Category Archives: 2018

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Switzerland, Gibraltar, Malta Podium Finishers on Most Crypto-Friendly European List

Switzerland has come out on top in a BlockShow Europe study which ranks the most crypto-friendly European countries. Scored on their regulatory frameworks and blockchain related projects among other attributes, Gibraltar and Malta also ranked favorably.

Broad observations

In total, 48 European countries were examined for their existing regulations of initial coin offerings (ICOs) regulations, cryptocurrencies as a payment service and crypto taxation policies. Furthermore, the study took into consideration recent news stories and developments; this is due to ongoing advances in countries that do not yet regulate cryptocurrencies but have plans to do so.

With Gibraltar in second place and Malta third, Switzerland topped the charts ahead of the rest of the pack.

Home of the ‘Crypto Valley’

Switzerland is a crypto-friendly country thanks to leading cryptocurrency and blockchain projects such as the Ethereum Foundation and Shapeshift.

Backing this is the Crypto Valley Association, a government-supported and independent association that has pushed for favorable regulatory frameworks, which has attracted cryptocurrency-related projects from around the world. Blockchain startups and projects in Switzerland can benefit from low taxes, business-friendly regulations, and political stability.

Bitcoin News has recently reported a number of stories on Switzerland that contribute to the Swiss dominating the European charts. A national digital currency, aspirations to become a blockchain nation and heightened blockchain related business inquiries all display the incredible levels of blockchain innovation that can emerge from a crypto-positive country.

In second place, Gibraltar

Gibraltar has been showing great promise and is becoming another crypto-haven for blockchain projects. Innovative regulations and highly attractive business tax are critical factors as to why the British Overseas Territory ranked second in the study.

In late 2017, the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission (GFSC) made proposals for crypto-friendly regulations. Nicky Gomez, GFSC’s head of Risk and innovation told Reuters: “This is the first instance of a purpose-built legislative framework for businesses that use blockchain or distributed ledger technology.”

Additionally, Gibraltar reportedly had received “up to 200 applications” for ICOs ahead of the launch of its Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange (GBX); Bitcoin News has also previously reported that the GBX is moving boldly toward regulatory firsts.

Regarding taxation, Gibraltar is extraordinarily unrestrictive; there are no taxes on capital gains and entrepreneurs only have to pay income tax. It is little wonder that European and local blockchain startups are flocking to the country.

Third Place, Malta

The Mediterranean island of Malta is an interesting occupant of the third place position; proposals for new rules regarding cryptocurrency investment were made in late 2017 and in March of 2018, the Cabinet of Malta approved three bills that revolve around cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. Furthermore, in April, Bitcoin News reported that the Prime Minister intended to have a “state-regulated cryptocurrency industry“.

It is also the new home to major exchange Binance, which will make Malta the territory with the most substantial cryptocurrency trading volume in the world. Binance announced the move to Malta in late March, likely in part due to Malta’s stance on taxation which allows international companies based on the island to pay as little as 5%.

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Thailand, Latest Addition to Asian Cryptocurrency Tax and Regulation Movement

Thailand is the latest country in the Asia region to start levying taxes on cryptocurrencies, despite receiving some opposition from the Thai Blockchain associations. The news arrives as other countries in the region and around the world ramp up legal and regulatory efforts.

Value-Added Tax and Capital Gains

In early April 2018, Thailand’s Ministry of Finance released plans to tax cryptocurrency trading and investments. After a cabinet meeting in late March, Thai Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong responded to a letter sent by digital asset associations calling for the Deputy Prime Minister and government to “rethink the enforcement of a royal decree to regulate digital asset transactions — particularly the withholding tax, as it could be an obstacle to startup fund-raising,“ reports the Nikkei Asian Review.

The proposed 15% capital gains tax is considered by digital asset operators in Thailand to be a stifling figure for the industry. It puts financial pressure on startups seeking to break into the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, which could hinder overall innovation in the country.

There is also a 7 percent VAT charged on all cryptocurrency trades in the country, which for would-be blockchain entrepreneurs and companies seeking to have digital money as part of their business model is very off-putting.

Subject to Change

With that said, it’s somewhat important to note that the Thai legislation is still in its infantile stages. Since 2014, France had laws in place that classified cryptocurrency profits as either industrial and commercial profits or non-commercial profits, which made them subject to an eye-watering 45% capital gains tax at the top end for residents in the highest tax bracket.

As of late April 2018, the French Council of State reclassified cryptocurrencies as “movable property.” This makes them akin to transportable assets such as vehicles, precious metals or intellectual property and brings the tax rate down to a flat 19%, which may be high but is still a definite advancement for blockchain industries and investors in France.

Asian Advancements

Other countries in Asia are also beginning to relieve crypto-tax pressures with nations such as the Philippines announcing a special economic zone for ten blockchain and virtual currency companies.

In Abu Dhabi, the Global Market’s Financial Services Authority released proposals for a “fit-for-purpose” regulatory and taxation framework. In a statement, Richard Teng Chief Executive of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FRSA), regulator of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) said:

“The FSRA is seeking to instill proper governance, oversight, and transparency over crypto asset activities,” Adding further, he said, “Our proposed regulatory regime is only possible with our deep understanding and knowledge of the solutions available to address the respective risks and represents the most comprehensive regime proposed by global regulators so far.”

South Korea, Japan, and China are also making similar headlines with regulatory and tax reforms that can only serve positively towards the future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.

In Thailand, it is still early days and should the new tax laws prove too high for the country; there is a chance that the state will follow up on the original policies with further amendments, just like many other crypto-adopting societies in the world.

 

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British Cryptocurrency Association CryptoUK pushing UK Government to Regulate the Industry

British cryptocurrency trade association CryptoUK is urging MPs and the UK Treasury to regulate the industry in the country.

The self-regulatory body made up of eight members has been approaching influential MPs, seeking support for its proposals to have the market regulated by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Earlier Developments
As previously reported by BitcoinNews, the FCA  is taking cryptocurrencies into serious consideration for future discussions, as outlined in their 2018/19 Business Plan; MPs, the FCA and the UK Treasury Committee will be examining the potentially disruptive impact of blockchain and cryptocurrencies on financial institutions and financial infrastructure.

That said, they’ll also be inquiring into the future benefits of the technology, with UK MP Matt Hancock echoing positive sentiments toward the sector. At the London Blockchain Conference in mid-April, a point noting the UK Government’s Digital Strategy, is revealing of a real capacity to which the UK could become “the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business and to trial new technologies like blockchain”.

CryptoUK Advances Discussions
Chair of CryptoUK and UK managing director at trading platform eToro, Iqbal Gandham said:

“Introducing a requirement for the FCA to regulate the ‘on-off’ ramps between crypto and fiat currencies is well within the remit of HM Treasury. Based on our analysis, this could be achieved relatively easily, without the need for primary legislation, and would have a huge impact, both in reducing consumer risk and improving industry standards.”

The group believes that regulation should give focus to exchanges, brokers and trading platforms instead of the actual cryptocurrencies themselves; furthermore, they propose that the HM Treasury should draw up new permissions for FCA to control cryptocurrency investment.

CryptoUK is also proposing that FCA should be responsible for licensing approved exchanges and enforce new rules including anti-money laundering practices, examination of investors and operational standards.

Blockchain Technology “Pixie Dust” and “Magic Wands”
Contrary to the positive stories emerging from the United Kingdom in recent weeks, think tank director of the Center for Evidence-Based Management, Martin Walker, spoke at a Treasury Committee hearing on blockchain in the financial system, claiming:

“All that it takes to make a credible idea into a fad is people just switch off their brains and stop thinking. Over 20 years in and around the banking industry — blockchain is a fad, but I have seen many fads in my career. If 10 percent of what I’ve heard in my career had come true, we would have these amazing banks that run for £1 a week.”

What Walker fails to address is the far-reaching impacts the technology has beyond that of its predominant financial functions, and that the UK is taking proactive steps to fund and develop blockchain startups.

 

 

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This Year’s ICO Funding Has Exceeded All of 2017

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) continue to rise in popularity; in the first three months of 2018, ICOs have managed to generate more money than they did for the entirety of 2017. According to the data collected by CoinDesk, that figure sits at USD 6.3 billion, 118% of the 2017 total.

It appears that despite the numerous minor and higher profile controversies that ICOs have been tied to, the digital funding method is rapidly gaining confidence across the board. In the winter of 2017, the markets were piping hot and yet, ICOs were cooling off.

Uncertainties caused by ICO bans were partly to blame for the dip in confidence, especially the prohibitions from South Korea and China which are two very prominent market forces. This news further fuelled the doubt of cryptocurrencies and the technology being stifled entirely, but as the numbers show, ICOs are thriving.

ICOs on the rise

The data reveals a month-on-month increase from December, which was at USD 1.44 billion. In January, that figure rose to USD 1.79 billion; in February it grew to USD 2.38 billion, a significant rise which preceded a minor dip in March which brought in USD 2.15 billion.

The leap in the numbers can be attributed to the increased size and rate of the average ICO; Q1 of 2018 has already launched 59% of the total ICOs that were launched the previous year. However, it is important to note that the figure is slightly skewed – Telegram had a gigantic ICO which raised USD 1.7 billion, but minus that figure and Q1 2018 ICOs stand at 85% of the 2017 total, which is still no small feat.

So far in 2018, 200 ICOs have taken place, (343 in total for 2017) and most of them are raising less than USD 100 million.

Growing a global ICO consensus

The US has also provided positive insights into future attitudes towards ICOs; the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Jay Clayton made comments suggesting that ICOs are securities, and can be classified and regulated as such, reducing risk and encouraging blockchain entrepreneurship.

It’s is widely understood that ICOs carry a high risk for investors, especially to those looking in from traditional investment positions. At the heart of the ICO issue is global regulatory uncertainty. Without a global consensus on how to legally operate and tax ICOs, the modern digital fundraising method will still have some hurdles to overcome.

As the year rolls on, conversations regarding ICO and cryptocurrency regulations have gone from skepticism to intriguingly progressive sentiment; France, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and other countries are looking to make ICOs and their related technologies safe and fair for investors. They have the foresight to see that the technology will flourish should the “bad actors” within the industry be forced to work within legal, regulatory frameworks.

 

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