Up to date as of September, 2018

Awareness and investment in cryptocurrencies is growing around the world. With this increasing demand, countries are grappling with how best to regulate coins as well as ICOs.

Here, we guide you through how countries around the world are treating cryptocurrencies. Keep in mind that regulations do change frequently, so if you’re unsure about the legality of blockchain technology in any country, you should always check the most up to date news sources like FintechFriday, which brings the most recent regulatory, technical, and mass adoption news to your inbox every Friday on the dot.

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Except in the form of text below, you can also find relatively up to date information on regulation and acceptance of cryptocurrency in this online interactive map.

Definitions

Before we jump into the nitty gritty of each country, here’s how we define legality:

Status definitions:

Legal – Regulations are in place to govern the use of cryptocurrencies and the operation of exchanges. ICOs may or may not be regulated.

Not illegal/grey area – There are no regulations surrounding the use of cryptocurrencies and the government may have issued warnings against cryptocurrencies, without outright banning the use of them.

Illegal – Any use of cryptocurrencies, including purchase and trading, is considered illegal and prosecutions may be applied if discovered.

Africa

Kenya

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Despite a recent statement from the Central Bank that warns against virtual currencies, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not illegal in Kenya. In fact, Kenya is one of the countries in the world that has the largest bitcoin holdings, representing about 2.3% of the GDP.

Nigeria

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Although a statement was issued by the Central Bank in 2017 warning banks against facilitating the trading of bitcoin in the country, the cryptocurrency industry was largely unaffected. The Nigerian SEC also made a statement, warning bitcoin traders as well as ICO and altcoin traders to exercise caution when dealing with these types of crypto assets. Lawmakers are keen to introduce a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and have urged regulatory authorities to do so.

South Africa

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The cryptocurrency space is unregulated but a whitepaper was issued in 2014 by the South Africa Reserve Bank that set out its position on cryptocurrencies. It authorizes that cryptocurrencies can be used for trading and in exchanges and are recognized as a store of value which can be converted to legal tender in the same way that a gift card can, but isn’t recognized as a legal form of payment.

Asia

Bangladesh

Status: Illegal

Warning issued that any transactions being conducted in cryptocurrencies will be punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

China

Status: Illegal

Access to all domestic and foreign cryptocurrency exchanges and ICO websites has been blocked and ICOs are banned.

Hong Kong

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Because Bitcoin (and likely other cryptocurrencies) are considered a virtual commodity rather than currency, it’s not regulated by any of the financial regulatory bodies. A formal ban hasn’t been issued on trading cryptocurrencies but no bank has actually asked for permission, because the answer is likely no, so trading operates in a gray area.

India

Status: Not illegal/grey area

India’s central bank will no longer deal with any financial institutions or companies that deal with virtual currencies such as bitcoin. However, there is no ban on the purchase or sale of cryptocurrencies and exchange users can continue on the platforms as before.

Indonesia

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrency futures trading is now allowed. Laws are being reviewed to allow governance of wallets, exchanges and mining operations, while trading will be taxed.

Iran

Status: Illegal

Banks, credit unions and currency exchanges must avoid the sale or purchase of cryptocurrencies as well as any action to promote them. However, Iran is also in the process of creating its own cryptocurrency project, referred to as an experimental local cryptocurrency, which seems to contradict its ban on cryptocurrencies.

Israel

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The Bank of Israel has advised their position towards cryptocurrencies is that they are financial assets and does not recognize virtual currencies as actual currency. New laws that would regulate cryptocurrency exchanges were slated to be released in June but have since been delayed to October 2018.

Japan

Status: Legal

Virtual currency is considered a form of payment. Exchanges must be licensed in Japan to operate and the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Industry Association (comprised of the first 16 licensed Japanese virtual currency exchanges) has the power to create and enforce rules and set fines. While regulation of the exchanges is still being fine-tuned, Japan has now begun working on developing a framework to regulate ICOs.

Malaysia

Status: Not illegal/grey area

A new regulation requires that Malaysian exchanges adopt KYC (Know Your Customer) Requirements, which means the full name, address and date of birth of all customers must be collected, as well as ID documentation. Virtual currencies are not recognized as legal tender in Malaysia.

Pakistan

Status: Illegal

The State Bank of Pakistan issued a statement that they have not authorized or licensed any individual or entity to issue, purchase, exchange or invest in any virtual currencies, coins or tokens and that virtual currencies were not considered legal tender. Any person found using any of these for the purpose of transferring money outside of Pakistan will be subject to prosecution, according to applicable laws.

Philippines

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The Philippine Central Bank, which regulates virtual currency exchanges, has not endorsed the use of any cryptocurrency and does not recognize it as legal tender. There are no regulations around cryptocurrencies currently, making it neither legal nor illegal. However, the Philippines have allowed 10 blockchain and virtual currency companies to operate in an economic zone to take advantage of tax perks and generate employment and can engage in mining, ICOs or exchanges. The caveat is the exchange of fiat money into virtual currency still needs to be done offshore so as to avoid infringing on Philippine regulations. Cryptocurrency regulations are expected to be sometime in 2018.

Singapore

Status: Legal

The Central Bank currently sees no strong case to ban cryptocurrency trading and in fact, they will continue to encourage experiments in the blockchain space which use cryptocurrencies because they believe some of these experiments could become economically or socially beneficial.

South Korea

Status: Legal

There is currently no outright ban on cryptocurrency, although that is one of the measures being considered. There is a ban on the use of anonymous bank accounts in cryptocurrency trading and names on exchange wallets must match the names on the bank accounts. Plans are in place to review the ICO ban issued last year and legalize ICOs again.

Taiwan

Status: Not illegal/grey area

There is currently no official regulation of cryptocurrencies and ICOs but the government has announced it will be pushing for regulation of cryptocurrencies under the same rules that already govern the traditional financial sector in 2018.

Thailand

Status: Legal

ICOs and cryptocurrencies are regulated and cryptocurrency profits (capital gains) are taxed at 15%. Cryptocurrencies and ICOs are considered digital assets and regulated by Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission.

Vietnam

Status: Illegal

Security-trading firms were asked in January to stop providing cryptocurrency related services, including issuance, transactions and brokering. Credit institutions and intermediary payment services were asked not to conduct transactions related to digital currencies and any payments made in cryptocurrencies in the country are considered illegal. It remains unclear whether cryptocurrencies are considered currency, commodities or payment instruments and therefore if trading services are considered payment services. This casts exchanges and traders in a grey area, because cryptocurrencies wouldn’t be banned from being traded if used as a type of intangible good or commodity.

Europe

Austria

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Austria recently announced they would be looking at regulating cryptocurrencies using the trading rules for gold and derivatives. ICOs would also be regulated under these same rules.

Belgium

Status: Not illegal/grey area

There are currently no regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies in Belgium. Like many other European nations, Belgium is expecting a European policy to regulate across the EU. However, citizens investing in cryptocurrencies are expected to pay 33% capital gains tax on any profits.

Bulgaria

Status: Not illegal/grey area

No regulations exist in Bulgaria but citizens are still expected to declare any income from virtual currencies for taxation purposes.

Croatia

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrency is currently neither a legal means of payment nor electronic money under current law in Croatia. They have appealed for a common EU policy for cryptocurrencies. Businesses and crypto enthusiasts in Croatia have come together to form an umbrella organization dedicated to advise regulators on buying and selling cryptocurrencies, crypto payments and salary payouts in Bitcoin.

Czech Republic

Status: Legal

The Czech Republic was one of the first countries in the world to regulate cryptocurrencies. In August 2017, the Czech National Bank issued a statement calling Prague “home for cryptocurrency users” and encouraged banks not to be afraid of Bitcoin. More than 80 businesses in Prague alone accept bitcoin payments and this is possible due to the spreading of services that offer bitcoin cards – a payment system which takes the amount of the cost of the goods or services from the bitcoin wallet of the purchaser. Other providers are going a step further and even preparing to accept other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin and ether.

Denmark

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Danske Bank announced recently that it would be banning any purchases of cryptocurrencies through financial instruments such as derivatives and strongly advised that consumers refrain from investing in them.

Finland

Status: Not illegal/grey area

There are no specific regulations for cryptocurrencies but many Finnish banks are refusing to do business with exchanges, essentially freezing large exchanges, such as Prasos Oy.

France

Status: Not illegal/grey area

France’s Finance Minister plans to create regulations around ICOs and wants to become a leading center for offerings in digital currencies and altcoins. His belief is that it will give French startups unprecedented opportunities to raise funds by issuing ICOs.

Germany

Status: Legal

Germany announced it regards bitcoin as the equivalent to legal tender when it comes to taxation when used as a means of payment. As long as the virtual currency has been accepted as an alternative and contractual means of payment by both parties in the transaction and has no purpose other than being used as a payment method, there will be no taxation as this would be a legal form of payment.

Greece

Status: Not illegal/grey area

There are no regulations for cryptocurrencies nor has the National Bank issued any statements.

Hungary

Status: Not illegal/grey area

No regulations exist for cryptocurrencies. The National Bank issued a public statement in 2016 warning citizens on the use of bitcoin and other altcoins because of the unregulated nature and also that there is no institutional guarantee with respect to transactions or payments with these virtual currencies.

Ireland

Status: Not illegal/grey area

No decisions have been made regarding the regulation of cryptocurrencies. In 2017, it was announced that the Central Bank would be working to research and advise on fintech developments and investigating how to use technologies like blockchain.

Italy

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The Treasury Department of the Ministry of Economy and Finance is working on a decree that will define how and when service providers related to cryptocurrencies should report their activities.

Netherlands

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The finance minister has dismissed the possibility of pursuing a prohibition on cryptocurrency as he doesn’t believe that a ban can be sufficiently maintained. He has advocated for a regulatory framework to be put into place that would govern bitcoin futures and other high-risk derivatives such as binary options.

Norway

Status: Legal

Norway does not consider cryptocurrencies as money or currency but rather as an asset. That means any profits from cryptocurrencies are subject to a capital gains tax of 25%.

Poland

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrencies cannot be deposited or loaned and all operations using bitcoin are considered bartering, rather than buy-sell transactions and paying with it requires a legal contract to be in place. Cryptocurrencies are treated as property, not currency and therefore also fall under the general taxation applied to property. Specific regulations around altcoins are expected to be announced any day now, and the Prime Minister has said that if not a complete ban, then there will definitely be proper regulation of legal matters that involve bitcoin and other altcoins.

Portugal

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Parliament is currently discussing how to regulate cryptocurrency payments and plans to devise a legal framework for these types of payments, including the regulation of ICOs.

Russia

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has indicated regulations will come into effect by the end of 2018 and will end the uncertainty surrounding the legality of cryptocurrencies.

Slovenia

Status: Legal

Slovenia treats cryptocurrencies as virtual currencies and they are not financial instruments or monetary assets. Slovenia’s anti-money laundering laws were updated and explicitly refer to cryptocurrencies, and define any exchanges and brokers trading in cryptocurrencies as financial institutions for anti-money laundering purposes, requiring them to follow the same compliance and rules applicable to all financial institutions.

Slovenia has been referred to as the next Silicon Valley for crypto because of its friendly attitude towards blockchain technology. It was also just announced that the largest shopping center (coincidentally known as BTC City) will be transformed into a complete bitcoin city, where every store and venture will accept cryptocurrencies and operate using blockchain technology.

Spain

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The government is preparing blockchain friendly regulations that are expected to be introduced this year. Included in the legislation will be a framework to govern ICOs. However, they may face issues with EU compliance and other political upheaval.

Sweden

Status: Legal

Cryptocurrencies are treated as assets and subject to capital gains tax. However it is also considering issuing its own digital currency that would replace its national tender today. It is believed that Sweden will most likely become the first country in the world to issue its own digital currency and is not a question of when but rather, what it will look like.

Switzerland

Status: Legal

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are considered to be covered by existing financial, criminal and contract laws and separate legislation is not required. Switzerland recently revealed potential ICO regulations which would use a three-tier system to classify tokens based on their use and the rights and benefits they provide to the purchaser of the token. There would be four groups of tokens/coins – (1) payment tokens, which would not be considered securities; (2) utility tokens which would not be considered securities if they have a specified use or can be exchanged for services, but the token must have the ability to be used at the time of purchase; (3) asset tokens which are treated as securities and subject to securities laws; and (4) hybrid tokens which would have to be looked at on an individual basis.

Turkey

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Despite previous statements in 2017 that cryptocurrencies were not compatible with Islam because of its speculative nature and lack of government control, Turkey has not banned the use of cryptocurrencies. Some websites, stores and even real estate companies accept cryptocurrencies as payment. Most recently, the government announced that it would be looking at regulations and also considering launching its own national cryptocurrency called the Turkcoin.

Ukraine

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Ukraine has formed a working group to draft cryptocurrency regulations, including the legalization and taxation of mining, but no laws have been proposed to parliament yet. Ukraine is also considering launching its own digital currency.

UK

Status: Not illegal/grey area

The Treasury announced plans to regulate cryptocurrencies and inquiries are being made into digital currencies and blockchain technology. It will likely lead to regulation, especially around ICOs but legislation hasn’t been introduced yet.

North America

Canada

Status: Legal

It is legal to own, buy and trade cryptocurrencies in Canada and is regulated under Canadian anti-money laundering legislation. It is not considered money or currency but a commodity, and subject to capital gains tax.

Mexico

Status: Not illegal/grey area

While technically not legal yet, Mexico has already drafted legislation for regulating cryptocurrency and is awaiting one signature to pass the new laws. Secondary rules that will be more specific as to how it applies to crypto companies will be released later.

United States

Status: Not illegal/grey area

There is no uniform regulation across the country around cryptocurrencies. Most states have not passed any specific laws around cryptocurrency, some have embraced blockchain technology while still others have tried to deter residents from dealing with cryptocurrencies. ICOs were officially declared as securities by the SEC in July 2017.

Oceania

Australia

Status: Legal

The use of cryptocurrency as payment was no longer subject to double taxation, effectively treating cryptocurrency as money rather than a commodity. However, cryptocurrencies will remain subject to capital gains tax. New regulations have also been introduced for digital currency exchanges.

New Zealand

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrencies and ICOs are considered securities in New Zealand. For tokens specifically, they fall into one of four categories – debt securities, equity securities, managed investment products or derivatives.

South America

Argentina

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrencies are not specifically regulated as of yet but the government plans to issue legislation later this year. Currently, cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tender and are subject to taxation.

Bolivia

Status: Illegal

A statement in 2014 issued by the central bank states that the use of any kind of currency that is not issued or regulated by the government is illegal and punishable by law.

Brazil

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrencies are subject to a tax rate of 15% but otherwise unregulated. Because bitcoins and altcoins are not considered financial assets, financial institutions cannot purchase them and add them to their portfolios. Exchanges however don’t fall under the financial regulations because bitcoin and cryptocurrencies aren’t a currency or security and are able to continue their operations.

Chile

Status: Not illegal/grey area

There are no clear regulations around cryptocurrencies in Chile but because of this uncertainty, banks and exchanges are clashing. Many banks have closed accounts associated with trading platforms and the exchanges have retaliated by taking legal action to appeal.

Colombia

Status: Not illegal/grey area

Cryptocurrencies are not authorized but also not banned in Colombia. They are not seen as currency nor securities.

Ecuador

Status: Not illegal/grey area

In 2014, cryptocurrencies were specifically banned but the Central Bank recently issued another statement backing off on its earlier hard line ban and instead warning that the bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not a legal currency and is not authorized as a means of payment of goods and services.

Venezuela

Status: Legal

With the introduction of the national oil backed Petro cryptocurrency, a Constituent Decree was created that would regulate the use of cryptoassets as well as the Petro. However, the Petro has been under fire with claims that it’s a scam as well as illegal and unconstitutional. The future of the Petro as well as regulations of cryptocurrencies in Venezuela is extremely unclear due to the numerous political issues.


We’ll do our best to keep this post up to date. If you see some inaccuracies or think of useful details to add to any of the entries, please let us know.

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