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Swiss parliamentary postulate: Bitcoin is a currency (bitcointalk.org)
59 points by lest on Dec 9, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 4 comments

I'm not sure whether I'd prefer Bitcoin to be considered a currency or a commodity. I'm sure there are strong for/against arguments that I could find on Google, but (in the purest expression of HN-as-crowdsourcing) would really appreciate a curated list of blogs, papers, theory, opinions, etc.

In countries with VAT, considering Bitcoin a commodity would make it unusable as means of payment. When paying with a commodity (gold is explicitely excempt, but not silver), the transaction is legally considered as two purchases. The seller selling the car to the buyer, and the buyer selling the Bitcoins to the seller, thus triggering two taxable transactions under VAT law and effectively doubling the tax rate (e.g. from 8% to 16% in Switzerland). It is obvious that this would be catastrophic for Bitcoin when competing with other means of payment.

Edit: note that there also is some middle ground. For example, Germany considers Bitcoin as means of payment for VAT purposes without declaring it a currency or commodity.

It is interesting to see policies made in regards to Bitcoin vs. making a policy for all virtual currencies of similar type. I guess the main reason for focusing on Bitoin is that without naming Bitcoin you are forced to create a well defined definition of what virtual currency you are referring to which will probably happen later on down the line.

Right. The move to create specific legislation around Bitcoin could be construed as a move to denature the present Bitcoin economy and pull it closer to conventional financial regulation. This seems ultimately pretty pointless from a government perspective, however, since the move will happen anyway and there are already popular alternatives that would remain unaffected. Essentially it could weight development investment towards Bitcoin instead of towards financial innovation in general. Such a strategy, if properly considered and so motivated, would be an act of resistance - stalling the inevitable - rather than one of any real efficacy. I think this is really just some people trying to get recognition for Bitcoin: the full story may only be available by speaking to them or reading German.

The potential significance of Switzerland in Bitcoin recognition this should be clarified. SIX Interbank Clearing, the organization that act as registrar for ISO4217-A3 currency codes (ie. codes like 'USD', 'EUR', etc.) on behalf of the ISO, and also SWIFT BIC codes (IIRC), is based in Switzerland. Jon Matonis from the Bitcoin Foundation approached them earlier this year about issuing an official XBT codepoint for Bitcoin, but they denied the request claiming that requests for codepoints much be made in writing from an existing national bank (subtext: from a UN-recognized country in that other ISO list).

My own proposal is to sidestep the ISO entirely and use IANA to register currencies or currency-like commodities as a means to achieve the unambiguous identification of such within multi-currency financial transfer systems, such as present era math based currency exchange businesses like my employer (Payward/Kraken). More details on that over here: http://www.ifex-project.org/our-proposals/x-iso4217-a3

Ultimately even if the Bitcoin Foundation doesn't support such standardization (and it probably will; I literally have a draft in my inbox to Jon since Friday) I am fairly confident that the new self regulating industry body we have founded, DATA, will. http://info.datauthority.org/

We live in interesting times, and the goal is clear. As Iain Coke, Head of Financial Services Faculty, Institute of Chartered Accountants (UK) said so eloquently in The Telegraph last year: In order to regain trust in banking, what is needed is a real change in culture, embedding integrity and eradicating the 'what can I get away with' attitude.

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