Cointelegraph By Edmund McCormack
As the United States Senate begins confirming leadership posts across commerce and the treasury, there has been meaningful momentum in the crypto community as a response. This is due to the profiles of various individuals who have been reportedly nominated, as well as the anticipated economic measures by the coming administration — both of which are expected to nurture positive momentum for crypto growth.
While a few official appointments have been made with numerous confirmations pending, others are still at the nomination stage. Let’s take a quick loop around the swamp.
Confirmed with 84 votes, Janet Yellen will be at the helm of the treasury. During her confirmation hearing, Yellen outlined her support for Biden’s agenda, which includes a likely increase on taxes for the wealthy, “backing the buck” to stabilize the dollar amid attempts to undermine current value through market manipulation abroad, and ensuring the stabilization of the U.S. economy amid the current global COVID-19 pandemic. On crypto, Yellen did not directly address her approach to regulation in the space during her confirmation hearings; however, she did mention that legitimate uses for cryptocurrency should be encouraged, such as means using these types of decentralized finance to “improve efficiency of the financial system.”
Securities and Exchange Commission
One appointment the crypto community is particularly excited about is Gary Gensler, who previously served as Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman under President Barack Obama and as a Treasury official under President Bill Clinton. Having previously called blockchain technology “a catalyst for change,” Gensler has been outspoken about the importance of cryptocurrencies and has gone on record to say there is a “strong case” for XRP being classified as a security. He has also been very vocal about how blockchain technology could solve payment problems in the United States.
As the expected chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gensler will be in a prime position to rally support behind a U.S. central bank digital currency, particularly amid institutional interest for this product. Gensler would also play a significant role in broad governmental action on crypto and blockchain, such as the consideration of a Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund, and he is expected to shift sentiments in its favor. Currently a professor of practice at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, Gensler conducts research and teaches blockchain technology, digital currencies, financial technology and public policy.
Moreover, the departure of SEC Chairman Jay Clayton is also welcomed by crypto enthusiasts, as he was notorious for his skepticism toward the digital finance industry. With Clayton stepping aside, coupled with his anti-crypto biases, the path is open for Bitcoin ETFs to become a reality.
There’s already a line of financial institutions led by Fidelity and investment firms that have applications for Bitcoin funds in process with the SEC and will be applying pressure on Gensler when he takes office.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Another office coming into focus during Biden’s transition is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Out is Brian Brooks, former head of OCC during the Trump administration, who, prior to stepping down, announced that banks can utilize stablecoins and blockchain to process payment. In what is being considered an “interpretive letter,” the OCC is allowing federally chartered banks to use cryptocurrencies with fairly stable prices for standard transactions. The letter also stipulates that banks can participate in validating transactions on a blockchain, setting an impressive regulatory step forward for stablecoins and creating more potential for cryptocurrencies.
Prior to stepping down from office, Brooks went on record about the importance of decentralized finance where he explained:
“This is what decentralization is about. In the world of crypto, there is no CEO. Crypto is about freedom and if you didn’t believe that freedom mattered last week, you should think about it again.”
As of early February, Biden’s transition team is expected to nominate Michael Barr as Brooks’ successor in the OCC. Prior to his tenure as an advisor at Ripple and board member at LendingClub, Barr helped construct the Dodd-Frank Act, where strict regulations were introduced to lenders and creditors to protect consumers in the wake of the housing collapse. This unique blend of experience and credibility could be what’s needed to help push forward favorable regulation and further growth of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency in financial services.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
The last appointment that should make investors optimistic is Chris Brummer, who is expected to become the next Chairman of the CFTC. As a member of the CFTC’s subcommittee and faculty director of Georgetown’s Institute of International Economic Law, Brummer will advise Yellen on regulatory affairs related to cryptocurrency while also potentially laying the foundation for a more expansive derivatives market for digital assets.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Edmund McCormack is the founder and CEO of Dchained and is also a tech and crypto-investing veteran. For 15 years, Edmund has been active in the launch and adoption of technology and services now integral to everyday life from social networks to the App Store. Through the intersection of technology and a community of investors and experts, Edmund has built the educational platform focused to help everyday individuals learn and get started in cryptocurrencies.
Professional traders need a global crypto sea, not hundreds of lakes
Cointelegraph By Haohan Xu
Coinbase’s IPO announcement has been hailed as “a milestone for the crypto industry” by Fortune Magazine. Similar to the Netscape IPO announcement that signaled the legitimacy of the internet, Coinbase’s impending public offering signals to the public at large that cryptocurrency trading is legitimate, legal and secure in the eyes of the Securities and Exchange Commission. And now, investors have an opportunity to own stock on the largest crypto trading platform in the United States.
As a result, many see an investment in Coinbase as an investment in the future of crypto trading. It is the highest volume U.S. crypto exchange, with three times the volume of its next closest U.S. competitor. The largest of anything in the U.S. must be the world leader. Except, it’s not. And conventional wisdom and current market realities are very far apart.
In order to understand the nuances of the crypto trading platform market, one must understand some important facts.
These are important implications that shape current market maturity and the problems institutional crypto traders face today. There is no single exchange that enables traders to access global trading markets, cross-border price discovery, global best prices, global liquidity or decentralized trading markets.
The crypto trading market is still highly fragmented with no dominant player
Together, the top five crypto exchanges represent only 41% of the total global trading volume. Coinbase, the largest exchange in the U.S., generates only 2.1% of global volume. The number one ranked exchange in the U.S. ranks only 19th globally. In the global market, there is no dominant player as we’d expect to see in a more mature market.
According to the data above, the New York Stock Exchange’s share of global equity trading is more than 12 times higher than Coinbase’s, and the top two U.S. equity exchanges account for over 50% of global daily trading volume, while the top two U.S. crypto exchanges represent only 3% of the global trading volume.
Compared to traditional stocks, the crypto market is also highly fragmented. The top two stock exchanges represent 51% of daily trading volume, while the top three crypto exchanges represent only 27% of daily trading volume.
No unified global trading market exists
The crypto trading market is still in its infancy. Based on my conversations with institutional traders and independent professional traders, I’ve learned that institutions are still clamoring for institutional-grade capabilities that are not yet available on a single platform, such as:
- Global price discovery — e.g., prices from global markets normalized for local currency.
- Global Best Bid and Offer — global order book, normalized for foreign exchange and fees in local currency.
- Global liquidity access — access to global liquidity, not just that of one exchange.
Each exchange is its own trading “lake” with no “canal” connecting them. In the U.S., a trader can only trade with 2.1% of global users, with an order book that is completely separate and distinct from other U.S. trading markets — e.g., Coinbase and Kraken.
Global trading volume, liquidity and price discovery are available only to those who are able to manage multiple accounts across multiple exchanges in multiple countries and continents. It’s a tall order that ties up both legal and technical resources.
Clearly, traders would benefit from a single, global order book normalized in a single currency to discover the best global prices along with the liquidity required to execute large block trades. The industry sorely needs crypto’s equivalent of traditional securities’ National Best Bid and Offer.
Centralized exchanges are only part of the trading picture
Binance and Coinbase are centralized exchanges that match buyers’ orders with sellers’ orders, executing trades and settling accounts. Customers’ crypto assets are held in custody by an exchange, and users only trade with other users on the same exchange. Even in aggregate, centralized exchanges don’t capture the entirety of digital asset trading volume.
This is because decentralized exchanges are on the rise, enabling peer-to-peer trades (or swaps), in which assets are exchanged directly between traders, typically without Know Your Customer. At one point during 2020, Uniswap’s trading volume exceeded that of Coinbase’s. It’s possible that DEXs will gain an even footing with CEXs, so one cannot gain a full picture of the crypto trading market without taking DEXs into account.
The CEXs that figure out how to incorporate DEX price discovery and liquidity into their trading will have an important advantage.
Decentralized exchanges are growing but lack infrastructure to scale
Decentralized exchanges generate approximately 15% of the total crypto trading volume (based on CoinMarketCap data on Feb. 16, 2021). DEX trading has been growing fast, with Uniswap’s trading volume surpassing Coinbase’s in 2020 — a feat achieved with only 20 employees. Today, Venus is trending alongside Binance, which leads the market in 24-hour trading volume at the time of writing.
Professional traders may value DEXs for the security of wallet-to-wallet, or peer-to-peer, trades. However, there are two issues. First, without counterparty KYC, institutional traders cannot trade on DEXs. Second, the public chain technology supporting DEXs is slower and more expensive than exchange trading.
Institutional investors will need DEXs that are faster, with lower fees and robust KYC procedures. A DEX must be built on a faster, less expensive blockchain in order to attract institutional traders.
There are no true centralized exchanges — only brokers
Confusing matters even more, today’s crypto exchanges are more like regional brokers than true, global exchanges. For example, compare and contrast trading Apple (AAPL) on E-Trade versus trading Bitcoin (BTC) on Coinbase.
A professional trader in the U.S. seeking to trade BTC accesses only a small portion of the global market via Coinbase. Price discovery and liquidity are only by Coinbase’s BTC/USD order book. Over 97% of the world’s world’s supply, demand, price discovery and liquidity are only accessible via hundreds of other exchanges.
To sum up, selling Apple on E-Trade compared to selling Bitcoin on Coinbase:
- E-Trade places orders on Nasdaq, which captures nearly 100% of AAPL spot trades.
- Coinbase places orders on its own order book, which captures 2.1% of all global trades.
There is no truly global crypto trading market but rather hundreds of smaller, local markets. Imagine AAPL selling on 300+ different exchanges, each with its own buyers and sellers. This is the current state of the global crypto market.
The problems with this are twofold. First, trading on a CEX strips away many of the benefits of decentralized assets. Second, crypto trading is segregated into hundreds of discrete trading “lakes” — each with its own local fiat/crypto supply and demand.
Decentralization ensures no single entity can fully control a cryptocurrency. Users cede significant control when depositing in centralized exchanges that manage token listing privileges, custodianship, order matching and execution, and brokerage services.
This centralized power presents security and compliance hazards, which has led to market criticisms. In fact, Asia–Pacific traders have launched several coin withdrawal campaigns to show their resistance to CEX trading. The younger generation is averse to centralized power and daring to challenge it, as evidenced by the recent retail shorting war in the United States.
Centralized exchanges are also limited in their access to the global market and are severely limited. Why? Exchanges, such as Coinbase and Gemini, accept users from limited regions (the U.S. only) with limited fiat currency trading pairs (the United States dollar only) unlike E-Trade, which opens the doors for its traders to a multitude of exchanges, equities, exchange-traded funds and more. In contrast, CEXs close the doors to all others, severely limiting price discovery and liquidity, which leads to higher spreads, lower fill rates, higher slippage and, generally, inefficient markets. The concept of Best Bid and Offer does not yet exist in the crypto world, as the BBO on Coinbase is not the same as Gemini’s, Binance’s or Huobi’s.
Professional traders are underserved
From the perspective of professional traders, the market maturity and global trading capabilities required are not yet available. Cryptocurrency trading market segmentation is in its infancy, and the needs of professional traders are far from being met because: (1) they cannot efficiently access a global market; (2) they cannot access the best prices in a global market, and they cannot access institutional-grade liquidity.
Furthermore, DEX trading is not yet viable for institutional traders due to the lack of KYC during onboarding. Yet, the average Uniswap trader is far more active. Uniswap users are completely on-chain, open and transparent, and its 300,000 users trade more than Coinbase’s, which claims to have 35 million users. Therefore, an entire market of whales is trading outside of centralized exchanges, completely overturning the market misperception that Uniswap and DEX users are mainly retail investors.
No trading market exists that provides true global coverage, and retail and institutional traders cannot access a truly global market. And no trading market exists that provides institutional-grade DEX trading.
Asset digitization will drive growth
Industry consensus is that the continued digitization of assets is inevitable. Bitcoin and Ether (ETH) are blockchain-native tokens that constitute the main trading volume of the current cryptocurrency trading market. Yet the cryptocurrency market cap is less than half of Apple’s.
The stock market is almost negligible compared to the untapped digitized asset market. While the opportunity is large, it is also too early to predict the outcome.
Many exchanges expose traders to compliance risks
Some of the world’s leading exchanges allow trading in a large number of controversial tokens. Many exchanges’ Anti-Money Laundering regulations are not robust enough. Despite claiming to have licenses in some countries, it is hard to imagine the legitimate compliance of offering derivatives trading to users all over the world by using an exchange license in a single country. These compliance risks pose a serious challenge to the stability of the position of some exchanges, and not long ago, the market landscape for derivatives changed rapidly after BitMEX was indicted, resulting in a loss of users and a decline in trading volume.
Innovation in institutional-grade exchange technologies is not yet widely available. Volume rankings tell today’s story. Tomorrow’s story will be told by the trading markets that provide a true, global Best Bid and Offer price discovery, institutional access to DEX pricing and liquidity, and the ability to execute global trading strategies on a single platform.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Haohan Xu is CEO of Apifiny, a global liquidity and financial value transfer network. Prior to Apifiny, Haohan was an active investor in equities markets and a trader in digital asset markets. Haohan holds a Bachelor of Science in operations research with a minor in computer science from Columbia University.
Bitcoin plunges, Ethereum suffers, Musk loses billions
Cointelegraph By Editorial Staff
Coming every Saturday, Hodler’s Digest will help you track every single important news story that happened this week. The best (and worst) quotes, adoption and regulation highlights, leading coins, predictions and much more — a week on Cointelegraph in one link.
Top Stories This Week
Increasing stock market volatility drags Bitcoin and altcoin prices lower
Bitcoin has had an exceptionally trying week, and it doesn’t bode well for March — a month that’s traditionally bearish for the world’s biggest cryptocurrency.
After hitting record highs of $58,300 last Sunday, Bitcoin suffered a dramatic reversal of fortunes — crashing to $46,000 on Tuesday. Elon Musk might not have helped matters… in the run-up to the correction, he had tweeted that BTC and ETH seemed high.
Analysts and investors alike breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday when Bitcoin managed to retake $50,000 — with some proclaiming that the asset had undergone a “healthy correction.” But this narrative proved shaky when BTC plunged yet again on Friday to lows of $44,454.84.
All of this comes amid a backdrop of unease in the traditional markets, and this week’s price activity suggests BTC faces an uphill struggle if it’s going to appreciate further. Generally, analysts are looking for $50,000 to become an established support before expecting any bullish continuation.
MicroStrategy purchases another $1 billion worth of Bitcoin, now owns 90,000 BTC
A flurry of good news throughout the week may have prevented things from going bad to worse for Bitcoin. Early in the week, two institutions announced they were doubling down on their BTC buy-ins.
MicroStrategy purchased an additional 19,452 coins, with CEO Michael Saylor declaring that his company has no intention of slowing down. It came after Square announced it had purchased 3,318 BTC for $170 million — following on from a $50-million spending spree in October 2020.
Bitfinex and Tether also announced that they had reached a settlement with the New York attorney general, linked to ongoing allegations that Tether misrepresented the degree to which USDT stablecoins were backed by fiat collateral. Under the terms of the deal, both companies will have to pay $18.5 million in damages, report on their reserves periodically, and stop serving customers in the state.
On Friday, JPMorgan helped to cheer up the markets by telling clients that allocating 1% of a portfolio to Bitcoin would serve as a hedge against fluctuations in stocks, bonds and commodities.
Cardano is now a top-three cryptocurrency as ADA price soars 27% in 24 hours
Moving beyond Bitcoin, there’s been a lot of movement in the altcoin markets.
Last week, Binance Coin had stolen the show with a stunning triple-digit surge that helped it become the world’s No. 3 cryptocurrency. Fast forward to this week, and it’s now been overtaken by Cardano’s ADA.
A fresh wave of optimism and buying volume on Friday pushed its price to a new all-time high, and momentum for the project has been building throughout February. Open interest for ADA futures also rose to $580 million, surpassing Litecoin to become the third-largest derivatives market.
Despite NFTs entering into a bull market — with a report suggesting that they’ll explode in popularity even more as 2021 continues — it’s definitely been a week to forget for Ether. After touching new all-time highs of $2,000 last weekend, ETH has tumbled by more than 26% this week… taking it below $1,500 at times.
All of this comes as an exodus from the Ethereum blockchain continues, with 1inch becoming the latest DeFi project to expand to Binance Smart Chain.
Musk no longer world’s richest man after Tesla and Bitcoin slump
As the old saying goes: “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day.”
The sun was certainly shining on Elon Musk when the week began. One analyst had suggested that Tesla had made $1 billion in profit since making its Bitcoin investment. That’s more than the profit generated by selling electric vehicles (what it’s known for) across the whole of 2020.
Alas, that was before the carnage seen on the crypto markets. To make matters worse, Tesla’s share price has dropped by more than 20% from the highs of $890 seen on Jan. 26. These joint factors prompted Musk to lose his crown as the world’s richest man. Some analysts wasted little time in attributing TSLA’s crash to its association with Bitcoin.
But there’s another threat on the horizon, with reports suggesting that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission could investigate Musk’s alleged impact on BTC and DOGE through his many, many tweets.
The billionaire made a concerted effort to shrug off these concerns, suggesting he would even welcome such a probe.
Coinbase has held Bitcoin on its balance sheets since 2012
We’ve been learning a lot more about Coinbase this week as it gears up to launch on the stock market. One particular hipster-ish announcement came when the exchange declared that it’s held Bitcoin and other cryptos on its balance sheet for nine years.
Coinbase sought to package this announcement as a paean to other corporations that might be considering a similar move — touting itself as an authority in advising institutions about how to deal with their own prospective investments.
In other news, the company submitted its S-1 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission this week. The filing revealed that the exchange generated revenues of $1.1 billion in 2020 — 96% of which came from transaction fees. Net income in 2020 came in at $327 million… a stark contrast to the $46 million loss seen the year before.
Winners and Losers
At the end of the week, Bitcoin is at $46,609.99, Ether at $1,470.17 and XRP at $0.43. The total market cap is at $1,429,222,267,885.
Among the biggest 100 cryptocurrencies, the top three altcoin gainers of the week are Fantom, Pundi X and Cardano. The top three altcoin losers of the week are Dodo, Horizen and Venus.
For more info on crypto prices, make sure to read Cointelegraph’s market analysis.
Most Memorable Quotations
“As gas price stays too high, we see a lot of projects, tokens and users coming to BSC, and this is the right moment for 1inch to expand to other blockchains.”
Sergey Kunz, 1inch co-founder
“Since our founding in 2012, Coinbase has held bitcoin and other crypto assets on our balance sheet — and we plan to maintain an investment in crypto assets as we believe strongly in the long-term potential of the cryptoeconomy.”
“Incredible scale for a technology that critics claimed couldn’t scale.”
Ryan Watkins, Messari researcher
“It’s very rare to see pre-GPU era bitcoins move, it only happened dozens of times in the past few years. And no, it’s probably not Satoshi.”
Antoine Le Calvez
“The company now holds over 90,000 bitcoins, reaffirming our belief that bitcoin, as the world’s most widely-adopted cryptocurrency, can serve as a dependable store of value.”
Michael Saylor, MicroStrategy CEO
“[I’m] very positive on Bitcoin, very happy to see a healthy correction here.”
Cathie Wood, Ark Investment Management founder
“We are now sitting on 2.35x the previous cycle ATH OF 20k. WE ARE JUST GETTING STARTED.”
“Square believes that cryptocurrency is an instrument of economic empowerment, providing a way for individuals to participate in a global monetary system and secure their own financial future.”
“I think you can expect that we’ll have a billion people storing their value — in essence, a savings account — on a mobile device within five years, and they’re going to want to use something like Bitcoin.”
Michael Saylor, MicroStrategy CEO
“We’ve experienced 2018 & 2019. This is nothing.”
Michaël van de Poppe, Cointelegraph Markets analyst
“I do think people get drawn into these manias who may not have as much money to spare. So, I’m not bullish on Bitcoin, and my general thought would be: If you have less money than Elon, you should probably watch out.”
Bill Gates, Microsoft founder
“But we’re now to the point where ETH 1.0 — oh, we need ETH 2.0 so soon, come on, Vitalik, get it going, man — ETH 1.0, most regular users are priced out of using the majority of applications on Ethereum.”
Lark Davis, crypto influencer
“I lost most of my life savings and haven’t received a response from a human. I’d think they would refund or they would lose all their customers. I’m sick to my stomach but will join the lawsuit with plenty of proof(screenshots) if not refunded.”
u/dtk6802, Reddit user
“In our view, many institutional investors are entering with a buy-and-hold mentality given their understanding of Bitcoin as digital gold.”
Martin Gaspar, CrossTower research analyst
“I think Tesla is going to double down on its Bitcoin investment.”
Dan Ives, Wedbush analyst
Prediction of the Week
1 billion people will store life savings on their phone in Bitcoin by 2026 — MicroStrategy CEO
We love an outlandish prediction here at Hodler’s Digest… and Michael Saylor certainly delivered the goods this week.
The MicroStrategy CEO declared that Bitcoin will be the savings method of choice for a staggering 1 billion people in just five years’ time. That’s despite the fact that just 21 million BTC exist… and his company already owns 90,000 of it.
Saylor’s comments came after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen launched her latest attack on Bitcoin, describing it as “inefficient.”
In a confident interview with CNBC, he declared that Bitcoin “is the dominant digital monetary network,” adding: “I think you can expect that we’ll have a billion people storing their value — in essence, a savings account — on a mobile device within five years, and they’re going to want to use something like Bitcoin.”
FUD of the Week
Bill Gates warns Bitcoin buyers: If you have less money than Elon Musk, watch out
Microsoft founder Bill Gates had a big warning for Bitcoin buyers this week.
Speaking to Bloomberg, he warned: “Elon has tons of money, and he’s very sophisticated so, you know, I don’t worry that his Bitcoin would randomly go up or down.”
Gates said it would be a mistake for the average investor to blindly follow the mania of optimism surrounding Musk’s market moves, telling those who aren’t billionaires to “watch out.”
Criticizing Bitcoin’s energy consumption, he added: “I do think people get drawn into these manias who may not have as much money to spare. So, I’m not bullish on Bitcoin, and my general thought would be: If you have less money than Elon, you should probably watch out.”
This isn’t to say that Gates thinks digital currencies are a bad thing. He just believes that they should be transparent, reversible and (essentially) centralized.
Whale who sold Bitcoin before 2020 crash cashed out $156 million before this week’s 20% dip
As you’d expect, a post-mortem is now fully underway after this week’s carnage in the crypto markets.
Curiously, data from Santiment suggests that the initial crash may have been linked to a huge transaction that took place after Sunday’s all-time high of $58,300. The transfer of 2,700 BTC — worth $156 million at the time — was the second-biggest transaction of 2021.
It’s possible that this whale cashing out contributed to unbearable selling pressure in the market, which snowballed into the largest one-hour candle in Bitcoin’s history. If enough alarm bells weren’t ringing, this self-same wallet also dumped 2,000 BTC just before last March’s infamous flash crash.
Crypto influencer warns Ethereum fees will drive users away
A prominent crypto influencer has warned that Ethereum’s competitors will continue to siphon away users should Eth2 fail to launch soon amid ever-increasing gas fees.
Lark Davis said Ethereum’s skyrocketing fees has meant that only “rich investors” can afford to use the network, prompting smaller users to switch to competitors like Binance Smart Chain.
Describing the current gas fee prices as “totally loco,” Davis urged Ethereum developers to expedite the launch of Eth2 in response to the skyrocketing to prevent a further exodus of users to cheaper alternatives.He added: “We’re now to the point where ETH 1.0 — oh, we need ETH 2.0 so soon, come on, Vitalik, get it going, man — ETH 1.0, most regular users are priced out of using the majority of applications on Ethereum. […] A transaction on Uniswap costs $50 on average these days, and that is just crazy.”
Best Cointelegraph Features
Sam Bankman-Fried: The crypto whale who wants to give billions away
He’s just 28 years old, but Sam Bankman-Fried has already amassed a $10-billion fortune. But unlike most people in crypto, he’s building up this fortune to give half of it away.
Can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em: Mastercard and Visa make a case for Bitcoin
Mastercard is set to open the shop doors to crypto as a means of payment in 2021, but it will likely be a challenge for the firm.
Bitcoin price flies solo? Institutional crypto push may be overrated
Bitcoin’s market cap broke the $1-trillion barrier without a final push from institutions — could their influence be overrated?
Crypto can be lucrative, but make sure you’re ready for the taxman
Cointelegraph By Derek Boirun
Hindsight is 20/20, but when money is on the line, being prepared can give investors better foresight. Just over a year and a half ago, Investopedia reported on the panic among many crypto investors who’d found themselves on the wrong side of the taxman. The article read, “Online forums like Reddit are abuzz with posts citing possible scenarios by worried investors about pending tax liabilities for their past dealings in cryptocoins, which may now leave them poorer.”
As Bitcoin’s (BTC) price soars and investors flock to crypto to cash in, legislators and regulators around the world are taking notice. Most recently, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development announced a plan to release a ubiquitous tax standard for its member states, partly intended to curb base erosion and profit shifting. Although announcements like these serve as positive signs of intergovernmental collaboration, economic unity and progress, to the average investor, they feel rather distant. Yet it is crucial for investors in the United States to understand the digital asset tax regulations because, in some cases, it may mean the difference between prosperity and five years in prison with fines up to $250,000.
Related: Parents, it’s time for ‘the talk’: Did your kid trade crypto in 2020?
A handful of libertarian, crypto torchbearers might be inclined to believe that the built-in anonymity privileges of blockchain may save them from government scrutiny, but after all, the Internal Revenue Service isn’t quick to let go of these matters.
The U.S. tax code and crypto
Digital currencies and tokenized assets tend to be a mixed bag under the U.S. tax code. Many investors think of Bitcoin as a digital currency, like fiat currencies used regularly by consumers to buy goods. However, under the U.S. tax code, Bitcoin is actually considered “property” and is taxed under capital gains tax when either sold or used to purchase items or transferred for other digital currencies, such as trading Bitcoin for Ether (ETH). For example, purchasing a house with Bitcoin in the U.S. would trigger a taxable event on capital gains, and the exchange of Bitcoin for any other type of asset is considered a sale in the same way you might sell security like a stock.
Related: Crypto taxes, reporting and tax audits in 2021
It’s difficult to pinpoint why Bitcoin is classified differently from fiat currencies, but precedent in how Bitcoin is utilized by investors may tell us the answer. The IRS likely recognizes Bitcoin as a property asset because the popular crypto asset serves most users as an investment utility and not as a functional currency in the same way the fiat U.S. dollar does. More importantly, because these types of assets are not issued by a central bank, the U.S. government will not recognize them as such until further notice. Understanding crypto taxation also means digging into the little details.
Unlike centralized financial systems, decentralized systems require investors to take a far more active role in diligently tracking their investments from the moment of purchase to sale or exchange for commodities.
At the most basic level, the onus falls more on the investor to track the purchase date, purchase price and what was received in exchange for the Bitcoin in the case of a sale. In contrast, investment history in traditional, non-digital assets, such as stocks or commodities, is fairly easy to track because of the diligent records that brokerages maintain for clients and how readily accessible they are.
Crypto investments and taxation
Basics aside, there is one area in particular in which many accredited investors miss the mark.
Crypto hedge funds are reputed for offering lucrative crypto opportunities. While some crypto hedge funds are considered risky due to questions about crypto-market liquidity, they can be the better route to invest instead of buying individual units of Bitcoin. And as of late, they have proven themselves increasingly popular over the last year. According to Big Four audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, assets under management with crypto hedge funds rose from $1 billion in value in 2018 to over $2 billion in value in 2019. Despite piquing the interest of investors, buyers beware.
Compared to traditional assets, when onboarding investors for crypto assets, it’s a whole different ball game. Unlike traditional assets, it’s imperative that digital asset hedge funds ask deeper questions about tax considerations. Some questions regarding crypto investments should include: What kind of property is cryptocurrency x? or Can staking assets on proof-of-stake networks, which offer rewards for staking, be classified as unique income? These are just the basics, but questions like these can easily slip the mind when in the moment and can trigger unintended tax events.
On the other hand, when joining a hedge fund, it’s standard procedure to sign a standard legal entity fund structure, which is often as lengthy as 500 pages. Included are taxation clauses in the contract that explain the implications of investing with the fund. But with hundreds of pages of details, investors may not pay close attention to the little details, inadvertently putting them at serious risk of conflict with the IRS at a later juncture. That’s where a tax advisor should come in, who is accustomed to a more passive role.
Because of crypto’s unique properties, the tax advisor’s role has to become more active rather than passive, as it usually is. Rather than take a backseat, tax advisors should be summoned to provide consultation on investments before they’re undertaken and play a proactive role in educating investors every step of the way. As a result, investors would find themselves better prepared to provide a comprehensive and abiding tax return, rather than find themselves on the short end of the stick, playing catch up with the IRS.
When the taxman comes knocking, it’s better to be safe than sorry and know the regulations; otherwise, the consequences could be much graver. More importantly, the tax advisor must be in the passenger seat, not the back seat, when investors sign on the dotted line.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Derek Boirun is an entrepreneur with institutional experience in commercial real estate development, EB-5 capital investments and blockchain-based investing. Derek is the founder, CEO and director of Realio. He previously founded, and currently acts as a managing member of, the American Economic Growth Fund, an EB-5 investment platform focused on sourcing overseas capital for U.S.-based real estate projects.
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