European Court of Justice rules that Bitcoin should be treated as a currency for VAT purposes
22 October 2015
Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin can be exchanged without VAT in the European Union, following a ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The ruling follows a dispute when David Hedqvist, a Swedish national, applied for permission to operate his online Bitcoin exchange. The Swedish Revenue Law Commission told Hedqvist that Bitcoin was exempt from VAT but the Swedish Tax Authority appealed against that decision. However the ECJ ruled that the fact that it was not legal tender in any country (i.e. not “guaranteed and supervised by law”) was irrelevant as Bitcoin was still, for VAT purposes, a currency. This puts Bitcoin on a level playing field with other, more traditional currencies.
Daniel Lyons, indirect tax partner at Deloitte, said: “Should the transfer of Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, or charges for dealing in them, be subject to VAT? If so they would be at a distinct disadvantage to traditional currencies both in terms of administrative inconvenience and possible extra VAT costs. The ECJ’s decision, and its refusal to be limited by a traditional view of what constitutes a currency, will give more certainty to participants in the market. It may boost confidence in cryptocurrencies and could lead to wider adoption.”
Notes to editors
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