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Bitcoin Regulation and Bitcoin Tax in Greece

The European Union seems to be losing its tight grip on fiscal policy with Britain leaving in a cloud of dust sand now Greece contemplating a dissatisfied exit. Compounding this is the fact that there is now talk of making Bitcoin the Greek national currency.

The legal status of virtual currencies in Greece tends to vary depending on the context. A useful definition of virtual currencies is that of Allen & Overy 2015 : 3. “any virtual currency as a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded and functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account and/or a store of value, but does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.”

Although the European Central Bank does not regard Bitcoin as a currency saying there is only one currency in Europe and that is the Euro, Economically money is defined by the role it pplays in society and where it serves the following purposes.

• A store of value with the ability to buy goods and services;
• A medium of exchange for the execution of payments; and
• A unit of account with which to measure the value of all other commodities.

From a legal point of view, virtual currencies which are held to fulfill the foregoing criteria are considered as money lato sensu (Lato Sensu. Latin: “In the broad sense.” Speaking or writing approximately, broadly, or generally) . Such a characterisation is not without a legal impact. If accepted as money lato sensu, bitcoin acquires the legal status of a legitimate contractual means of payment (Simsive & Archontaki 2014). Contrary to the European Central Bank who considers virtual currencies do not fulfill these criteria and are therefore NOT money.

Greeks dissatisfaction with the European union was reflected in a potential Grexit from the Union in 2015, where Bitcoin was proposed as an alternative currency to the Euro. According to sources, ‘throughout the “Grexit” negotiations, EU bureaucrats continued to strong-arm the Greek delegation, insisting on implementing further austerity. Varoufakis noted that a plan was agreed to with China that would have seen ongoing investment into the country, a financial lifeline. But this was scuttled by the EU and Greece, backed into a corner, seriously considered taking extreme measures. Hence the threat of Grexit and possible adoption of Bitcoin as a national currency at that time.

Regardless of what eventually happens Greece has a very positive attitude to Bitcoin with Greek’s former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis claiming the country should seriously consider a parallel digital currency, i.e. Bitcoin, adding that the currency’s value could be hedged against future tax.

During the economic turmoil in 2015 Eva Kaili, a Greek MP at the time, recalled that the government seriously considered Bitcoin as an option. “We talked about leaving the Eurozone, finding another currency. . .There was even a ‘Plan B’, which involved essentially hacking into everyone’s accounts and replacing all their money with Bitcoin.”

This illustrates the importance Bitcoin has gained in the political community and Greece is not the only country to see the potential of Bitcoin as a currency of value. It is significant to realise that if Greece has changed all their reserve assets to Bitcoin in 2015, they would quite likely have sufficient today to repay ALL their debt.

Or as ECB head Mario Draghi said regarding a possible est-coin, “No member state can introduce its own currency; the currency of the eurozone is the euro.” However, the experience with Greece demonstrates that not all is not happy in the State of the Union and Bitcoin could be seen as a viable alternative to dissatisfied members.

There are crypto exchanges in Greece and of course one can go offshore to transact and accumulate Bitcoin but there are no regulations to impel one to do so. Greece is one of the many increasing countries welcoming Bitcoin and Blockchain technology with open arms.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as financial information for any purposes such as investment or speculation and it is the responsibility of the reader to perform proper due diligence before acting upon any of the information provided. We recommend that you consult with a licensed, qualified investment advisor before making any investment decisions.