank reminded Macedonian residents that they are not allowed to have bank accounts or securities abroad, with certain exceptions, and therefore, investments by residents in cryptocurrencies are also not allowed. The Bank also underscored the possibility of losing money on cryptocurrency investments due to devaluation, theft, the poor functioning of cryptocurrency exchanges, and possible links to criminal activities.
On February 15, 2018, the National Bank of Moldova issued a statement recommending that Moldovans be as cautious as possible in deciding whether to invest in crypto-assets, given the technical characteristics of cryptocurrency, its high volatility, and the absence of any regulation that would protect investors.
In Transnistria, a breakaway territory of Moldova, a law was passed on January 31, 2018, to legalize mining activities. It provides for creation of free economic zones for mining purposes. The authorities of the self-proclaimed republic promise exemption from taxes, duty-free import and export of mining equipment, and assistance with energy supply.
In November 2014 the Central Bank of Montenegro reportedly issued a warning saying that individuals may own bitcoins at their own risk, although virtual currencies are not legal tender in Montenegro.
The Norwegian Financial Supervisory Authority issued warnings against cryptocurrencies both in 2013 and 2018. It has also warned against initial coin offerings (ICOs). Both warnings came as a result of warnings by the European Supervisory Authority, ESMA.
The Central Bank of Norway has not recognized cryptocurrencies, but it also does not prohibit its staff from owning or investing in them as per ethical guidelines from November 23, 2012.
The Norwegian Tax Authority has issued a principle statement that bitcoins will be treated as capital property, at least for tax purposes. Capital property legislation allows deductions for losses and taxes 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.
All Norwegian residents are required to report taxable income (including from capital gains such as those from cryptocurrencies) in accordance with the Norwegian Income Tax Act. Such income derived from cryptocurrencies should be filed as “other income.”
Sales of cryptocurrencies are exempt from Norwegian value-added tax (VAT). In a 2013 statement the Norwegian Tax Authority determined that the sale of bitcoins by a commercial actor was subject to a 25% VAT as the trade in bitcoins on a web-based site is an electronic service subject to VAT and not a VAT-exempt financial service. However, in 2015 the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that cryptocurrencies are exempt from VAT. This caused Norway to start a process whereby the Finance Department was to determine how bitcoins (and other cryptocurrencies) should be treated in relation to VAT. Final guidance was issued in 2017, establishing that the sale of cryptocurrencies is exempt from VAT.
A draft law on digital financial assets was published by the Ministry of Finances on January 20, 2018 and introduced in the State Duma on March 20, 2018. The bill defines “mining” as activities aimed at the creation of cryptocurrency with the purpose of receiving compensation in the form of cryptocurrency. Mining is treated as an entrepreneurial activity subject to taxation if the miner exceeds the energy consumption limits established by the government for three months in a row. As to initial coin offerings (ICO), only qualified investors are allowed to participate in them, except for cases to be defined by the Central Bank, according to news reports. Tokens and coins are classified in the bill as property and are not considered legal tender. The bill does not authorize the exchange of cryptocurrency for rubles or foreign currency. The exchange of tokens for rubles and foreign currency is allowed but only through licensed operators.The bill also provides a definition of a “smart contract.”
The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications has presented its own concept of the draft law on digital financial assets. It recommends introducing the term “industrial mining,” registering miners with the tax office, and setting forth requirements for energy consumption. It also recommends exempting miners from taxation for a period of two years to stimulate their activities. Earlier the Ministry had offered to create a special exchange platform for the miners to ensure the transparency of cryptocurrency exchange.
Separately, amendments were introduced to the Civil Code in order to protect the rights of the owners of cryptocurrency coins and tokens. The document defines “digital money” and “digital rights,” and provides for their judicial protection. The authors say that these regulations will allow coins and tokens to be included in a bankruptcy estate or a deceased person’s estate.
It is expected that the legislative framework for cryptocurrency regulation will be enacted by July 1, 2018, after which the rules on the taxation of cryptocurrency operations will be introduced.
The National Bank of Serbia made two announcements, one on October 2, 2014, and the other on May 4, 2016, to clarify that “anyone investing in bitcoins or engaging in any other activity involving virtual currencies shall do so at their own liability, bearing all financial risks and risks in terms of noncompliance with regulations governing foreign exchange operations, taxation, trade, etc.” The Bank explained that bitcoin is not legal tender in Serbia and cannot be subject to sale and purchase by banks or licensed exchange dealers. The Bank said that a particular issue is the use of virtual currency to acquire other goods and services, adding that the law requires prices to be expressed in Serbian dinars and that expressing the prices of goods or services in virtual currency would be against the provisions of the law. The Bank said it would consider, in cooperation with other state authorities, whether there is any need for designing a regulatory or other response in relation to cryptocurrencies.
The Swiss Canton of Zug is trying to establish itself as a hub for cryptocurrencies and Fintech start-ups. On November 2, 2017, the Commercial Register Office in the Canton of Zug started accepting bitcoin and ether as payment for administrative costs. Furthermore, the Commercial Register accepts cryptocurrencies as a contribution in kind for purposes of forming a company. In the city of Zug, municipal services (resident registration) of up to CHF200 (about US$210) can be paid with bitcoin.
On January 1, 2018, the municipality of Chiasso, in the Swiss Canton of Ticino, started accepting bitcoin as tax payments for amounts of up to CHF250 (around US$263).
On February 16, 2018, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Eidgenössische Finanzmarktaufsicht, FINMA) published guidelines on the regulatory treatment of ICOs, which complement its earlier FINMA Guidance from September 2017. Currently, there is no ICO-specific regulation, nor is there relevant case law or consistent legal doctrine. FINMA stated that due to the fact that each ICO is designed in a different way, it must be decided on a case-by-case basis whether and which financial regulations are applicable.
In an ICO, investors receive blockchain-based coins or tokens in exchange for the funds they transfer. The tokens are created and stored either on a blockchain specifically created for the ICO or on a pre-existing blockchain. FINMA differentiates between payment tokens (cryptocurrencies), utility tokens, and asset tokens. Payment tokens (cryptocurrencies) are defined as tokens that are used as a means of payment or as a means of money or value transfer. Utility tokens are those that provide digital access to an application or service by means of a blockchain-based infrastructure. Asset tokes represent assets such as a debt or an equity claim against the issuer. According to FINMA, asset tokens are analogous to equities, bonds, and derivatives.
Operators of financial market infrastructures are subject to authorization by FINMA. If the tokens received in an ICO qualify as securities, trading will require authorization. Securities are defined as “standardised certificated or uncertificated securities, derivatives and intermediated securities which are suitable for mass standardised trading,” meaning they are “publicly offered for sale in the same structure and denomination or are placed with more than 20 clients, insofar as they have not been created especially for individual counterparties.” FINMA does not treat payment tokens or utility tokens whose sole purpose is to confer digital access rights as securities. However, utility tokens that have an additional investment purpose or a sole investment purpose at the time of issue, as well as asset tokens that are standardized and suitable for mass standardized trading, are classified as securities.
Funds raised in an ICO generally do not qualify as deposits within the meaning of the Banking Act. However, if there are liabilities with debt capital character, for example a promise to return capital with a guaranteed return, then such an ICO would require the organizer to obtain a banking license. When assets collected as part of the ICO are managed externally by third parties, the provisions of the Collective Investment Schemes Act apply. Provisions on combating money laundering and terrorist financing, which give rise to a range of due diligence requirements, apply to the ICO of a payment token (cryptocurrency) as soon as the tokens can be technically transferred on a blockchain infrastructure. In addition, the exchange of a cryptocurrency for fiat money or a different cryptocurrency as well as the offering of services to transfer tokens if the service provider maintains the private key (custody wallet provider) equally trigger the due diligence requirements according to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
In September 2017, FINMA closed down the unauthorized providers of the fake cryptocurrency “E-Coin”, liquidated the companies, and issued a general warning about fake cryptocurrencies to investors. Furthermore, three other companies were put on FINMA’s warning list due to suspicious activity and eleven investigations were conducted into other presumably unauthorized business models relating to such coins.
In Switzerland, the individual cantons, the Swiss states, are obligated to levy income tax and wealth tax on the total property (assets and rights with a cash value) of taxpayers that are resident in their canton. Tax rates vary between the individual cantons. Cryptocurrencies are treated like foreign currencies for tax purposes and are subject to wealth tax. Holders of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies are taxed at the rate determined by the tax authorities on December 31 of the fiscal year. As an example, the tax rate for bitcoin determined on December 31, 2017, by the Swiss Federal Tax Administration was CHF13,784.38 (about US$14,514). This rate is a recommendation for the cantonal tax authorities.
In January 2018, the Swiss State Secretariat for International Finance (Staatssekretariat für internationale Finanzfragen, SIF) reported that it would set up a working group on blockchain and ICOs. The working group will work together with the Federal Ministry of Justice and FINMA and involve interested businesses. It will study the legal framework for financial sector-specific use of blockchain technology with a particular focus on ICOs and report back to the Federal Council, the Swiss government, by the end of 2018.
On November 30, 2017, the financial regulators of Ukraine issued a joint statement on the status of cryptocurrencies in the country. According to the statement, cryptocurrencies cannot be classified as money, foreign currency, a means of payment, electronic money, securities, or a money surrogate. The regulators also stated that they continue to work on defining the legal status of cryptocurrencies and the legislative regulation of transactions involving them. The regulators warned about the extremely high probability of losses in dealing with cryptocurrencies and said all investors in cryptocurrencies should realize that they are acting at their own peril and risk.
On January 11, 2018, the cybersecurity unit of the National Security and Defense Council issued a statement saying that Ukraine can no longer allow the uncontrolled turnover of cryptocurrency on its territory and that the Council plans to create a working group to develop the regulatory framework, determine the regulatory body and the procedures for monitoring, identifying and taxing transactions with cryptocurrency. On January 30, 2018, the head of the cybercrime department of the Police stated that circulation of cryptocurrencies must be banned if its legal status is not regulated in the near future. In March of 2018 the government approved supplementing the classification of economic activities with a paragraph on cryptocurrency mining.
In late 2017 Ukrainian MPs introduced two alternative draft bills that would regulate cryptocurrencies, one of which would define them as goods and the other as financial assets. However, both drafts were rejected by the country’s financial regulators.
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