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Author Topic: Swiss parliamentary postulate: Bitcoin is a currency  (Read 27956 times)
Hermel
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December 09, 2013, 04:06:09 PM
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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=20134070

Translation of the press release
Press Release of the Parliamentary Group for Digital Sustainability (Parldigi)

Berne, 2013-12-09

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.

Quote
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. Grin)

Residing in Switzerland? Then write me to join the Bitcoin Association Switzerland - the local chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation.
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December 09, 2013, 04:08:42 PM
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Were any of those guys pirate party members? Cheesy

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Hermel
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December 09, 2013, 04:10:54 PM
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Were any of those guys pirate party members? Cheesy

Unfortunately not, as the pirate party is not part of the Swiss parliament. But AFAIK, some of the parldigi members have close ties to the pirates.

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December 09, 2013, 04:18:58 PM
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Great news from Switzerland.

Weibel Thomas, the Grünliberale Partei representative from the canton of Zürich was the one who lead the initiative. My special thanks to him.

Hermel, where can I find the list of the 44 other parliamentarians who supported the measure?  

Edit: Got it. It is here.

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December 09, 2013, 04:28:45 PM
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Hermel, where can I find the list of the 44 other parliamentarians who supported the measure? 

They are all listed here: http://www.parlament.ch/e/suche/Pages/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20134070

Note that the authors of the previous two postulates (Schwaab and Kaufmann) both co-signed, which is a nice signal. The co-signers come from all major parties, which indicates high chances of passing.

Residing in Switzerland? Then write me to join the Bitcoin Association Switzerland - the local chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation.
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December 09, 2013, 04:58:36 PM
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Thanks a lot Luzius, great job Cheesy

Especially nice that it has support from all major parties, so I guess we wont see one party to vote against it just because the postulate comes from another party.


//Edit: Sending my weekend trading profit there Grin
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December 09, 2013, 05:25:31 PM
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Relevant reddit discussion: http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/1sgzzy/swiss_parliamentary_postulate_bitcoin_is_a/

Residing in Switzerland? Then write me to join the Bitcoin Association Switzerland - the local chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation.
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December 09, 2013, 05:40:05 PM
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Thanks for sharing!
Lets see how will this be perceived by the media...
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December 09, 2013, 06:31:21 PM
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Nöd schlecht...merci für s Engagement!

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December 09, 2013, 07:02:00 PM
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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.


I don't mind what politicians think about bitcoin, as they can't control it. Anyway I remember the following news from Switzerland:

Swiss banks ditch secrecy
http://rt.com/business/game-changer-swiss-banking-secrecy-254/

So it's an interesting opportunity to whoever deposited money in Swiss bank accounts to migrate to bitcoin and be free from government control Wink

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December 09, 2013, 07:40:55 PM
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... the simplest way to answer them would be to clarify that Bitcoins should be treated like other foreign currencies. ... 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.

Watch out.
Ok, Bitcoin being defined as "foreign currency" in Switzerland might be interesting, because Switzerland enjoys a good deal of financial freedom (relatively to the rest of the world, at least). AFAIK, people there are free to have bank accounts in foreign currencies, use them as they want etc. But in many (most?) places of the world, such definition would be very negative. In many jurisdictions, foreign currency is something "common folk" can barely touch, and when they're allowed to, regulations are strict. Just take Argentina as an example. Bitcoin being defined as foreign currency there would be almost the equivalent of banning it.

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Hermel
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December 09, 2013, 07:54:51 PM
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... the simplest way to answer them would be to clarify that Bitcoins should be treated like other foreign currencies. ... 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.
Watch out.

This is an excellent question and has also been raised on hacker news: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6876304

Residing in Switzerland? Then write me to join the Bitcoin Association Switzerland - the local chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation.
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December 09, 2013, 08:00:14 PM
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this is great Cheesy
I guess they would also lower the bitcoin related taxes as  currency exchange isn't the same as an online commodity  Grin

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December 09, 2013, 09:19:44 PM
 #14

Stop that bullshit talk here...

There is NO line about using it as foreign currency.
It's just a postulate to evaluate the RISKs of bitcoin.

Nothing else.

http://www.parlament.ch/d/suche/seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20133687
Hermel
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December 09, 2013, 09:23:26 PM
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Stop that bullshit talk here...

There is NO line about using it as foreign currency.
It's just a postulate to evaluate the RISKs of bitcoin.

Nothing else.

http://www.parlament.ch/d/suche/seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20133687

I have good news for you: you linked to the wrong postulate. Here is the new one: http://www.parlament.ch/e/suche/Pages/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20134070

Also note that the author of the old (negative) postulate signed the new one, indicating that he is open to see the opportunities of Bitcoin.

Residing in Switzerland? Then write me to join the Bitcoin Association Switzerland - the local chapter of the Bitcoin Foundation.
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December 09, 2013, 09:25:30 PM
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Think we may see some alignment within Europe in regards of tax treatment soon.
Recent musings from UK taking Bitcoin down a 'voucher' route, is not going to happen. It now looks like HMRC (and possibly other European jurisdictions), are going to declare it currency, but not legal tender.

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December 09, 2013, 09:33:25 PM
 #17

This should be the best news I've read so far. Thanks for sharing.

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December 09, 2013, 10:12:44 PM
 #18

Rechtssicherheit for the win!

Without clear rules, nothing big can happen.

Do we want big things to happen? That's another question. Probably most would say: fuck yes.

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December 09, 2013, 10:15:21 PM
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Stop that bullshit talk here...

There is NO line about using it as foreign currency.
It's just a postulate to evaluate the RISKs of bitcoin.

Nothing else.

http://www.parlament.ch/d/suche/seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20133687

I have good news for you: you linked to the wrong postulate. Here is the new one: http://www.parlament.ch/e/suche/Pages/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20134070

I fail to find the actual text...

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December 09, 2013, 10:22:23 PM
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Quote
Damit liesse sich Bitcoin im Kontext des GWG, KAG, MWSTG und anderer Gesetze einordnen und es würde Rechtssicherheit hergestellt.

This says categorizing Bitcoin as foreign currency would make clear how it would have to be handled regarding AML, captial gains tax and VAT.

How would it be handled in switzerland? The VAT case seems clear. VAT applies when buying product, no matter what currency is used (not on the currency itself, of course, this is something still unclear in the german case).

Excuse my ignorance: how are capital gains of foreign currency holdings taxed?

How would AML regulation affect Bitcoin businesses and users in switzerland should Bitcoin become foreign currency?

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