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Banco de Portugal to regulate crypto

Banco de Portugal (the Portuguese Central Bank) will assume the powers of supervision of entities that exercise services for the exchange, transfer or custody of virtual assets, with respect to compliance with the preventive rules on money laundering and terrorism financing, with the entry into force of the Law transposing the most recent European Directive on this matter.

Law No. 58/2020, of 31 August, transposing Directive (EU) 2018/843 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 30 May 2018, amending Directive (EU) was published in Diário da República) 2015/849 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering or terrorist financing and Directive (EU) 2018/1673 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on combating money laundering through criminal law, amending several laws, including Law No. 83/2017, of 18 August, which establishes preventive and repressive measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing (BC / FT ).

As a result of such changes, Law No. 83/2017, of 18 August, now includes in the list of entities required to comply with the preventive rules of BC / FT, entities that exercise any of the following activities with virtual assets:

  • Exchange services between virtual assets and fiat currencies or between one or more virtual assets;
  • Virtual asset transfer services;
  • Guarding or guarding services and administration of virtual assets or instruments that allow controlling, holding, storing or transferring these assets, including private cryptographic keys.

In accordance with the new regime, Banco de Portugal will be the authority responsible either for registering the entities that carry out those activities with virtual assets, or for verifying the compliance, by these entities, with the legal and regulatory provisions applicable in terms of BC prevention. / FT. It is clarified, however, that in relation to such entities, the competence of Banco de Portugal is limited to the prevention of BC / FT, not extending to other domains, of a prudential, behavioral or other nature.

Source: Banco de Portugal

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NHR and Cryptocurrencies

The evolution of the currency has been raised to a completely digital level, and it may currently have no physical representation, being only in a bank account in the form of a computer record, consisting of a monetary value registered, for example on your smartphone.

Crypto-currency is nothing more than digital codes which are assigned certain values controlled by a data system, where records of transactions are kept permanently, protecting crypto-currency from being falsified or stolen.

In general terms, and according to the European Central Bank’s definition, crypto-currency is a type of digital money, not yet regulated, nor linked to any central bank.

Bitcoin is the crypto-currency that has been most valued in recent years, currently it is worth more than gold. In fact, crypto-currencies like Bitcoin have been gaining importance in the international financial sector, both as an investment and for the protection of financial assets. Where some may see uncertainty, the risk-takers see it as an opportunity.

Although the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority (AT) has already pronounced itself on the matter, through binding information, it does not materialize that crypto-currencies should be taxed as financial assets.

However, the AT considers that taxpayers who have registered as free-lancers to transact crypto-currencies should be subject to taxation on business or professional income (category B type of income). The AT also opens the hypothesis that the income obtained through the crypto-currencies can be considered an asset increase, and be considered a capital gain.

Regardless of whether or not any of the options are considered, for taxpayers carrying out any activity related to crypto-currencies, in another country, such income, provided it is generated outside Portugal, is exempt from taxation under the non-habitual resident regime for a period of ten years after the status is granted.

In another, more recent, binding information issued by the tax authorities on the issue of crypto-currencies, dealing not with personal income tax but with VAT, following the European Union Court of Justice’s jurisprudence which consideres “bitcoin, like traditional currencies which have a discharging value, has no other purpose than to serve as a means of payment”. This means that “since they are means of payment whose function is in itself exhausted, their mere transfer does not constitute a chargeable event for VAT”.

Although the issue of taxation of crypto-currencies continues to be a controversial one, and the lack of regulation in Portugal regarding operations and transactions of crypto-currencies has both sides of the advantage and of the uncertainty, the truth is that Portugal ends up becoming attractive for people who want to invest in crypto-currencies, if one considers the possibility of relocating to Portugal and taking advantage of the regime of the Non-habitual Resident.

Being a completely remote activity, it makes more and more sense to look at this type of investment and to congregate it to the regime of the Non-habitual Resident, where the eventual gains with the crypto-currencies, whether they are dividends, income from a professional activity, or capital gains from an asset increase, would be exempt from taxation for ten years under that regime.

Besides the benefit of living in one of the most beautiful and safe countries in the world, with a fantastic climate, and with excellent living conditions, many of those who created their structures abroad to invest in crypto-currencies, could ensure the non-taxation of their earnings for a period of ten years.

auctores Pedro Marrana & Vitor Abreu

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Bitcoin

Cryptocurrency Taxation in Portugal

Portuguese Central Bank’s position on cryptocurrencies

Since there is no central entity that guarantees the irremovability and finality of payment orders, virtual currency cannot be considered a safe currency, as there is no certainty of its acceptance as a means of payment. The same is to say that the Portuguese Central Bank (Banco de Portugal) does not technically recognise cryptocurrency as currency per se due to lack of monetary policy regulation.

Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority’s position

It is the understanding of the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority that, “cryptocurrencies are not technically considered “currency” because they do not have a legal tender or liberating power in Portugal, however, (…) they can be exchanged, with profit, for real currency (…), with specialized companies for the effect, with its value, compared to the real currency, being determined by the online demand for cryptocurrencies”. Its position is, therefore, in line with that of the Portuguese Central Bank.

As such, income resulting from the sale of cryptocurrencies will not be taxable under the Personal Income Tax Code, within the scope of category E (referring to capitals), nor subject to being taxed under category G (referring to equity increases, as capital gain).

Furthermore, it is also the understanding of the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority that the profits obtained from the sale of cryptocurrencies are not taxable under the Portuguese tax system, unless by their regularity ends up constituting a professional or entrepreneurial activity of the taxpayer, in which case it will be taxed as a qualifying income under the category B (freelancing) of the Personal Income Tax Code.

Last, but not least, the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority issued clear guidelines in January 2019 providing many answers to questions related to dealing with cryptocurrency, reporting obligations, cryptocurrency invoicing rules, rules for initial coin offerings,etc…

European Court of Justice and VAT

Jurisprudence of the European Union Court of Justice (EJC) on bitcoin, states that  its sale is an onerous activity, subject to VAT, but covered by the exemption, as with other means of payment with a liberating value . “Considering the decision handed down by the ECJ (…) the exchange of cryptocurrency for‘ real ’currency constitutes a provision of services carried out against payment, exempt from VAT”.

Thus, the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority concludes that although “cryptocurrency remuneration is a service provision subject to VAT”, the VAT code article that defines the exemptions covers “also cryptocurrency transactions”.

In the medium-long run

It is expected that, in the medium term, cryptocurrencies will be regulated and their tax regime concretely defined. In fact, its regulation may not imply taxation of the income derived from them. However, it is expected that it may eventually pass through its classification as financial assets, and through its classification as a security or derivative – not as a currency for purchase and sale transactions – with a consequent change in the definition of a security. Should this be the case, the respective income, obtained by taxpayers who do not engage in any activity related to cryptocurrencies, could eventually be taxed as passive income, such as capital income (for examples as dividends in proportion to the original investment) or capital gains.

Conclusion

Although Portugal has great conditions, from a personal income tax and VAT standpoint, for those who income is generated through cryptocurrencies, some uncertainty remains due to the fact that there’s no regulatory framework, which in turns makes it difficult for individuals (and companies) to open bank accounts in the country to be used for the purpose of trading.

Further to the above, crypto traders opting for taking up residency in Portugal, and more specifically Madeira Island (due to is safe haven status during the Covid-19 pandemic) for tax purposes, may combine the above benefits with the ones available under the Non-Habitual Resident taxation regime, under which most the foreign sourced income is exempt.

MCS and its team has more than 20 years of experience in assisting international investors and expats making their move to Portugal and Madeira Island. Should you request our assistance do not hesitate to contact us.

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