Canadian Senate hearings on digital currency

On October 2, 2014, the Bitcoin Foundation Canada, the Bitcoin Embassy and the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada were panelists for the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce Committee’s “Study on the Use of Digital Currency”. As chief-legal-officer of the Bitcoin Foundation Canada, I had the privilege of sharing a panel with four other top-notch digital currency industry experts. It was a truly fascinating experience and I was extremely impressed by the quality of the Committee’s questions and their interest. Their 2015 report is eagerly awaited. Re-printed below is a copy of the statement that I made and a link to the video of the testimonies.   Remarks by the Bitcoin Foundation Canada Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce Study on the Use of Digital Currency by: Jillian Friedman Mr. Chair and honourable Senators, Mr. Babin-Tremblay and I are both here as directors of the Bitcoin Foundation Canada, the BFC. On behalf of our organization we thank you for the invitation to appear before you. The BFC is a federal not-for-profit corporation that is affiliated with the Bitcoin Foundation, a global organization headquartered in the United States. Currently there are nine affiliated Bitcoin Foundations in as many countries. The BFC is mandated to coordinate and lead efforts to protect and promote Bitcoin in Canada. This includes monitoring regulatory and legislative developments, educational campaigns, and supporting maintenance and improvement to the Bitcoin protocol. I also speak to you as a member of the Quebec bar and my remarks today will focus on consumer protection law in Quebec and digital currency, specifically Bitcoin. We can identify the applicable legal...

At last – some clarity from the CRA on Bitcoin mining

If you are mining bitcoins or alt-coins or have been considering getting involved with mining, it is important to be aware of the tax implications. The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) has let it be known in a technical interpretation that mined digital currency, unsurprisingly, is not immune from tax treatment. For tax purposes, a key consideration to be made is whether your mining consists of a personal or a business activity. If the activity is considered a business activity the mined bitcoins may be considered inventory or capital property and taxed accordingly. If it is a business activity then expenses and certain losses associated with the mining operation can also be deducted. We know from previous CRA bulletins, that payments received in respect of, or in connection with, a business carried on by the taxpayer, must be included in the taxpayer’s income from that business. Bitcoins rewarded to miners for supporting the network and verifying transactions, where the mining activities are considered business activity, must be calculated as income. Whether your mining operation is a business or personal activity is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, there are some key elements that can facilitate making the distinction. A personal activity is endeavored to provide a personal benefit rather than a financial one; it is primarily undertaken for pleasure, entertainment, or enjoyment rather than for profit, business, or commercial reasons. Drawing on the Supreme Court’s decision Stewart v. Canada, the CRA explains that “In order for an activity to be classified as commercial in nature, the taxpayer must have the subjective intention to profit and there must be evidence of...

Budget implementation bill would require digital currency businesses to play by FinTRAC rules

In the 2014 federal budget, the Canadian government made unequivocal its concern that virtual currencies, specifically Bitcoin, are an emerging risk that threatens “Canada’s international leadership in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing”. The Government promised to introduce anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations for virtual currencies and to provide FinTRAC up to $10.5 million over five years to implement these changes. Making good on that promise, the budget implementation bill, Bill C-31, introduced on Friday March 28, 2014, includes important amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (the “Act”) that would subject digital currency to the application of the Act. Like other money service businesses and foreign exchanges, once enacted, these changes would require certain virtual currency businesses to comply with record keeping, verification of identity, reporting of suspicious transactions and registration requirements under the Act. Other amendments to the Act attempt to deter businesses from operating outside of Canada for the purpose of avoiding the Act’s compliance regime. Under the proposed changes, reporting, KYC (“know your customer”) and licensing requirements would also apply to money service businesses that do not have a place of business in Canada but that provide services, which include dealing in virtual currencies, foreign exchange dealing, remitting or transmitting funds, and issuing or redeeming money orders, to persons or entities in Canada. A new provision would prohibit certain Canadian financial service providers, including money service businesses, businesses dealing with virtual currencies, and securities dealers, from having a banking relationship with any money service business that does not have a place of business in Canada unless those...

Protection Standards on the Horizon for Cryptocurrency Exchanges as First Class Action Filed

By: Jillian Friedman Last month saw the collapse of a foundational member of the Bitcoin community, Mt. Gox. A class action lawsuit, that will likely be one of many, has been filed in Illinois against former the bitcoin exchange industry leader, its parent companies, and Mark Karpeles, Mt. Gox’s sole director (Gregory Greene v Mt. Gox Incet al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 14-01437). The exchange has filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan and, subsequent to the institution of class action proceedings, in the United States as well. Although the bankruptcy filing temporarily suspends the class action, the suit raises important questions about the standard of care incumbent on crypto currency exchanges and similar services in safeguarding and protecting information and assets from being accessed, stolen, or otherwise harmed. Calls for regulation from the conventional financial services industry and within the Bitcoin community have been a primary outcome of the Mt. Gox debacle. This is not surprising because significant regulatory interventions, especially in the financial services sector, tend to follow crises, whether they are real or perceived (Christopher Nicholls, Financial Institutions: The Regulatory Framework, LexisNexis, 2008 at 36). However, this lawsuit may also shed light on industry practices and the technologies behind them, of which many are currently being developed, that aim to cultivate a robust self-regulating and transparent environment for Bitcoin exchanges and services that manage and or hold assets. The claim filed by Gregory Greene individually and on behalf of class members, includes several causes of action stemming from the closure of the site and loss of what is currently estimated at $475 million...