Europe has played host to many blockchain events, most notably BlockShow. Its biggest event yet, BlockShow Europe 2018, is right around the corner and making its way to Berlin. As the team prepared for the main conference on May 28 and 29, the road trip around Europe inspired them to dive a bit deeper into the European blockchain space to better understand what motivates this community to keep creating, developing, and accelerating concepts that many countries are welcoming with open arms. This was a huge study of new blockchain and crypto startups.
On their ‘EuroTrip’, the team looked at 48 countries around Europe, focusing on three main criteria: ICO regulation, payment regulation, and crypto’s tax strucutre.
Without further ado, let’s meet the contenders.
Switzerland coming in at number one is no surprise, as it has become a mecca of sorts for the community. Its progressive views on blockchain tech and positive regulatory dynamics allow new and innovative startups to hatch, resulting in Zug, Switzerland often being referred to as “Crypto Valley.”
On February 16, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) published a set of guidelines for applying existing financial market legislation to the regulation of initial coin offerings. FINMA CEO Mark Branson believes these guidelines can provide utility to the blockchain space. In order to assess future ICOs and determine which laws apply, FINMA says it will separate ICO tokens into three categories: payment tokens, utility tokens, and asset tokens.
Although FINMA considers asset tokens securities, the regulation of securities in Switzerland is often not as onerous as it is in most other jurisdictions. Under the Swiss Stock Exchange Act, the book-entry and offering of self-issued uncertified securities is largely unregulated. Under the Code of Obligations, the only formal requirement is to keep a book detailing the number and denomination of the uncertified securities issued and the creditors.
It has become a common practice for crypto companies to hold the funds raised in a foundation. Due to the relative legal certainty in Switzerland and low tax burden, Swiss foundations are often used for this purpose.
However, when it comes to regulating payments, the country’s authorities may charge as much as CHF 200, though it’s payable in bitcoins. Payment tokens are a separate class of tokens under Swiss regulations. For instance, FINMA considers Ethereum a payment token. One might argue that holding Ethereum’s tokens gives access to the platform’s utility, but those categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Based on this definition, payment tokens clearly do not qualify as taxable securities under the Swiff Stamp Transfer Tax (SSTT) test.
An SSTT liability arises if a Swiss securities dealer acts as an intermediary or counterparty in the transfer in a form other than a gift of taxable securities and no exemption applies.
The tax rate ranges from 7.5 to 30 base points. Typical SSTT dealers are Swiss banks, traders, broker/dealers, asset managers, and Swiss companies holding CHF 10 million taxable securities (e.g., shares of subsidiaries) as assets.
Asset Tokens that are standardized and suitable for mass trading tend to be classified as share-like or bond-like financial instruments for Swiss tax purposes; therefore, they could be classified as taxable securities (“Qualifying Tokens”) according to the FTA.
Standardized and tradeable utility tokens – and consequently Hybrid Tokens – that include elements of asset tokens might also classify as share-like or bond-like instruments for Swiss tax purposes. Thus, it is not excluded that such tokens could classify as taxable securities for SSTT purposes.
While Denmark doesn’t yet have a regulatory framework, the Danish FSA is actively working with crypto projects, analyzing them on a case-by-case basis.
The Danish FSA remarked on the difficulty of producing regulation for these new technologies and processes. The Danish regulatory forces are willing to open a dialogue on ICOs, and they understand the variety that exists. While not all digital currencies and assets are able to be regulated equally, for the time being, these analyses will be performed on a case-by-case basis. The FSA is in the process of starting up a financial sandbox, inviting startups to work together with regulatory forces in order to develop comprehensive models for compliance and provide regulatory guidance for young companies.
But at the end of the day, Denmark does not currently recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender, as they possess no “issuer” and thus are exempt from regulation, and one of its largest banks recently announced a ban on the trading of such assets.
Portugal’s parliament recently began discussing the possible regulation of ICOs, which seems to be quite favorable. However, the country doesn’t regulate cryptocurrencies as a legitimate payment method because there doesn’t seem to be any benefits such as the ability to pay taxes with bitcoins.
The United Kingdom comes in at number four on this list due to the lack of crypto governance from the nation’s Financial Conduct Authority. The UK also boasts the first trade body made up of crypto companies that are trying to stay ahead of potential regulation by forming a self-regulating cryptocurrency organization.
Finland also finds its way into the top ten due in part to the fact that virtual currencies are exempt from VAT. The Finnish Central Board of Taxes recently declared that exchanges were providing “banking services”. The commission rates charged by exchanges were, therefore, in accordance with the EU VAT Directive and exempt from VAT (Value-Added Tax).
Netherlands and Belarus
The Netherlands and Belarus both have some potential issues surrounding crypto, but they have enough positives to make the list.
The Netherlands is currently experimenting with its own cryptocurrency, DNB, but there could be issues affecting adoption. Recently, advisement from the Dutch Finance Minister encouraged the Dutch Senate to do further research into the field before adopting any cryptocurrencies.
Belarus makes the list as it is not taxing cryptocurrencies until at least 2023. After 2023, however, taxation laws will be revisited.
Cryptocurrency is still very young in the grand scheme of things, and time will tell which countries adapt and which push back, but BlockShow’s list gives a great look into the European countries that are trying to innovate and understand the growing crypto sphere.
For information on the remaining countries on the list, have a look here.
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