Fiat currencies derive their authority as mediums of transaction from the government or monetary authorities. For example, each dollar bill is backstopped by the Federal Reserve.
But cryptocurrencies are not backed by any public or private entities. Therefore, it has been difficult to make a case for their legal status in different financial jurisdictions throughout the world. It doesn’t help matters that cryptocurrencies have largely functioned outside most existing financial infrastructure. The legal status of cryptocurrencies has implications for their use in daily transactions and trading. In June 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommended that wire transfers of cryptocurrencies should be subject to the requirements of its Travel Rule, which requires AML compliance.5
As of December 2021, El Salvador was the only country in the world to allow Bitcoin as legal tender for monetary transactions. In the rest of the world, cryptocurrency regulation varies by jurisdiction.
Japan’s Payment Services Act defines Bitcoin as legal property.6 Cryptocurrency exchanges operating in the country are subject to collect information about the customer and details relating to the wire transfer. China has banned cryptocurrency exchanges and mining within its borders. India was reported to be formulating a framework for cryptocurrencies in December.7
Cryptocurrencies are legal in the European Union. Derivatives and other products that use cryptocurrencies will need to qualify as “financial instruments.” In June 2021, the European Commission released the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation that sets safeguards for regulation and establishes rules for companies or vendors providing financial services using cryptocurrencies.8 Within the United States, the biggest and most sophisticated financial market in the world, crypto derivatives such as Bitcoin futures are available on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has said that Bitcoin and Ethereum are not securities.
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