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The Almighty Buck Bitcoin

Germany: Bitcoin Is "Private Money" 223

Posted by samzenpus
from the real-cash dept.
hypnosec writes "Germany has declared Bitcoin as a 'unit of account', which makes the virtual currency a kind of 'private money' and the process of Bitcoin mining has been deemed 'private money creation.' The recognition as 'unit of account' makes Bitcoin eligible for use in "multilateral clearing circles" and because of this citizens are liable to pay capital gains tax, if they profit from the crypto-currency by sale or purchase within a period of one year – the same as they would have to in case they profit by selling stock, bonds or other form of security. The question here is how the finance ministry would come to know of a person's Bitcoin holding as it is a decentralized currency with no governing body to keep count on the number of Bitcoins a person has. The German government expects that citizens declare their Bitcoin while filing their annual tax return."
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Germany: Bitcoin Is "Private Money"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:06PM (#44604497)

    Honor system, but if you do anything to get on their shitlist they'll eventually find it out when you try and get it converted into salable assets.

    Undocumented income may be frowned upon, but UNDECLARED income is worse if you get caught.

    Remember Al Capone after all :)

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:25PM (#44604589) Homepage

      Exactly.

      The question here is how the finance ministry would come to know of a person's Bitcoin holding as it is a decentralized currency with no governing body to keep count on the number of Bitcoins a person has. The German government expects that citizens declare their Bitcoin while filing their annual tax return."

      ...just like cash.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Admittedly off-topic:

        "You do not have a moral or legal right to do absolutely anything you want."

        Yes, you do... as long as you aren't harming others in the process.

        • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday August 19, 2013 @02:04AM (#44605097) Homepage

          Yes, you do... as long as you aren't harming others in the process.

          Where it gets sticky is in the definition of what constitutes "harming others". For example, some argue that self-abuse (e.g. chronic drug use, or suicide) counts as harming others, in that by removing yourself from society, the other people in the society lose the benefits of your productivity/friendship/support/expertise/etc.

          • by tftp (111690)

            For example, some argue that self-abuse (e.g. chronic drug use, or suicide) counts as harming others, in that by removing yourself from society, the other people in the society lose the benefits of your productivity/friendship/support/expertise/etc.

            As if those "others" have any right to those benefits.

            But apparently many think so, and they want to keep you around, like a milk cow, to be milked of your labor. Prohibition of suicide is in most (all?) major religions for this very reason. A good slave mus

            • while I'm mostly agreeing that the "globalization" (increased interdependence from a complex system with the room of buttons placed far away the single citizen) makes us slaves in essence, I think society has a little right to frown upon people removing themselves from it, unless they made up for the effort society made in bringing them up. Your own family's effort is especially difficult to be offset.

              • by tftp (111690)

                I think society has a little right to frown upon people removing themselves from it, unless they made up for the effort society made in bringing them up. Your own family's effort is especially difficult to be offset.

                This suggests that there is a social contract that you can be entered without your approval, and that contract imposes duties upon you. I say hell no, there is no such contract until I review it and agree to it. The society does not have to raise children. It does that anyhow, at the risk tha

              • by khallow (566160)

                , I think society has a little right to frown upon people removing themselves from it, unless they made up for the effort society made in bringing them up.

                I suggest giving everyone a high quality dildo at their birth, replaceable whenever it wears out, is lost or stolen, so that when they have this feeling to act on non-existent "little rights", they can go fuck themselves without those other peoples' assistance or presence which supposedly is so needed.

                The thing you don't get is that there is no obligation to return something which has been freely given. If you don't like that, then don't give it.

                Suicide is the ultimate opt-out of society. If you claim

          • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Monday August 19, 2013 @04:05AM (#44605413) Journal

            Yes, some people argue that, and they're wrong. It's like claiming that a slave who runs away is harming his owner.

            -jcr

          • by TheCarp (96830)

            It is only sticky if you accept these excuses to dismiss the rights of others to legitimize involuntary involvement in others lives.

        • by jythie (914043)
          Well, rights are not really a fundamental thing, they are a human construct, so the answer is whatever a culture says it is. Even within that though, the problem is what counts as 'harming others'. Very little that we do impacts one's self and only one's self, and once you throw in family and other connections even things that you would think are only 'self harm' impact others.

          Freedom is a complicated issue... there is a constant back and forth between 'right to' and 'right from', and of course balancin
          • by khallow (566160)

            Freedom is a complicated issue... there is a constant back and forth between 'right to' and 'right from', and of course balancing the more systemic issues where individual actions, spread out across a large population, have population level effects.

            Freedom is only "complicated" in this regard when you are trying to force others to give or do things you want.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          That's pretty much my point, as the key word is "absolutely". For any particular freedom, there are exceptions, limitations, and caveats.

          It's mostly in reference to the morons who assume that "free speech" means that any idea can be expressed anywhere at any time without consequences, but the sentiment applies to any right that is claimed without a full understanding of the legal background involved.

      • Except cash doesn't come with a full history of whose hands it's passed through.

    • by felixrising (1135205) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:25PM (#44604591)
      Most taxation systems are self reporting. You can lie but if you get caught any profits from your deception rapidly evaporate.
      • by popo (107611) on Monday August 19, 2013 @12:35AM (#44604847) Homepage

        Of course, now that the NSA and Germany's equivalent can reach deep into your private online data, perhaps they *will* know exactly how much Bitcoin you have, and exactly how much you sold.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Yes, but they'll only mention it if you do something uncouth like criticize the Glorious Leader

        • They don't have to, the block chain is public by design. You have to make great efforts to not link your identity to your bitcoin addresses - and if you at any time bought bitcoins at a public exchange, or used them to buy legal services (such as web hosting) the cat's out of the bag.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 19, 2013 @12:05AM (#44604749) Journal

      Honor system, but if you do anything to get on their shitlist they'll eventually find it out when you try and get it converted into salable assets.

      And bitcoin's design matchess the 'well, we don't really have any way of knowing; but you are in serious trouble if we find out' enforcement model pretty well. Watching the block chain [blockexplorer.com] is already a thing in suitably interested hobbyist circles, and doing so doesn't require any blackhat wizard-fu, it's a protocol feature. For the moment, the transaction history is also relatively small.

      None of that helps them connect a person to one or more wallet addresses; but if they do, by other means (probably if you try to cash out, possibly by surveillance of improperly anonymized use), they get a full transaction history automatically.

      • Doesn't matter. You can make a profit on Bitcoin, then do a little horse-trading with Bitcoin repositories, and if you did it right nobody would know that you made any profit at all... just that you now have X in Bitcoins.
      • by pla (258480)
        but if they do, by other means (probably if you try to cash out, possibly by surveillance of improperly anonymized use), they get a full transaction history automatically.

        Careful by what you mean by "get a full transaction history", because in the most useful sense, that doesn't hold true.

        The Bitcoin client, by default, creates a new address for every single transaction you make. Identifying yourself in one of them has no impact on any other transactions in which you may have participated.

        Each ident
  • I'm out. Thank God (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:09PM (#44604517) Homepage

    Way back when, I placed a pre-order on a small BitCoin miner from Butterfly Labs. Later they sent me an e-mail wanting to know if I wanted to continue with the order, or get a refund back to my PayPal account. I chose the refund. Thank God! Having to deal with all this IRS and other legal regulation shit is too much of a PITA. No doubt the NSA is tracking BitCoin transfers and users too at some level.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah I hate how much influence the IRS has in Germany these days.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      If I may paraphrase:

      Way back when, I considered speculating in a monetary exchange, but now I'm realizing how many legal headaches are involved in securities trading, even in markets where none of the major investment brokers are willing to play. I'm glad I backed out before I had to deal with all of this stuff myself.

      BitCoins are not special. They're legally just like any other investment, only since the big banks aren't involved, the big banks aren't there to make the traders' lives easier. There are no regulation-compliant statements, no audit records, and no breakdown of where your money went and how it came in. To properly report your income to the authorities, you'll have to track those numbers yourself. The same applies if you take an interest in speculating on any other unusual commodity, like

    • by cultiv8 (1660093)
      In the US, if it's less than $600 in profits, I'm sure nothing applies to you. Regarding NSA and Bitcoins, a year ago I would have modded you a troll...
      • So what you're saying is....a year ago you didn't actually pay attention to current events? It's not like this hasn't been documentably been taking place since the warrant-less wiretapping + retroactive telecom immunity fiasco years ago (and then again with Thomas Drake's leaks).
      • In the US, if it's less than $600 in profits, I'm sure nothing applies to you. Regarding NSA and Bitcoins, a year ago I would have modded you a troll...

        In Germany, the distinction is between professional and non-professional, and between speculative gains and non-speculative gains.

        If you trade bitcoins professionally then you pay tax, but your cost is tax deductible. Whether you are doing it professionally is determined by what you are actually doing, not by what you claim you are doing. Speculative gains is simple: If you buy and sell within less than a year, that's speculative gains and is taxed. If you keep it for more than a year, that's just good l

    • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 19, 2013 @02:23AM (#44605133) Homepage

      Way back when, I placed a pre-order on a small BitCoin miner from Butterfly Labs. Later they sent me an e-mail wanting to know if I wanted to continue with the order, or get a refund back to my PayPal account. I chose the refund. Thank God!

      Good move. Butterfly Labs has a large number of angry customers on the Bitcoin forums. They deliver months late or not at all. The Bitcoin "difficulty" level is now increasing so fast that late hardware is unprofitable when delivered.

      • by tftp (111690)

        The Bitcoin "difficulty" level is now increasing so fast that late hardware is unprofitable when delivered.

        I am not an expert on BTC, but as I understand the miners are an essential part of the network. What happens to BTC if all miners take their hardware and unplug it? ("It was a good racket while it lasted, but not anymore.")

        • Then the value of already-mined coins skyrockets. At some point, they might even be valuable enough to make it worthwhile to turn those mining machines back on. Why, it's almost like a free market!

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        On the plus side you can pick up high end graphics cards cheap on eBay now.

    • No doubt the NSA is tracking BitCoin transfers and users too at some level.

      Well yes, but so am I. It's very easy since all transactions are public forever.

    • Dealing with the IRS is no problem in Germany. Just put it into your tax return. You say what regular income you have, what tax deductions, and what over income. So you write "Profit from trading BitCoin: 365 Euros", and that's it. One line in your tax return.
    • I don't know anything at all about German tax law but assuming it's even moderately like the UK then I don't understand why any of this is a surprise.

      In the UK you are potentially liable for tax for all gains. Usually it will either be income tax or capital gains tax and as a general rule of thumb, if you buy something at one price with the intention of selling it at a different price it will be CGT while if you "earn" it it will be IT.

      Bitcoin mining is an oddity because you don't buy the coins but produce

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Paper money and coins are just as anonymous, and we've been working with them fairly well for a thousand years.

    • Paper money and coins are just as anonymous, and we've been working with them fairly well for a thousand years.

      One difference is that physical currency tends to make moving large sums a bit awkward. It's doable, especially if nobody pats you down or you have an uninspected cargo container to work with; but the sheer inconvenience and risk discourages very large scale movements of physical currency (though, given currency's role in 'informal economy' arrangements, there are a lot of people moving small amounts of it).

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        >but the sheer inconvenience and risk discourages very large scale movements of physical currency

        I disagree - it discourages medium-sized movements, but if you have truly large quantities (like say a shipping containers worth) to move then purchasing the proper customs officials, diplomats, or other well-placed individuals is probably a minor business expense.

        One of the places where Bitcoin opens an interesting door is the democratization of money laundering, international purchasing, and other such real

        • One of the places where Bitcoin opens an interesting door is the democratization of money laundering, international purchasing, and other such realms where knowing the right people and being able to afford their services have traditionally been a gatekeeper that keeps out the riffraff.

          They aren't necessarily in a position to actually use it (at least until somebody hacks together a bitcoin system that can be run over SMS (maybe Java ME, though it wouldn't surprise me to see crap Android handsets push basic feature phones out of most of the market before that 'platform' becomes something you can actually target across a nontrivial range of devices...); but the ability to cheaply transfer them would theoretically make bitcoins popular with the immigrant-diasporas-remitting-to-home-country

    • No, they're more anonymous. They're homogenous and they don't smell (except literally - don't sniff your coins). Neither are true for bitcoin.

      But if you have a large amount of cash, you face problems when trying to use it, unless you can explain how you got your hands on it. Same with bitcoin - except that there, there is actually a lot of public information about how you got your hands on it.

    • Paper money and coins are just as anonymous, and we were working with them fairly well for a thousand years.

      There, fixed that for you. It gets harder and harder by the day to use real and anonymous money. In the USA, not using a credit card is at least suspicious. In Europe, governments and large organisations make it harder and harder to pay with the real national currency. Want to park in Rotterdam? You have to pay, but real money is not accepted. There are already shops that do not accept real money. Off course, digital money does not have to exist, so banks will push as many companies as they can toward cashl

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        went to say in a hotel this weekend. They gave me all kinds of flack and charged me a FEE to use cash.

  • When a new story comes out about how the government has adapt the law because of some technology advancement, we can all see how slow they are achieveing anything at all. We can see this clearly with patents, copyrights, sexting and any other number of subjects.

    But how about when it has to do with money and taxes? Oh boy, so now they understand perfectly?

    I actually never thought governments would move this fast to regulate BitCoins. How I wish they would move this fast to address other more important thing

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 19, 2013 @12:27AM (#44604821) Journal

      But how about when it has to do with money and taxes? Oh boy, so now they understand perfectly?

      I actually never thought governments would move this fast to regulate BitCoins.

      I suspect it helps that, while they depend on a novel mechanism for preventing duplication and double spending, BitCoins aren't really conceptually much different, once they hit the market, from the assorted oddball synthetic commodities that people (albeit generally not the general public) have been trading for years, often decades.

      This means that governments are both already familiar with similar things (so they probably have applicable laws or easily adapted laws on the books) and that governments are already familiar with the tendency to concoct and sell ever more creative synthetic assets (so they are probably already used to dealing with new asset flavors popping up, and either have a system for moving quickly or sufficiently broad definitions to catch what the investment bankers have been inventing).

      That's the thing: bitcoins are architecturally somewhat novel; but as a commodity that people trade with each other (especially if they trade for currency or for securities with established market values) it really doesn't bring anything fundamentally new to the table. We already have 150+ currencies in circulation, and an unknown number of stocks, bonds, futures, and more exotic derivatives. The fact that bitcoins use a different anti-counterfeiting measure doesn't really make a whole lot of difference when trying to slot them into existing regulatory structures.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I suspect it helps that, while they depend on a novel mechanism for preventing duplication and double spending, BitCoins aren't really conceptually much different...

        There's your difference. According to Basel III, banks may spend each coin 19 times. With traceable money, a customer could ask his bank to show which coins were his. The entire Ponzi Scheme that our currency system is today could crumble if banks could all of a sudden be monitored and held responsible.

        • "from the assorted oddball synthetic commodities that people (albeit generally not the general public) have been trading for years"

          It is true that doing fractional reserve banking with bitcoins would be more difficult (though I suspect that a bank interested in doing so could simply create a promissory note "Good for one bitcoin, but not any particular one, to be transferred to the designated wallet upon request", which could then be fractionally-reserved as far as they thought they could get away with it..

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday August 19, 2013 @12:27AM (#44604823)

      "we can all see how slow they are achieveing anything at all. We can see this clearly with patents, copyrights, sexting and any other number of subjects."

      Not even. Not in regard to patents and copyrights, at any rate.

      The government hasn't been "moving slowly" at all. It was changes made by the government within the last 2 decades that have CAUSED the problems. Both patents and copyrights worked just fine prior to that.

      (No doubt some people would argue with me about the "fine" part, but it's pretty easy to demonstrate that they worked BETTER than they do now, under the current, changed laws.)

    • I don't think you understand the motivations behind regulations.

      You seem to think patent reform comes slowly because government is lazy. Wrong. Patent reform comes not at all because the patent system isn't broken...for the large corporations who buy the politicians. Apple, Samsung, and HTC has no problem with the current patent situation. A few mil on lawyers to yell at each other in court? No problem. Just so long as everybody recognizes their big swingin' portfolios and no upstart tries to make a phone.

      C

  • It's all cats (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @11:56PM (#44604715)
    If I were to start a cat breeding business and buy/sell/trade cats as currency, making money on some, losing money on others, it's a currency. If I am stupid, I'll play dumb declare nothing, and the government will come after me eventually and measure my income against my stated non-cat income, and sentence me to Al Capone Prison. Smart is declare it a business. Write off everything I can, and count every sale as a sale of a stock or pork bellies or a cat. If it's a business, I pay taxes only on profit, not income.

    These are the US rules today, bitcoin changes nothing.
    • If I were to start a cat breeding business and buy/sell/trade cats as currency, making money on some, losing money on others, it's a currency.

      By that logic anything that can be traded is a currency, so the word is meaningless.

  • Do we have regular bitcoin stories everytime they sneeze. I guarantee there are Bitcoin PR people planting stories here and they are goaled on how many stories they get out. It is like they are trying to make this ridiculous pseudo-currency scam into something real. Nothing to see here folks, just ignore bitcoin and it will go away.

    • by Jeremi (14640) on Monday August 19, 2013 @02:19AM (#44605119) Homepage

      Do we have regular bitcoin stories everytime they sneeze. I guarantee there are Bitcoin PR people planting stories here and they are goaled on how many stories they get out.

      There's no need to invoke a conspiracy. The fact is that BitCoin is catnip to several common type of nerd -- the wannabe cypherpunks who like to see computers change the world, and the libertarians who want to see the centralized government control marginalized in favor of individuals. Not to mention the programmer nerds (like myself) who are simply impressed by BitCoin as a p2p software design that has managed to avoid catastrophic implosion (so far) despite the obvious monetary incentive for people to attack it.

      So yes, there are a lot of BitCoin stories on Slashdots, simply because many nerds find BitCoin interesting.

      • I am sure these stories are planted by either bitcoin people directly or those who have lots of money invested in bitcoin and are trying to flog that dead horse.

    • I guarantee there are Bitcoin PR people planting stories here and they are goaled on how many stories they get out.

      Heh, that's not how it works. How it works is that a lot of people bought bitcoin not to use as currency, but to use as speculation object. They expect it to rise in value, and plan to sell when it does.

      Since there is a finite supply of bitcoin, if more people want it, it's going to increase in value. So anyone holding bitcoin has an interest in pushing it. No goaling necessary.

      This deflationar

      • agree this is what is happening. it is a false market, with the only real demand for the currency from drug dealers and criminals as well as speculators. Once the authorities close off the ability of drug dealers and criminals to use the currency then the demand will crash.

  • Isn't this just a declaration of barter? Like trading chickens for other goods/services?

  • Excelent. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Monday August 19, 2013 @02:04AM (#44605091)

    So, if one's bitcoins are considered "Private Money" and instead of a profit, I take a huge loss, but my state sanctioned currency is in abundance, then I can sum the two values and pay little to no taxes.

    I'll take it!

    • Little to no capital gains tax, and little or no wealth tax. It won't help your income tax at all.

      But do you really want that anyway? You have to actually lose money and be able to document it in order to get the pity tax rebate. Isn't it better to not lose the money?

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      How is loss calculated on something like BitCoins? The exchange rate fluctuates wildly and the cost of mining them is increasing over time.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday August 19, 2013 @02:40AM (#44605189) Homepage

    Bitcoin would be useful if it weren't such a slimeball magnet. The basic feature of Bitcoins is irrevocable unidirectional funds transfer between anonymous remote parties. This is the scammer's dream. Scammers don't have to worry too much about the marks coming after them with cops or baseball bats. So just about every financial scheme known has been tried in the tiny Bitcoin world in the last two years.

    Even the "legitimate" Bitcoin companies are flakes. Most of the "online wallet" companies turned out to be scams. Several of the "exchanges" turned out to be scams. The previous market leader, Mt. Gox, stopped paying out on US dollar withdrawals two months ago. (Whether they're broke, incompetent, or persecuted is a subject of active debate. They claim problems with their banking relationships that prevent withdrawals, but continue to accept deposits.)

    Bitcoin could have been a useful petty cash system for the Internet. If you could buy song downloads or MMORPG game items with it, it would be convenient and widely used. But that's not happening. You can buy WordPress hosted blog upgrades with Bitcoins, but that's about the most mainstream thing you can do.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Humble Bundles.

    • by sjbe (173966) on Monday August 19, 2013 @08:41AM (#44606385)

      Bitcoin could have been a useful petty cash system for the Internet.

      Not really. Despite the claims of proponents, bitcoin provides little tangible benefit over existing currencies in almost all circumstances. Bitcoin scratches an ideological itch for some geeks who have a poor grasp of economics and a worse grasp of risk. Bitcoin only is cheaper to use than existing currencies if you ignore the externalities [wikipedia.org], opportunity cost [wikipedia.org] and financial risk [wikipedia.org]. Outside of a few rare corner cases people have virtually nothing to gain by using bitcoin and stand to lose quite a lot. Bitcoin is at best an interesting (though flawed) academic exercise.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday August 19, 2013 @08:20AM (#44606247)

    The question here is how the finance ministry would come to know of a person's Bitcoin holding as it is a decentralized currency with no governing body to keep count on the number of Bitcoins a person has.

    They might not know about it but that doesn't relieve the taxpayer of their legal obligations. If you get audited and it comes to light that you aren't declaring income then you can find yourself in deeeeeep trouble. They can send you to jail for tax evasion. I'm not familiar with how it works in Germany but in the US you would at minimum declare income from bitcoin related activities on line 21 of your 1040 [irs.gov] form under Other Income. The legality or source of this income is irrelevant to whether you are required to declare it. If you mine bitcoins then you are generating income (you have acquired an asset with a market value hence it counts as income) and you would be required to declare it as such on your tax return.

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