Bitcoin just got a big credibility boost: 45 members of the Swiss parliament signed a postulate asking for Bitcoin to legally be treated as foreign currency like the Euro or the Dollar.Summary
The postulate demands to evaluate the opportunities of Bitcoin for the Swiss finance sector. It also states that Bitcoins raises a number legal questions and that the simplest way to answer them would be to clarify that Bitcoins should be treated like other foreign currencies. The goal is to clarify in a simple and straight-forward way how various laws such as the GWG (money laundering act), the MWSt (VAT act), or the KAG (securities act) are to be applied to Bitcoin. This not only paves the way for Bitcoin businesses and financial services in Switzerland, it is also a great precedent for other countries that look into how Bitcoin should be handled from a regulatory perspective.What's next
The next formal step is for the Swiss parliament to have a vote on the postulate (can take many weeks). If it passes (which is very likely as about 25% of the parliament already co-signed it), the Federal Council will answer the questions, which again can take many months. And then, if the Federal Council agrees, it would again take a while to adjust the relevant regulations. So it will take time until it becomes effective, but it already today sends a nice signal of how regulatory bodies should treat Bitcoin when the law is unspecific.Sources
The press release from the parliamentary group that created the postulate: http://www.digitale-nachhaltigkeit.ch/2013/12/bitcoin
The Swiss parliament: http://www.parlament.ch/e/suche/Pages/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20134070Translation of the press release
Press Release of the Parliamentary Group for Digital Sustainability (Parldigi)
The core team of the parliamentary group for digital sustainability wants the opportunities of Bitcoin to be evaluated and asks the Federal Council (the Swiss executive) a number of questions regarding legal certainty. At the same time, Parldigi takes its first steps with this novel open-source currency and has started accepting donations in Bitcoin.
Over the past weeks, Parldigi has intensely discussed Bitcoin internally. Its members, coming from major parties such as SP, FDP, GLP and the Greens, have concluded that Bitcoin and comparable digital currencies not only pose risks (as claimed in earlier postulates 13.3687 and 13.3854), but also opportunities for Switzerland's financial sector. Furthermore, as Bitcoin is already in use as a means of payment in Switzerland, it makes sense to ensure legal certainty regarding money laundering laws and VAT.
Therefore, representative Thomas Weibel (green-liberals, Zurich) has submitted the postulate 13.4070 "Ensure legal certainty for Bitcoin" with 44 co-sponsors on December 5th.
Ensure legal certainty for Bitcoin (Postulate 13.4070)
The Federal Council already wrote in his answer to postulate Kaufmann 13.3854 "Bitcoin and money laundering laws" that online-currencies like Bitcoin raise a number of economic, regulatory, as well as operational questions. Legally, they are hard to categorize as they are decentrally organized and neither have an identifiable issuer nor someone else who guarantees a value.
It is likely that those questions could be answered by making clear that Bitcoins and similar electronic means of payment are to be treated like foreign currencies. Hereby, it would be made clear how to apply laws such as GWG, KAG, and MWSTG to Bitcoin and legal certainty would be created.
In addition to the points raised in postulate Schwaab 13.3687 "Evaluate the risks of online-currency Bitcoin", the Federal Council shall also answer the following questions:
1. What opportunities does the Federal Council see in Bitcoin and similar online-currencies?
2. Does the Federal Council see any reasons not to generally treat Bitcoin and comparable online-currencies like foreign currencies?
3. Which regulatory instruments does the Federal Council have to ensure legal certainty for Bitcoin and comparable online-currencies?
4. Should regulatory adjustments be necessary, what would the timeline of implemetation look like?
Parldigi also takes its first step with this novel currency and has started accepting donations in Bitcoin. If you want to support parldigi in advancing digital sustainability in Switzerland, feel free to send donations to address 16qpAVM718XzWEH8LKJZetKutW5R8bNMNn . (Sidenote by translator: there are no restrictions for political donations in Switzerland. Faced with the problem of powerful politicians being influenced by donations, many countries created laws to restrict such payments. Switzerland chose the other solution and restricted the power of politicians instead.