Category Archives: forbes

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Crypto Hedge Funds Face Tax Uncertainty

With US government scrutiny focusing in on cryptocurrencies, hedge funds face tense uncertainty due to the unclear tax regulations regarding digital currency assets.

Trying to play by the rules

With billions of dollars on the line, cryptocurrency hedge fund managers face a challenge when trying to fully comply with tax laws just as individual investors do. Their jobs required them to maximize profits while minimizing liabilities, but with few guidelines regulating their holdings, there is a lack of direction for this to take place in a fully legal manner.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is attempting to keep up with the pace of innovation with regulations, last month announcing that the large business and international division would focus on cryptocurrency audits in the coming year. Bigger tax bills and penalties have been threatened by the government department when the rules come in.

Clay Littlefield, a tax attorney for Alston & Bird in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Forbes that there is indeed a lot of uncertainty considering how the IRS will treat cryptocurrencies in the near future. Littlefield acknowledged that while there is plenty of analogies that can be placed on circumstances, there is not a lot of solid legal framework for investors to reference.

Why the lack of clarity?

There are several key factors that have contributed to this uncertain climate. Most crucially, regulatory bodies such as the IRS have been slow in laying out their full positions on digital currency.

Karl Walli, senior counsel at the Treasury Department’s office of tax policy earlier this year told tax professionals there is a ”long list” of issues the IRS needs to address, adding that planned new tax laws would increase the efficiency of comprehending all these problems. Walli said: “There’s no way in this environment that we’re going to be able to put out guidance on the majority of those issues.”

In 2014, the IRS settled on considering crypto as property, not currency, meaning that investors, miners and those earning wages in Bitcoin would be required to report profits and losses as is required with property. The market was dominated at this time by small investors; hedge funds trading in cryptocurrency has created problematic issues for the concept of crypto as property which has yet to be addressed.

Ultimately, funds may well end up owing more in taxes than their current estimations, dependent on the IRS’s decision.  David Shakow, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania Law School assumes that the lack of guidance right now may well provide a solid defense for hedge funds, regardless of future implementations.

For now, however, offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands have begun to attract big investors looking to avoid the necessity of following the unclear US tax regulation, although operations investing in cryptocurrencies for a foreign investor have not yet been legitimized by the IRS as non-taxable by the US.

 

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tZero to Receive Largest Recorded Investment for Blockchain Startup

Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital has confirmed it signed a letter of intent to invest USD 270 million in blockchain startup up tZero, making it the largest recorded investment to such a company, according to Forbes.

Atypical investment structure

The USD 270 million investment came with an 18% stake in tZero, a platform for trading blockchain-issued securities, with GSR confirming it will spend another USD 104.55 million for approximately 10% of the platform’s parent company Overstock’s shares. Additionally, the private equity firm has pledged another USD 30 million in tZero’s initial coin offering (ICO).

This funding would bring the aggregate investment past USD 404 million, pushing tZero’s company valuation to USD 1.5 billion, surpassing its parent Overstock.com (USD 1.07 billion) despite the flagship product not even having been launched yet.

Independent letters of intent were configured and signed by all parties to secure the deal.

Sonny Wu, GSR Capital’s chairman and founder, told Forbes that his company has a long-term view on scaling the platform globally. This investment is GSR Capital’s first public blockchain venture, with its previous history focused on electric vehicles and clean energy.

tZero executive chairman and CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick Byrne, said that the money would be used to open more tokenized securities exchanges internationally for uses such as his SEC-licensed US platform. He envisions tZero’s token to be listed on each of these exchanges.

Byrne noted that raising capital from the businesses home in the US was proving challenging, hence they had to look further abroad. He told Forbes, “US capital is, to be honest, they’re gun shy on this whole blockchain issue… I’m sorry to say the US is not the leading country in the world.”

Hitting into US economics harder, Byrne said that he started the venture to undo what he called the ”original sin” of Wall Street – separating the trade of a stock and its settlement. tZero’s tokenized securities are designed to enable real-time, transparent lending of securities.

Such sentiments have led Byrne to be called the ”scourge of Wall Street” by those whose practices he criticizes, but this does not trouble him. Instead, he believes that the significant investments to tZero show that the tides are turning on traditional Wall Street practices.

 

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Economic Turmoil In Pakistan Could Free Up Cryptocurrency Adoption

Soon to be prime minister, former Pakistan cricketer Imran Khan will be challenged to address the country’s current economic woes, which some have predicted may increase cryptocurrency usage.

An economic crisis is predicted in Pakistan on the eve of a major shift in the political landscape. The Pakistani rupee has depreciated 15 percent against the US dollar in recent months and the country’s net international reserves are now in negative figures. Meanwhile, the demand for dollars for imports exceeds Pakistan’s capacity to earn them through exports.

Amongst this turbulent financial climate, according to Forbes, LocalBitcoins trading volumes are on the increase which is reportedly a reflection of the cryptocurrency markets on the whole in Pakistan, partly fuelled by economic uncertainty and a increased confidence in Bitcoin.

Although Khan’s position is all but sealed, Gareth Leather, the senior Asia economist at Capital Economics suggests it matters very little who actually takes the reigns:

“Whichever party wins Pakistan’s upcoming general election will take over an economy on the brink of a balance of payments crisis. Growth is likely to slow sharply regardless of who wins Wednesday’s election.”

The fact that Pakistan’s Central Bank is curbing access for many Pakistani citizens to US dollars and pressuring fiat currencies means that over time cryptocurrencies will appear more attractive in the way that they have in many other countries with failing economies, such as Venezuela.

One of Pakistan’s first privately generated cryptocurrencies was Pakcoin which has been accepted as a mode of payment in various institutions since its conception over two years ago. In fact, it is said to be the first digital currency accepted by any Asian hospital. Ten retailers now use it in the country so that their customers can pay for goods and services using crypto.

To date, Pakistan has warned banks against ICO’s and cryptocurrencies in general with a statement to that effect in April of this year.

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Former Oxford Grad becomes UK’s First Bitcoin Billionaire at $3.6 Billion

An Oxford graduate living in Hong Kong has been identified as Britain’s youngest Bitcoin billionaire at the age of only 34, according to the Mail Online.

Ex-student Ben Delo founded crypto company BitMex, a trading platform created by a selection of finance, trading, and web-development experts, in 2014 and has subsequently amassed a fortune of $3.6 billion along with his co-founders.

Delo, who studied maths and computer science at Worcester College, Oxford and graduated in 2005 with a first-class degree, said that he worked 18 hour days to build up his platform renting out spare bedrooms on Airbnb and creating a space in his living room to make extra money.

After a spell in the City of London, he moved to Hong Kong to take a position with JP Morgan prior, to starting up his platform with Samuel Reed, a computer programmer.

Like something from a Howard Hughes biography, Delo certainly hasn’t let things go to his head though, reportedly living a frugal life in Hong Kong with his wife Pan Pan Wong, to the extent that he and his wife use food vouchers to buy food at McDonald’s. His aim is to be a Bill Gates style philanthropist donating most of his wealth to worthy causes.

There are other young entrepreneurs who are rapidly following in Delo’s footsteps who may not be a billionaire just yet but are well on the way.

At only 23 Charlie Shrem owns Evr, one of Manhattans most famous gastropubs, renowned for being one of the first establishments to accept Bitcoin for food and drink in New York. He is also a BitAngel, an investment group created to invest in Bitcoin startups.  Shrem made his initial fortune buying thousands of bitcoins at $20 each in 2011 and is thought to be worth $450 million.

At the young age of 24 Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum has a net worth conservatively estimated to be around $450 million, although, in a recent interview with Forbes, Buterin stated that he now owned less than 0.4% of the company.

At the top of the Bitcoin Billionaires club would be the enigmatic creator and developer of Bitcoin who reportedly owns an estimated 1.1 million bitcoins.

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Blockchain Jobs are Number One In US – Upworks Skills Index

The number one position on Upworks US skills index is now blockchain expertise, making these the most sought-after positions for with current employers, writes Forbes.

The Upworks index is a strong indicator of the rising need within the US professional’s employment market for employees with blockchain experience and also is a gauge which indicates that blockchain has arrived and it is clearly not going away any time soon. According to Burning Glass Technologies, there were more than 5,743 jobs posted needing blockchain skills in the last 12 months.

As Bitcoin News has reported, multinationals such as IBM and Samsung have shown the world the value of the new technologies by embracing blockchain wholeheartedly. Companies such as Walmart are updating their supply chains and state governments in the US are increasingly turning to the technology to streamline government departments and state law.

What kind of blockchain related positions become available very much depends on demand. Blockchain developers, or engineers are top of the tree, being in high demand due to these positions highly technical nature. The whole process of developing a blockchain platform very much relies on the expertise that these professionals can bring to the project.

Blockchain project managers and designers are also in demand. The manager is responsible for tying technical aspects of the blockchain to the company’s actual business requirements. The job calls on standard management skills that might have been earned in other industries, using this ability to communicate to customers who may not have the tech skills nor vocabulary, but while still having the technical know-how themselves to communicate with staff.

One aspect of the tech that is becoming increasingly important, and perhaps is illustrated quite graphically by the recent Italian court case involving BitGrail, is the need for companies to employ a blockchain attorney or legal consultant in order to tackle the legal ramifications of using blockchain.

It is likely that the need for these professionals will swell over the next two years as blockchain takes on a more mainstream profile across sectors. Bernard Marr, writing in Forbes, suggests, “Blockchain has become what the “cloud” was in the mid-2000s, poised to be the most highly talked about technology and one that offers tremendous professional opportunity.”

 

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Blockchain Startups Refusing to Fail in the First Few Years Will Make History

Many CEOs and cryptocurrency experts are suggesting that many startups will fail but those remaining have the potential to be huge successes thanks to the blockchain, writes Business Insider.

References to the dotcom bubble have been made too many times for it to be an original view but pundits from within the industry continue to predict that cryptocurrencies have the potential to change/rewrite the rules of financial markets.

eToro CEO,Yoni Assia’s view that 95% of startups are going to end up badly is shared by many in the industry, suggesting that ‘Selling crypto now is like selling Apple in 2001’ he goes on to suggest that it’s the survivors who will reap the benefits and changed the face of the market, in the same way as the internet transformed people’s lives by becoming a feature of everyone’s lives.

Statistics show that more than 1,000 cryptocurrency startups worldwide have raised over $10 billion over the last two years to build significant market changing software projects. Over $9 billion has been raised through ICOs since the start of the year, according to consultancy Autonomous NEXT.

These views were shared by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin recently, suggesting the current situation is similar to the nineties’ dot-com bubble, which ended badly for many companies, but left the survivors thriving. Assia argues:

“If you’re into this technology, you’re like, why hasn’t everybody moved on to this technology? It’s an endless opportunity to move things on to the blockchain. You have an insane amount of very smart people who are envisioning this future and trying to build products for it.”

IOTA creator Dominik Schiener also shares the view suggesting that out of 1400 recent projects he expects less than 10 to make it. With former JPMorgan trader Danny Masters, it could be an even smaller figure: suggesting that no more than 5% percent of ICOs are worth backing.

Many pundits and crypto experts see digital currency’s underlying technology blockchain as the factor that will be the most transformational aspect of the predicted crypto boom, some going as far as to suggest it will “remake society.” A recent Forbes article suggested that in a study of 4,800 professionals from around the world, 66% of people believe that innovation will be the biggest factor influencing economic growth over the next 30 years, and one of the most promising of these developments was blockchain.

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Twitter Plagued by Fake Ether Giveaways in Growing Scam Worth Over $4M

Twitter has become a target for online crooks promoting fake “giveaways”, according to Bleeping Computer. Such activities are estimated to have tricked people out of ETH 8,148, currently worth around USD 4.3 million, much of it through social media, according to statistical data compiled in EtherScamDB.

John Backus, co-founder of crypto-related startups Bloom and Cognito, concurs, making his own “back of an envelope” calculation that ETH scam giveaways have returned around ETH 8,148 – which happens to be exactly the same amount estimated by EtherScamDB, writes Bitcoin.com.

EtherScamDB tracks online scamming which centers round Ethereum and associated assets and was established by the team behind MyCrypto wallet.

As the figures illustrate, fake Ether giveaways are growing exponentially, and Twitter has become one of the scammers’ favorite utilities. Criminals use well-known ecosystem names to target Twitter members, using mirrored accounts complete with avatars. Posts invite targets from the fake personalities’ following to participate in free crypto programs, which then separate the target from their funds.

An example of how the scammers operate is best illustrated by Forbes writer Laura Shin’s recent experiences on Twitter, covered in an article on Bitcoin.com, when she came across an interesting Tweet by Ari Paul, investor guru of Blocktower hedge fund fame.

She came across “fairly elaborate ether (ETH) come-ons, fake giveaways using mirror’d (sic) accounts” as a result. No sooner than she realized this, she discovered that she had been compromised.

“Someone with the account @XaedenJ was using Ms Shin’s professional reputation and likeness to tacitly approve a 10,000 Ethereum giveaway, and it directs readers to a website asking for payment,” read the report.

The “new” Laura Shin was then seen to be Tweeting, “If you’re late for this event… you’ll get your investment back at once!”. The Forbes writer did some further research and discovered that her scam post had received 28 likes, although Shin suggested that they were probably bots created to give the scam some credibility. The @XaedenJ address was later removed by Twitter.

In order to prevent such activities and falling foul to such scams, MyCrypto wrote a support document that recommends several protective measures including using hardware wallets, using cold storage or running wallets offline. It also recommends looking up ETH addresses on Etherscan.io to check for bad reviews, and to not trust any messages promising free ETH or hack alerts.

 

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Crypto Needs to Be Tied to Gold, Says Forbes

Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, has written that until cryptocurrency ties itself to gold, a basket of commodities, or a bundle of major currencies, it will never replace money.

In a piece written for Forbes online news, he suggests that the creators of cryptocurrencies have overlooked the fact that digital currencies basically are susceptible to one main flaw, which is also a factor of physical currency; value fluctuation.

Steve Forbes says, that as most buyers are trying to make a “quick buck”, they forget that one of the reasons cryptocurrencies were originally created was to negate the instability of government-produced money and its fluctuating fortunes. He cites an example that, “If in 2013 you had taken out a mortgage for USD 250,000 in Bitcoin, you’d owe the bank roughly USD 18 million today.”

Forbes goes on to say that he feels that digital currencies can’t replace money, however flawed the current central bank currencies may be, as they need to be a “real alternative”. To become this, cryptocurrencies need to be used for day-to-day transactions, without an artificially restricted supply.

According to Forbes, an artificially supply won’t create real value, but utility and trustworthiness do. He cites the Swiss franc, which has a bountiful supply, creating long-term stability and faring better than most currencies over the past 100 years.

Forbes maintains that Bitcoin’s fluctuating fortunes is an example of the destructiveness of monetary unreliability, and suggests there is a distinct parallel to the dollar’s instability following the abandoning of the gold standard in the US in the early 1970s.

Alternatively, there are some that have a completely different view regarding digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, commenting that rather than Bitcoin being tied to gold it should actually replace it. John Pfeffer of UK-based Pfeffer Capital made these comments at the Sohn investment conference in New York recently:

“Bitcoin is the first viable candidate to replace gold the world has ever seen. So if Bitcoin becomes the dominant non-sovereign store of value, it could be the new gold or new reserve currency.”

Pfeffer did not overlook the potential problems of cryptocurrencies, however. He advised that Bitcoin was by far the strongest investment asset, while other currencies still carried “substantial risks”.

 

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Kashmir Hill – Federal Judge Rules Bitcoin Is Real Money

Kashmir Hill – Federal Judge Rules Bitcoin Is Real Money:

Forbes.com contributor Kashmir Hill (@KashHill) highlights a new development regarding ways existing laws can be applied to Bitcoin-related activity.  Excerpts:

“In defending himself against the SEC suit, Shavers argued that Bitcoin isn’t actually money and that the SEC shouldn’t be able to prosecute him.”

“‘Shavers also contends that his transactions were all Bitcoin transactions and that no money ever exchanged hands.’”

“‘It is clear that Bitcoin can be used as money,’ writes Judge Mazzant in a ruling on Tuesday. ‘It can be used to purchase goods or services, and as Shavers stated, used to pay for individual living expenses.’”

”’[Bitcoin] can also be exchanged for conventional currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, Euro, Yen, and Yuan,’ writes Mazzant. ‘Therefore, Bitcoin is a currency or form of money, and investors wishing to invest in BTCST provided an investment of money.’”

 – http://onforb.es/14z4dAx
 – http://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=269612.0 (Futher discussion of this legal memorandum)

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