Various U.S. regulatory bodies this week announced actions that are shaping the $220 billion cryptos market. On Thursday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it has begun reviewing a proposed bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) filed by Cboe BZX Exchange. A decision can come as early as Sept. 30 although it could also be pushed back as late as February 2019.
The SEC's upcoming judgment is closely watched by investors, operators and speculators. That's because approval of an ETF, which is somewhat unlikely given past SEC actions, could send prices of Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptos soaring, as well as, enable investors to recoup some of this year's losses. An ETF would represent official sanction of the mainstream trading of digital coins. To date, the regulatory body has disapproved dozens of applicants although public interest for such an investment vehicle has grown substantially over the past year.
Another key date is first week of November which could see significant price activity in the market. Starbucks, Microsoft and Boston Consulting Group are investors in Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of New York Stock Exchange. These corporate powerhouses want to roll out a Bitcoin ETF on Nov. 5. If the SEC approves, ICE's new company, Bakkt, will form a cryptocurrency exchange for the mainstream crowd.
The state of California on Thursday banned the use of Bitcoin and other cryptos for the purpose of making political donations given concerns about lack of transparency. The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) voted 3-1 to prohibit such donations, per Associated Press report. In 2014, the U.S. Federal Election Commission allowed candidates to accept contributions in cryptocurrencies but some states have since passed rules preventing crypto-denominated donations.
Several lawmakers this week called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to publish clear and robust guidance for taxpayers who are active in cryptocurrencies, citing difficulty in complying with laws and regulations that are ambiguous. Five members of Congress submitted an open letter sent to IRS commissioner David Kautter encouraging the agency to stop dragging its feet.
The influential Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee stated in its letter that the IRS has lacked progress in providing clarity even after four years of studying the matter.
"[The] IRS is seeking to enforce guidance that does not adequately advise taxpayers of their tax obligations when using virtual currencies. Furthermore, while the issues surrounding virtual currencies are complicated and ever evolving, a key component of the IRS’s duties as the nation’s tax administrator is to assist taxpayers in understanding what their tax obligations are and how they may best meet them. A failure to put forth adequate guidance severely hinders taxpayers' ability to do so."
The letter was sent from the office of committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX).
Meanwhile, a former official said on Thursday that it was up to Congress — and not necessarily the executive branch — to form the regulatory framework around cryptos. Speaking at a conference in New York, Sheila Bair, the former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), said "The SEC has done a lot of good work … but Congress probably needs to step in with some sort of federal regulatory framework for the marketing, trading, and selling of these assets."
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