A group of US lawmakers wants to see cryptocurrency holdings declared at the nation’s border – and advocates of the tech are pushing back.
Introduced last month, the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Counterfeiting Act of 2017 – which is actually the third iteration of a bill that debuted in 2011 – would bring a range of digital currency services under federal scrutiny, including those that provide transaction mixing services.
Yet, the provision that has attracted the particular ire of cryptocurrency advocates – especially those who prefer a regulation-light environment – is one that would make such holdings subject to disclosure requirements at US customs checkpoints. This means if a person trying to enter the country has more than $10,000 worth of bitcoin in their possession, under the proposed legal change, they would need to inform the relevant authorities.
Such requirements are already in place for payment methods like cash. But given the rising public profile of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, coupled with the perception among policymakers that they could be used to fund terrorist activities, is driving legislative efforts like the bill currently under consideration.
One observer, Joe Ciccolo of Canada-based BitAML, remarked that cryptocurrency has become the “new face in an old debate”, going on to say that policymakers and law enforcement officials have long sought to expand the definition of what constitutes a “monetary instrument”.
Ciccolo told CoinDesk:
“Earlier this decade, we saw a push to include ‘prepaid access’ such as gift cards. Law enforcement went so far as to pursue card readers to scan prepaid access devices for their balance. Now that digital currencies have gained traction, they’ve been included in the same conversation. As in the past, I suspect there will be strong opposition from across the financial services community.”
Perianne Boring, president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a blockchain trade advocacy organization, said the legislation is “not necessary” given the existence of regulations from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which require exchanges services to register as money transmission businesses and adhere to federal reporting requirements.
“While we encourage thoughtful and meaningful study of the prevention of cross-border financial crime, the storage of virtual currency carries different and complex considerations than those attributable to prepaid access,” she told CoinDesk.