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US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

United States Congressman Tom Emmer has reintroduced his Safe Harbor for Taxpayers with Forked Assets bill, according to a press release published July 9. US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)

The reintroduced version of the bill appears to have been published on July 3, based on the date printed within the document.

Emmer initially announced plans for the Forked Assets bill in 2018 as a means to simplify tax laws pertaining to assets held on blockchains with hard forks.

A hard fork on a blockchain splits the chain in two, with one path following the original protocol and another path diverging with different features. The new path is incompatible with the original blockchain, and does not regard its previously ratified transactions as valid.

Emmer purportedly introduced the bill in order to foster blockchain industry growth in the U.S. by lessening the burden on businesses to figure out relevant tax laws. In Emmer’s own words, “taxpayers can only comply with the law when the law is clear.”

Worth noting is that The Safe Harbor bill is not intended to eliminate taxes on a hard forked blockchain. Instead, the bill aims to provide a safe harbor to investors who don’t properly account for a hard fork in calculating their tax returns.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Congressman Emmer also recently reintroduced the bill to “provide a safe harbor from licensing and registration for certain non-controlling blockchain developers and providers of blockchain services” in January.

In April, Congress representatives Warren Davidson and Darren Soto — a co-sponsor of the foregoing licensing and registration bill — moved to reintroduce the Token Taxonomy Act. This bill would exclude cryptocurrencies from security regulations, and would similarly aim to simultaneously clarify and simplify regulatory compliance for blockchain-based businesses.

Updated: 10-22-2019

Rep. Warren Davidson: You Have To Defend Money To Defend Freedom

In an interview with Cointelegraph on Friday, Oct. 18, United States Representative Warren Davidson gave his thoughts on the Securities Exchange Commission’s (SEC) flawed approach to regulating digital assets as well as Mark Zuckerberg’s upcoming Oct. 23 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

Congressman Davidson (R-OH) is a figure familiar to many in the crypto world for his role in authoring the Token Taxonomy Act, as well as his general optimism about the role of blockchain in the U.S.

On Regulating Libra As A Security

While Discussing Regulating Cryptocurrencies At Large As Opposed To Libra, Davidson Was Highly Precise In His Taxonomic Definitions:

“We use the term ‘cryptocurrencies’ to refer to everything in the crypto space, which is sloppy language. What we need to focus on is, what is Libra’s goal? Its goal is to be a currency. Let’s not conflate that with what other things in the space want to do and how we regulate them. How we look at Libra would be to apply, in my view, the Token Taxonomy litmus test.”

Davidson concluded that Libra is ultimately classified as a security, and therefore falls under the purview of the SEC within the United States. He explained this as being a function of the influence of a central organization over Libra’s composition. It was originally planned as a “basket” of currencies, though David Marcus, head of Calibra, yesterday suggested that these could instead be fiat-pegged stablecoins.

Speaking about Libra’s classification as a security, Davidson said, “It has nothing to do with stablecoins. It has to do with whether there’s a central authority that can alter it.” The congressman was unconvinced that the planned basket of currencies would be fixed and stable, opening Libra up to the Libra Association’s tampering. He ceded that SEC Chairman Clayton is correct in his assessment as to how this makes Libra a security, rather than a true currency.

“It’s the ability to destroy your value,” Davidson said. “And in that sense, when you’re placing all your faith in the value of that token on the actions of a central authority, that’s where I tend to agree with Jay Clayton. That looks a lot like a security.”

Elaborating on Libra’s centralization, Davidson said, “The way that they proposed to do it — and the fact that it’s Facebook doing it — highlights to me the problem with centralized tokens.” Bitcoin (BTC) came up as a comparison: “Whoever Satoshi Nakamoto is, you can’t serve Satoshi papers. There’s no headquarters to subpoena.”

Davidson did credit Facebook’s initial whitepaper for Libra with a rapid expansion of interest in crypto:

“It was the moment that I think a lot people said, ‘Wow this is really gonna be a thing, it’s not just this wonky niche.’ Facebook’s talking about doing it all over the planet, this is going to scale up. It really raised the profile of blockchain. I think that’s great.”

On The Sec’s “Third-World” Approach To Crypto: Regulation By Enforcement

Despite his desire to see Libra under the SEC’s jurisdiction, Davidson was extremely critical of the commission’s current regulation of digital assets. The present strategy has largely consisted of legal action against companies making moves that the SEC deems missteps:

“The SEC is doing a complete patchwork of regulation. No one knows where they’re going. They’re literally told if you want to launch a token, whatever you think you want to do with it, come check with the SEC first. […] And you can grovel. If you grovel well enough, then we’ll give you a no-action letter. You have hundreds of companies waiting on no-action letters. They’ve approved two. You can’t raise capital while you’re waiting for that.”

Telegram recently made a similar argument in response to the SEC’s emergency action against the company’s distribution of Gram tokens on Oct. 11. Telegram alleged that the commission had ended up facing an “emergency of its own making” by not doing anything in the 18 preceding months during which it was aware of Telegram’s plans.

Davidson blamed this strategy for a flight of capital from the U.S. to other countries. In the case of the Libra Association, that money’s going to Geneva. This move drew the ire of Davidson’s fellow committee members when David Marcus spoke to them in July. To Davidson, this is a search for clarity rather than anarchy:

“So what are people doing? They’re like,’Screw you guys, we’re just gonna launch it in Switzerland, Singapore, Malta — wherever.’ And they’re not going to avoid our laws — we don’t have a law. As I told Chairman Clayton, you’ve got all the charm and inefficiency of third-world power structures. Go see el jefe and maybe you can cut your own deal. That’s a horrible way to regulate the economy. You do not regulate by enforcement. You regulate by passing a simple law as a uniform standard for everyone. That’s easy to comply with. That’s what first-world countries do.”

After the SEC hearing, Cointelegraph asked whether the next steps were in the hands of legislators in Congress or regulators like the SEC. Congressman Davidson came down on the side of legislation first.

The congressman attributed the current hold-up to the mechanics of how the SEC’s commissioners operate: “They’re having a debate internal to the board as to how to go forward. And frankly, part of the holdback is Chairman Clayton. He’s got a lot of power and he doesn’t want to give it up.”

It remains to be seen how recent events will or won’t compel other members of Congress to back the Token Taxonomy Act (or any equivalent piece of legislation). On a more optimistic note, Davidson expressed continuing hope for the future of blockchain and crypto in the United States: “I believe that this is a great industry. America should be leading the world in it, we should set our framework for it.”

On His Hopes For The Oct. 23 Committee Hearing With Mark Zuckerberg

With Davidson’s views on Libra’s status as a security established, he elaborated on what he wants to see at Wednesday’s hearing. He seemed to prefer that the hearings stick to the subject of Libra rather than reining in the company as a whole: “Hopefully it focuses on blockchain and this tokenized idea that they have versus just Facebook.”

A major concern for Davidson is the degree of control that Libra and the associated Calibra wallet will have over transactions. In his words: “Some people want the wallets to filter transactions. I don’t know. I’ve got a wallet. Does your wallet filter transactions? Does your wallet say, ‘No, you can’t buy that?’” He continued:

“Would Libra itself — which is supposed to be a store of value, money, a currency, a synthetic currency, basically — would the association have any way to filter transactions? And if they do, then it’s not really money, it’s a system of control.”

In no uncertain terms, the congressman asserted his opposition to that kind of control of consumer finances: “It’s a civil liberties thing. If you’re going to defend freedom, you have to defend money.”

Updated: 1-16-2020

Bill To Exempt Small Crypto Transactions From Taxes Returns To US Congress

A bill seeking to exempt personal cryptocurrency transactions from taxation for capital gains has been reintroduced in the Congress of the United States.

What The Bill Looks To Change

Called “The Virtual Currency Tax Fairness Act of 2020,” the bill would establish an exemption for virtual currency expenditures that qualify as personal transactions. Users would then not have to report instances when they spent crypto whose valued had changed relative to the U.S. dollar on day-to-day expenses.

Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and David Schweikert (R-AZ) introduced the bill today, Jan. 16. Schweikert introduced an earlier version of this bill in 2017 that featured a substantially larger exemption.

Existing tax law struggles to cope with cryptocurrencies, as they sometimes behave as investments, sometimes commodities, and sometimes just like other currencies. It is to this last type of transaction that the bill looks to simplify for crypto traders and users.

The Current Problem And The Earlier Bill

Currently, the IRS could hold crypto users responsible for paying taxes on gains earned and realized unknowingly, based solely on the value of their crypto at a time of purchase. Such a system would make use of crypto as currency incredibly cumbersome within the U.S.

The newly reintroduced bill would exempt taxpayers from a reporting duty as long as the gains involved are under $200, which would generally only apply with major purchases or wild bull markets. The earlier version of the bill put this number at $600.

The bill would insert a new category within existing IRS exclusions from classification as gross income.

Other Issues With U.S. Taxation

Taxing cryptocurrencies has proved a major sticking point in the U.S. In December, eight congresspeople sent a letter to the IRS asking the tax agency to clarify rules for reporting income due to hard forks or air drops.

Last year, just before the tax reporting deadline in April, 21 representatives sent a similar letter to the IRS, likewise dissatisfied with current clarity.

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