Feb. 7, 2014
Rulings by the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network are revealing a developing picture of Bitcoin regulation in the United States. Last week, the treasury issued new guidance for the digital currency.
In two rulings, FinCEN clarified a previous ruling on Bitcoin transactions, further specifying which transactions are subject to Bank Secrecy Act statutes:
The first ruling states that, to the extent a user creates or ‘mines’ a convertible virtual currency solely for a user’s own purposes, the user is not a money transmitter under the BSA. The second states that a company purchasing and selling convertible virtual currency as an investment exclusively for the company’s benefit is not a money transmitter.
In short, individuals who generate or invest in Bitcoin for their own use are not obligated to register and report as exchanges.
The rulings further expand on a clarification issued in March 2013 that said virtual currency exchanges and administrators are money service businesses and, as such, are subject to U.S. government regulations.
These latest clarifications might not be the end of regulatory rulings. This week in a New York Times blog, Wayne State University Law School professor Peter J. Henning said, "The question is not whether there will be greater regulation of firms developing new methods of transmitting payments with nongovernment currencies, but how much regulation they will face."
In conclusion, Henning wrote:
The days of anonymous transactions in Bitcoin and operating an exchange with no outside interference are over. As virtual currencies develop, firms devoted to aiding trading, and perhaps even their users, will encounter greater government regulation, along with the costs that come with compliance.
Read more about retail payments.