As cryptocurrencies become ever more popular and more people become aware of what they are, the markets are heating up! Bitcoin is over a decade old, and hundreds of altcoins are bought and sold on every exchange.
With all of this going on, governments are considering regulating cryptocurrencies. The decentralized nature of crypto can make this difficult, and some folks even wonder about the legality of cryptocurrencies, asking: is Bitcoin legal?
In this article, we are going to explore the legality of Bitcoin and answer questions that many people who are not too familiar with crypto may be asking.
- 1 Why would Bitcoin be illegal in the first place?
- 2 Bitcoin Has Plenty of Legal Uses
- 3 Which countries have laws on cryptocurrencies?
- 3. 1 United States of America
- 3. 2 United Kingdom
- 3. 3 Japan
- 3. 4 Mexico
- 3. 5 Egypt
- 3. 6 Europe
- 3. 7 India
- 3. 8 China
- 3. 9 Canada
- 3. 10 Bolivia
- 3. 11 Argentina
- 3. 12 Bangladesh
- 3. 13 Australia
- 3. 14 Iran
- 3. 15 Morocco
- 3. 16 Russia
- 3. 17 Germany
- 3. 18 Pakistan
- 3. 19 Namibia
- 3. 20 Vietnam
- 3. 21 Iceland
- 3. 22 Singapore
- 3. 23 Thailand
- 3. 24 Ecuador
- 3. 25 Costa Rica
- 3. 26 Switzerland
- 3. 27 Ukraine
- 3. 28 Sweden
- 3. 29 Ireland
- 3. 30 New Zealand
- 3. 31 Netherlands
- 3. 32 France
- 3. 33 Portugal
- 3. 34 Italy
- 3. 35 Malta
- 3. 36 Norway
- 3. 37 Finland
- 4 That’s the Scoop
Why would Bitcoin be illegal in the first place?
There are many factors that world governments look over when it comes to cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin itself provides a highly transparent platform. It is an immutable ledger that records every transaction made on the network, and anyone can look over the blockchain. It enables anyone to send money and transact with anyone else, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Activity can be slightly anonymized, as Bitcoin users can generate new wallets whenever they wish. Still, the amount sent from one wallet to another will always be broadcast to the Bitcoin network. Governments, tax auditors, and even your Grandma can look at the blockchain and see transactions happening in real time.
Many people who aren’t familiar with Bitcoin have heard some negative things about it in the news in the past. When the dark web marketplace, Silk Road, was online, Bitcoin was the currency of choice for those who bought and sold on the platform. When the owner and creator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested in 2013 and authorities seized the Silk Road marketplace, it made international news.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have also been used for money laundering. Criminals would send their dirty bitcoins to online services called Bitcoin mixers or tumblers, which would then bounce the coins worldwide to various wallets usually hosted on the dark web. The dirty Bitcoin was cleaned, sending new coins to the criminals’ wallets. They could even trade the bitcoins for various altcoins and then convert them back into Bitcoin, making the digital breadcrumbs that much harder for authorities to follow if needed.
Because of instances like this, many people have viewed Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as only being attractive to people who are up to no good.
Bitcoin isn’t alone here, however. Every single currency in the world has been used for illicit activities, and unlike cash, Bitcoin leaves a serious digital trail behind. Cash doesn’t provide a transparent ledger for anyone in the world to peer through like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies do.
Bitcoin Has Plenty of Legal Uses
For every potential illegal use, Bitcoin has plenty of legal uses.
Fast payments to anyone:
Bitcoin offers everyone in the world the ability to store their coins safely and send them to anyone else in the world. Transaction fees are small and usually go through very quickly. Bitcoin allows you to own your money and spend it freely with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
With the volatility of the crypto market, many people like to buy coins and do the long play, where they hold their coins until they reach a specified value. They are then free to sell the coins they’ve been holding.
Making money through trading:
There are so many people in the world making money through trading Bitcoin and hundreds of other altcoins on all of the various crypto exchanges, such as Binance. Long-term traders, as well as day traders, watch the charts day and night, making decisions for trades and even having bots handling some of their trading activity.
Spending bitcoins with legitimate businesses:
Many businesses around the world accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies these days. Thousands of people into Bitcoin can go into these stores, whether physical or online, and spend their Bitcoins on consumer goods, groceries, and more.
Donating to content creators:
This is a major use of the altcoin Dogecoin, but it can be done with Bitcoin, too. Many sites have donation buttons in their footers showing their crypto addresses. Folks who enjoy the site’s content can donate some coins to their favorite content creators, feeling good that they are supporting their favorite creators and encouraging them to keep making cool stuff.
The notion that anyone who uses or is interested in cryptocurrencies is a criminal is false. They may love the idea of truly owning their money, protecting their privacy, the ideologies behind crypto, or just making money through trading.
Which countries have laws on cryptocurrencies?
Several countries worldwide have begun to sit up and take notice of Bitcoin, adopting some regulations and laws regarding cryptocurrencies. Some countries have even banned cryptocurrencies altogether.
Let’s explore some of these countries and the laws and regulations they have enacted on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies so you won’t have to wonder if Bitcoin is legal in your country.
United States of America
The United States has kept a generally positive outlook on Bitcoin. U.S. authorities want to ensure that crypto isn’t being used for illegal purposes while recognizing the legitimate uses of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
The United States Treasury has classified Bitcoin and exchanges as money services or financial institutions instead of labeling it as a currency. With this classification, U.S.in line with the Bank Secrecy Act, all exchanges and payment processors operating in the United States must ensure that they meet the requirements for legal operations. This means they must stay on top of reporting and record-keeping and meet KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti Money Laundering) laws.
The Internal Revenue Service has billed Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as digital assets, meaning they are taxable, and traders need to report them as income after converting their coins into fiat currency.
Some U.S. states have even drafted their Theylaws regarding Bitcoin. New York wrote the BitLicense Act in 2015, giving Bitcoin businesses and startups the green light to operate within the state. Later, in 2017, Washington wrote and passed a bill that applied money-transmitting laws to cryptocurrency exchanges.
In the U.K., the Financial Conduct Authority has declared Bitcoin a commodity and has no plans for crypto regulation.
Japan was the first country . Theyto declare Bitcoin as legal tender. Japan passed a law in 2017 bringing cryptocurrency exchanges under Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering laws.
Japan also has the Financial Services Agency, which checks up on exchanges and can suspend them if they are not up to snuff. Two exchanges have been suspended in Japan, with others being issued improvement orders to up their game in the security department.
Mexico banned banks from dealing with virtual currencies in 2014. The next year, however, the Mexican finance ministry said that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be used for payments and were subject to money laundering laws while also clarifying they do not consider Bitcoin legal tender.
Later, in 2017, the Mexican national legislature wrote and passed a bill bringing cryptocurrency exchanges under central banks' oversight.
Egypt has taken a harsher approach to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with the Grand Mufti declaring Bitcoin trading forbidden in 2018. However, it’s not technically legally binding because it is only forbidden in Islamic law, thanks to the risk associated with trading.
The European Central Bank is doing its best to push for tighter regulations on cryptocurrencies as part of a larger operation working to crack down on money laundering. They also recognize, however, that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are commodities that recognize no borders.
In 2017, European Central Bank officials said they didn’t perceive Bitcoin as a threat. The institution's president, Mario Draghi, offered more clarification, saying that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies weren’t mature enough for legal regulations.
The Indian central bank has issued warnings against cryptocurrencies, clarifying in 2017 that Bitcoin is not legal tender. The Indian government does not currently have any regulations covering Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies but may be considering introducing regulations in the future.
The Indian central bank has, however, banned financial institutions in India from working with Bitcoin exchanges and other cryptocurrency-related services. The ban has been challenged, and as of August 2019, the Indian Supreme Court is still considering the case.
China has no current plans to ban cryptocurrencies (it has the largest crypto market in the world), but it has cracked down on certain aspects. Payment processors and other financial institutions in China are barred from having anything to do with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
Canada has remained quite Bitcoin-friendly. It was one of the first countries to introduce any type of legislation for cryptocurrencies, passing Bill C-31 in 2014. This bill deemed virtual currency businesses to be money services, which brings them into compliance with Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering laws.
The Canada Revenue Agency declared Bitcoin a commodity and considers income from cryptocurrency ventures as business income. This means that it is taxable, with taxation dependent on whether a business offers buying and selling services or whether the business just revolves around investing and trading in different cryptocurrencies.
Bolivia has taken a staunch position against Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies. In 2014, the country officially banned all digital currencies, allowing people to transact only with currency issued by the Bolivian government.
Argentina has no laws or regulations regarding cryptocurrencies. The Argentinian central banks, however, have issued warnings about the risks involved in using cryptocurrencies.
Bangladesh is another country that is not a big fan of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. In 2015, Bangladesh officially declared the use of all cryptocurrencies as illegal, and citizens caught using it could get jail time as it is a punishable offense.
As of 2017, cryptocurrency exchanges in Australia have to register with Austrac, the Australian financial intelligence agency. This is to ensure all crypto exchanges and other businesses related to Bitcoin comply with Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering laws.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in Australia are considered bartered goods instead of assets or legitimate currency. As such, income gained through Bitcoin trading and investments is still taxable by the Australian government. The Australian government also debated a bill to place criminal charges on exchanges operating in the country without the proper licensing.
Australian central banks have said that further regulations for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not needed for using cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.
In 2018, Iranian central banks declared that businesses should have nothing to do with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It is also reported that there is often censorship on cryptocurrency-related websites in the country.
In 2017, Morocco declared that using cryptocurrencies within the country was illegal and violated foreign exchange laws and regulations.
Russia is friendly toward Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, doing its best to protect citizens from fraudulent schemes and other scams while allowing businesses and individuals to work with cryptocurrencies.
In 2017, Vladimir Putin issued a mandate that called for creating, developing, and implementing a single payment space in the Eurasian Economic Union. This would allow for the proper licensing of crypto mining operations and more heavily scrutinize the sale of new tokens in the case of exit scams from creators.
Germany considers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies legal tender. Germany also taxes cryptocurrencies differently, depending on whether German financial officials deal with miners, traders, businesses, or just regular users.
In 2018, the Central Bank of Pakistan banned financial companies from working with cryptocurrency businesses. However, bitcoin remains legal for individuals and businesses in the country.
Namibia is another country staunchly opposed to cryptocurrencies, declaring any purchases made with Bitcoin illegal.
Vietnam has declared Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies illegal for financial institutions, other businesses, and citizens. The Vietnamese government links cryptocurrencies to money laundering and does not see any digital currency as a legitimate form of payment.
Bitcoin trading is banned in Iceland as the Icelandic government does not think Bitcoin is compatible with their Foreign Exchange Act. Interestingly enough, a new cryptocurrency called Auroracoin was launched in Iceland, with its founders looking to build an attractive alternative to the Icelandic banking system.
Singapore’s Monetary Authority has examined whether rules are needed to protect Bitcoin investors but has placed no ban on the trading or use of Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. Singapore is, however, looking to add Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering laws and financing rules on exchanges.
A regulatory framework for Bitcoin payments in Singapore is being worked on, and Singapore's central banks have issued warnings on the risks associated with using cryptocurrencies.
Thailand originally outlawed Bitcoin and every other digital currency. In 2014, though, they quickly reversed the decision. Clarification was added that Bitcoin is not legal tender, and the central banks warned of the risks associated with using cryptocurrencies.
Thailand is now looking to approve a few new laws regarding cryptocurrencies. These laws would set forth rules that would protect investors in Bitcoin and set Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering regulations, along with making any income from Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies taxable income.
The National Assembly of Ecuador officially banned Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies in 2014, setting guidelines for creating, developing, and implementing a new currency handled and run by the state.
Costa Rica's central banks announced that while the Costa Rican government does not view Bitcoin and other digital currencies as legitimate currencies, they are not illegal. They are also not backed or regulated by any Costa Rican laws.
However, some merchants in Costa Rica are open for business and accept Bitcoin and some other cryptocurrencies as a means of payment.
Switzerland is very Bitcoin-friendly. Bitcoin can be used to pay city fees, and Swiss Federal Railways, the railway company owned by the Swiss government, even sells Bitcoin on its ticket machines.
Crypto-related businesses in Switzerland must comply with Know Your Customer and Anti Money Laundering laws and may need to obtain a banking license in some cases. Aside from this, Switzerland has no legal stipulations or regulations in place regarding the use of Bitcoin by businesses or citizens.
In Ukraine, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not legally regulated. Mining operations are seen as legal types of entrepreneurship.
Sweden is another country that is very friendly to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Sweden has proclaimed Bitcoin and other digital currencies as legitimate forms of payment, and crypto exchanges operating in Sweden must comply with Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering laws.
Ireland has no laws or regulations regarding Bitcoin or any other digital currency.
New Zealand has no laws or regulations regarding Bitcoin or any other digital currency. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand stated that “non-banks do not require approval for schemes that involve the storage or transfer of data such as bitcoins, as long as they do not involve issuing physical circulating currency such as notes and coins.”
The Netherlands has no laws or regulations regarding using Bitcoin or other digital currency.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are perfectly legal in France, with laws and regulations passed by the French government in 2014 pertaining to the taxation of digital assets and crypto exchanges.
Portugal has no laws or regulations regarding Bitcoin or any other digital currency aboutat present.
Italy has no laws regarding using Bitcoin or other digital currencies by private citizens, though some laws are being written up for business uses.
Malta is looking to be friendly to cryptocurrencies. Malta has no laws regarding Bitcoin, and the country's Prime Minister announced his approval of a nationwide strategy to promote Bitcoin and blockchain tech. The Prime Minister praised Bitcoin and blockchain technology for its ability to handle incredible amounts of data in an immutable and decentralized ecosystem.
In Norway, Bitcoin and other digital currencies are not defined as money but as assets. Profits from trading bitcoins are subject to tax.
Purchases of goods or services using Bitcoin in Finland are taxable, and profits earned through trading or mining are taxable. Losses are not considered tax-deductible in Finland.
That’s the Scoop
You are not alone if you have ever wondered if Bitcoin is legal in your country. There are thousands of people across the world who are just now learning about cryptocurrencies for the first time. Hopefully, you have gleaned a good deal of knowledge about the legality of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in various countries in this article, and plenty more resources are available for you to research online.
Suppose you use cryptocurrencies for the right reasons and believe in their ideologies. In that case, you will never have to worry about the legality of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Bitcoin will continue to grow, and blockchain technologies will enable the world to create all kinds of innovative new products.
And just like with any new thing (especially anything involving money), the laws and regulations regarding Bitcoin will continue to be written and rewritten. The more governments worldwide recognize cryptocurrencies as legal and safe, the faster mass adoption will grow, which is good news for anyone passionate about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.