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Swiss Lawmakers Propose Treating Bitcoin as Foreign Currency

The Swiss Parliament is considering a postulate that asks for bitcoin to be treated as any other foreign currency. The goal of the postulate, introduced by representative Thomas Weibel, is to eliminate ambiguities and increase legal certainty related to bitcoin.

If it is approved by parliament, it will be submitted before the Federal Council, Switzerland’s principal executive institution. If the Federal Council agrees that bitcoin should be treated like other foreign currencies, it will also evaluate how to implement the postulate. In addition, the executive was asked to examine the potential bitcoin-related opportunities for the Swiss financial sector.

The postulate petitions the executive branch to reply to four basic questions: whether or not bitcoin represents an opportunity for the financial sector, should bitcoin be treated as a foreign currency, what regulatory instruments should be used to establish legal certainty for bitcoin and similar currencies, and what sort of regulatory changes are needed and when can they be implemented.

The postulate was co-signed by 45 members of parliament (out of a possible 200) after they came to the conclusion that bitcoin can create new opportunities for the Swiss financial sector and that measures should be taken to regulate the application of VAT and the execution of money laundering controls.

Over the next few weeks, members of parliament will vote on the postulate. Then, if the majority of members of parliament vote in favour, it will be formally submitted to the Federal Council. If the council responds affirmatively, it will also have to make its position clear to national regulatory bodies such as Finma, the Swiss securities exchange commission.

If all goes as planned, bitcoin could be practically recognized by Switzerland as a legitimate foreign currency. The move would drastically reduce legal uncertainty for bitcoin users, at least in Switzerland, namely the Swiss banking sector. It would allow Swiss authorities to apply existing foreign currency legislation to bitcoin and other digital currencies.

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