There’s been a lot of worldwide news over the past week regarding policies toward Bitcoin. Last week, the European Court of Justice ruled the cryptocurrency was exempt from value-added tax (VAT), a decision that all EU nations must now follow. While this is a great hurdle cleared toward a wide use of Bitcoin, other nations aren’t as accepting. Russia in particular has banned Bitcoin, and its Ministry of Finance has proposed new legislation which increases the penalties for violators.
According to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, the proposed legislation would impose a penalty of up to four years in prison for people who mine or use Bitcoin. Coinfox reports that the legislation also has support from the Ministry of Economic Development. According to Elena Lakshina, a representative of this ministry, Bitcoin is considered a surrogate currency, meaning there are no legal entities responsible for its release.
Despite the proposed legislation, the opposition to Bitcoin isn’t unanimous within the government. Indeed, Coinfox reported last month that the Russian Central Bank created a group to research blockchain technology. Yandex.Money, the most-used electronic payments system in the nation, also has plans to work with blockchains and cryptocurrencies.
While Russia is hardening its stance on Bitcoin, other nations are open to incorporating the cryptocurrency and its associated technology. The Australian Securities Exchange, for example, is considering blockchain technology to replace its current clearing/settlement system. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Elmer Funke Kupper, managing director of the ASX, believes blockchain technology would cut time and reduce costs for trading. The ASX is currently using the Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (CHESS), and Mr. Kupper said its replacement is “… a one in 20-year opportunity.”
The recent progress and setbacks for Bitcoin paint a complex picture for the future of Bitcoin and blockchain technology. While some nations are moving forward, others are holding back. The question for Bitcoin comes down to its definition: is the cryptocurrency a true currency or not? For now, we can cheer progress and watch as others consider both sides of the coin.
Image credit: public domain image by Bitboy (source: Bitcoin forums)