Is bitcoin legal? Cryptocurrency regulations around the world


Where is bitcoin banned? Where is bitcoin legal?

Legal stances towards cryptocurrency around the world

To see how crypto-friendly a country is, hover over our crypto regulation heat map below. Alternatively, try searching by country in our map index.


The dramatic rise of cryptocurrencies over the past few years has caught regulators by surprise. In countries all over the world, governments have been scrambling to develop laws and guidelines regulating the use of bitcoin and other digital currencies. In the current landscape, most countries have made some kind of statement on the legality of cryptocurrency, even if it’s only a declaration that they’ll “wait and see”.

This guide examines how governments around the world treat cryptocurrency and crypto exchanges, so take a closer look to find out whether your country is a friend or foe of digital coins.

How crypto-friendly is Australia?


Regulation ranking methodology

Countries have been classified into one of the following five categories:

  • Banned. Cryptocurrencies are illegal in these countries.
  • Hostile. While these governments have not gone so far as to ban the use of cryptocurrencies or the operation of crypto exchanges outright, they've introduced regulations designed to limit the use and/or growth of digital currencies.
  • On the fence. These nations have either not taken any public stance on cryptocurrencies or have yet to legally recognise cryptocurrencies.
  • Improving. These countries are in the process of working towards legal recognition of cryptocurrencies and introducing robust regulatory frameworks.
  • Global leader. Governments of these nations have a welcoming approach and/or have taken steps to recognise and effectively regulate cryptocurrencies.

To see the countries we've added to this study, see our crypto regulation index.

Latest updates

Disclaimer

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade.
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Index of cryptocurrency regulations by country

Country Regulation ranking Cryptocurrency regulation landscape
Albania 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are unregulated
  • The Bank of Albania has advised caution, while regulation is being developed
Algeria 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal
  • Using cryptocurrency will result in punishment
Antigua and Barbuda 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are unregulated
  • Fund raising projects are permitted to conduct ICOs
  • Member of the ECCB pilot, which will test cryptocurrencies alongside national fiat
Argentina 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are increasingly used but are not classed as legal tender
  • They are unregulated
Armenia 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are unregulated
  • The government is waiting to see how other states regulate cryptocurrencies
Australia 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are subject to Capital Gains Tax
  • Digital currency exchanges must register with AUSTRAC and meet AML/CTF compliance and reporting obligations
Austria 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Tighter regulations were proposed mid-2018
  • EU member
Azerbaijan 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • The central bank has advised caution when using cryptocurrencies
  • Regulations are being drafted
Bahamas 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are regulated
  • Regulations depend on whether the given cryptocurrency is a security, currency or commodity
  • They are actively promoting the blockchain industry
Bahrain 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal
  • However, Bahrani citizens are allowed to invest in cryptocurrnecies outside of Bahrain
Bangladesh 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrency transactions are illegal
  • Transacting with digital currency is punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment
Barbados 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Positive attitudes expressed by the Central Bank of Barbados, but no actions made
Belarus 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are regulated
  • Income generated from mining and operations in cryptocurrencies is exempt from tax until 20123
Belgium 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • The Belgian government is waiting for guidance from the EU
  • The government has warned investors about the risk of crypto fraud and the lack of regulatory oversight
  • There is a special economic area, the High Technologies Park which confers special benefit's on cryptocurrency businesses
Belize 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are unregulated
Bolivia 1. Banned
  • The Bolivian government has labelled bitcoin a “pyramid scheme”
Brazil 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Exchanges are unregulated
  • Cryptocurrencies are not classified as financial assets and cannot be acquired by investment funds
Brunei 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are unregulated
Bulgaria 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Cryptocurrencies are treated as financial assets, and income from selling them is taxed accordingly
  • EU member
Cambodia 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are not illegal
  • The central bank has asked banks not to permit cryptocurrency transactions
Canada 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies and digital exchanges are legal
  • Cryptocurrencies are subject to the Income Tax Act
  • Entities dealing in digital currencies are regulated under AML/CTF laws
Chile 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are unregulated
China 1. Banned
  • In February 2018, the Chinese government announced it would block access to all domestic and foreign cryptocurrency exchanges
  • The Chinese government has banned ICOs
  • Cryptocurrencies are not recognised as legal tender
Colombia 3. On the fence
  • The Colombian government has previously announced that it’s neither outlawing nor accepting cryptocurrencies
Costa Rica 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender and not supported by the central bank or state
  • AML/CTF laws apply
Croatia 3. On the fence
  • EU member
  • The Croatian National Bank has concluded that bitcoin is not illegal, but hasn’t gone much beyond that
Cyprus 3. On the fence
  • EU member
  • While it doesn’t consider cryptocurrencies illegal, the Central Bank of Cyprus has warned about the risks of using them
Czech Republic 2. Hostile
  • The Czech government has moved to clamp down on illegal bitcoin use, while moving to regulate it as a currency, including taxing its transactions
  • Virtual currency exchanges must identify customers
  • EU member
Denmark 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies can be used but are not classified as legal tender
  • -bitcoin purchased as an investment is tax deductible, with profits subject to tax
  • The Danish government is taking a hands-off approach to regulation, although several government bodies are outspoken against cryptocurrencies
  • EU member
Dominican Republic 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender and not regulated
Ecuador 1. Banned
  • Bitcoin is not a legal currency and is not authorised for use as a means of payment for goods and services in Ecuador
  • However, the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies through the Internet is not prohibited
Egypt 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal
  • Bitcoin has been declared haram (prohibited under Islamic law)
El Salvador 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • However, they are not legal tender
  • ICOs are prohibited
  • There is no current regulatory framework which can be applied to cryptocurrencies
Estonia 5. Global leader
  • The exchange of cryptocurrency is a lawful business activity regulated by the Anti-Money Laundering Act and Terrorism Finance Act
  • Cryptocurrency exchanges must be authorised by the Financial Intelligence Unit
  • Digital assets are classified as property for tax reasons
  • EU member
Finland 5. Global leader
  • EU member
  • The Finnish regulatory body has declared that bitcoin is generally an asset, subject to VAT and capital gains tax, but is slightly different in that capital losses won’t be deductible.
France 4. Improving
  • France is pushing for co-ordinated regulations on a European and international level
  • Digital currency exchanges must register with the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF)
  • Profits from the sale of cryptocurrencies are taxable
  • EU member
Georgia 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrency is legal
  • They are not legal tender
Germany 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency is a legal means of payment
  • Germany is pushing for co-ordinated regulations on a European and international level
  • Digital currency exchanges must register with the Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) and follow AML regulations
  • There is no tax on cryptocurrencies when used as a means of payment
Ghana 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • The central bank has advised cryptocurrencies are not licensed and discourage their use
Greece 3. On the fence
  • The Greek government has not issued any specific cryptocurrency legislation
  • However, the Bank of Greece has joined other European regulators to warn of the risks of cryptocurrencies
Grenada 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Member of the ECCB pilot, which will test cryptocurrencies alongside national fiat
Guatemala 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • The government strongly advises against the use of cryptocurrencies
Honduras 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • They are not regulated
Hong Kong 5. Global leader
  • ryptocurrencies are legal, and many blockchain companies have moved to Hong Kong
  • Regulators in Hong Kong are engaging crypto companies to help promote innovation
  • Regulators are continuing to monitor cryptocurrency, while actively embracing distributed ledger technology
  • Proposed regulation may require cryptocurrency exchanges to operate in a regulatory sandbox
  • Retail speculators may have access to cryptocurrency exchanges restricted
Hungary 3. On the fence
  • There is no official regulation
  • Cryptocurrencies do not qualify as legal tender or cash equivalent
  • Tax applies to cryptocurrency mining and trading
  • EU member
Iceland 1. Banned
  • It is legal for Icelandic citizens to own and mine cryptocurrency
  • However, in the words of the Icelandic Central Bank: ”It is prohibited to engage in foreign exchange trading with the electronic currency bitcoin, according to the Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act”
India 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are not accepted as a means of payment
  • Digital currency exchanges are technically legal but face increasingly tight restrictions
  • In April 2018, the Reserve Bank of India banned banks and regulated financial institutions from providing services to any person or business that deals with cryptocurrencies
Indonesia 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are treated as commodities
  • Crypto futures trading was approved in June 2018
  • Currently it’s lightly regulated, but regulations surrounding cryptocurrency exchanges and taxation are expected soon
Iran 2. Hostile
  • In April 2018, the Central Bank of Iran banned all Iranian financial institutions from handling cryptocurrencies
  • The clampdown is designed to tackle money laundering
  • Despite the ban, Iran is reportedly experimenting with a state-run cryptocurrency
Iraq 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal
  • Traders who use cryptocurrency will be punished according to AML laws
Ireland 1. Banned
  • Currently, no laws specifically regulate cryptocurrencies
  • Existing tax rules apply to cryptocurrency transactions
  • EU member
Israel 4. Improving
  • Virtual currencies are considered to be financial assets
  • Capital gains tax applies to virtual currency trades
  • New regulations are due to be introduced in Q4 2018 and are expected to feature increased reporting requirements for crypto exchanges
Italy 4. Improving
  • New regulations classifying the use of cryptocurrencies and concerning service providers related to digital currencies are being developed
  • EU member
Jamaica 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • The central bank has advised caution
Japan 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrency is accepted as a legal form of payment
  • Digital currency exchanges are legal if registered with the Japanese Financial Services Agency
Jordan 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Banks and financial institutions are prohibited from dealing in cryptocurrencies
  • Citizens are warned against using cryptocurrencies
Kazakhstan 5. Global leader
  • Kazakhstan aims to become a fintech and cryptocurrency hub
  • The nation’s president has called for global regulation of cryptocurrencies under UN oversight
Kenya 3. On the fence
  • The Central Bank of Kenya has warned that cryptocurrency is risky and is not legal tender
  • Cryptocurrencies are not illegal
  • It’s currently unregulated, but the nation’s treasury secretary had been tasked with drafting cryptocurrency regulations in July 2018
Korea, South 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal but are not legal tender
  • Anonymous trading is prohibited
  • Exchanges must register with the Financial Supervisory Service
  • Cryptocurrencies quickly became extremely popular and widely available in South Korea. Regulators appear to be torn between wanting to clamp down tightly and recognising that cryptocurrency is now too ubiquitous to effectively do so
Kosovo 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • The central bank has issued a series of stern warnings against the use of cryptocurrencies
  • The central bank has established a working group to address virtual currencies
Kuwait 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • Banks and financial organisations are prohibited from trading cryptocurrencies
  • Cryptocurrencies are not allowed to be accepted as a form of payment
Latvia 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency is accepted as an exchange instrument but it’s not legal tender
  • Virtual currency exchanges must meet monitoring requirements
  • EU member
Lebanon 2. Hostile
  • The Lebanese central bank has prohibited the use of cryptocurrencies by financial institutions, but has not issued any guidance for private citizens
Lithuania 4. Improving
  • Having previously adopted a “wait and see” approach, the Lithuanian government introduced new cryptocurrency guidelines in June 2018
  • These provide guidelines for ICOs and the tax treatment of cryptocurrencies as well as details of plans for amendments to AML/CTF rules
  • EU member
Luxembourg 3. On the fence
  • Luxembourg was one of the first countries to officially declare cryptocurrencies to be currencies in 2014 and was the first country to grant a payment institution licence to a bitcoin exchange in April 2016
  • However, the Financial Sector Monitoring Commission has warned about the risks of investing in cryptocurrencies
  • There’s no legal framework that specifically deals with cryptocurrencies
  • EU member
Macau 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • The central bank prohibits ICOs and any involvement with them. This approach is similar to China's
  • Citizens are stronly advised against participating in cryptocurrencies
Macedonia 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal due to existing laws which prevent overseas investments
Malaysia 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency trading is allowed but cryptocurrencies aren’t recognised as legal tender
  • New AML/CTF guidelines were introduced for digital currency exchanges in February 2018
Malta 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal in Malta
  • Regulatory development is ongoing, but friendly towards the industry
  • Malta wants to align itself as the "Blockchain Island"
  • Several established exchanges and businesses have moved from abraod to Malta, due to the friendly regulatory environment
Mexico 4. Improving
  • A cryptocurrency regulation bill was passed in March 2018
  • Cryptocurrencies are considered commodities
  • Digital currency exchanges are under the oversight of the central bank
  • To combat money laundering, from September 2019, relevant transactions exceeding a certain amount must be reported to the government
Mongolia 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not legal tender
  • They are not regulated
  • The central bank has advised against their use
Morocco 1. Banned
  • The use of cryptocurrencies in Morocco can lead to penalties and fines
Mozambique 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not regulated
  • The central bank advises caution
Namibia 1. Banned
  • Namibia’s central bank says cryptocurrency purchases are illegal
  • Cryptocurrency exchanges are not allowed to operate
Nepal 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal
  • Exchange operators have been arrested in the past
Netherlands 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency is considered an item of barter, meaning it can be relatively freely exchanged and falls outside most existing regulations
  • There are no plans to ban cryptocurrency
  • AML regulations for exchanges are expected to be implemented by the end of 2019
  • EU member
New Zealand 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrency is treated as property for tax purposes
  • New Zealand is working on implementing cryptocurrency regulations, but to date it has only recommended caution for its citizens that plan on using it
Nigeria 2. Hostile
  • In January 2017, Nigeria’s central bank outlawed bitcoin and digital currencies, but also openly pointed out that it can’t actually regulate cryptocurrency
  • Banks and financial institutions are prohibited from using, holding or transacting with cryptocurrencies
  • A legal framework for blockchain regulation is being considered
Norway 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency is largely unregulated
  • Cryptocurrency is classed as an asset and subject to capital gains tax
Oman 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not regulated
  • The central bank advises caution and personable responsibility
Pakistan 1. Banned
  • In April 2018, the State Bank of Pakistan banned investment in and trading of cryptocurrencies
Philippines 5. Global leader
  • The country is moving to recognise cryptocurrency as a legitimate payment method and implement a thorough regulatory framework for cryptocurrency companies
  • The Philippines’ SEC released draft rules for ICOs in August 2018
Poland 4. Improving
  • The trading and mining of virtual currencies is recognised as an official economic activity, but cryptocurrencies are not legal tender
  • Selling or purchasing cryptocurrency is considered a transfer of property rights
  • EU member
Portugal 3. On the fence
  • A legislative framework for cryptocurrencies is being discussed
  • EU member
Qatar 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal at an insitutional level
Romania 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • Income from cryptocurrencies are taxable
  • The central ban discourages involvement by local insitituions due to risk
Russia 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency regulation is being discussed by legislators as of July 2018
  • Mining and circulation of cryptocurrencies is expected to be regulated under existing provisions of the Russian Tax Code
Saudi Arabia 1. Banned
  • Cryptocurrencies are illegal
  • Interestingly, the Kingdom has plans for a local digital currency to be traded between banks
Singapore 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrency trading and exchanges are legal
  • Proposed changes to the existing regulatory framework are reportedly being discussed as of March 2018
Slovenia 4. Improving
  • They are largely unregulated
  • Slovenia has issued guidelines stating that bitcoin can be classified as either a financial asset or a currency depending on how it’s used in a given situation, and that it will be taxed and regulated accordingly on a case-by-case basis
  • Crypto exchanges and brokers are classified as financial institutions for anti-money laundering purposes
  • EU member
South Africa 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal but are not classified as legal tender
  • South African citizens must declare income derived from cryptocurrency as part of their capital gains statement
  • No regulation regarding exchanges
Spain 5. Global leader
  • Currently, there is no regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies but draft legislation was introduced in May 2018
  • Profits from cryptocurrency transactions are taxable under the Law on Income Tax of Individuals
  • EU member
Swaziland 3. On the fence
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • It is not legal tender
  • It is not regulated
  • The central bank advises caution
Sweden 5. Global leader
  • There is no specific regulation dealing with cryptocurrencies
  • Sweden’s central bank is actively pushing for more widespread adoption of digital currencies.
  • EU member
Switzerland 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal and are classified as assets
  • Exchanges are legal but must obtain a licence from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA)
  • FINMA has also introduced guidelines to help local startups launch ICOs
Taiwan 4. Improving
  • There are no current regulations specifically for cryptocurrencies
  • AML rules are expected to be introduced by November 2018
Tajikistan 2. Hostile
  • Cryptocurrencies are not illegal
  • They are not legal tender
  • The central bank warns against their use
Thailand 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are regulated and subject to Capital Gains Tax
  • Financial institutions are currently asked to refrain from involving themselves with cryptocurrencies
  • Current laws have been implemented as a stop-gap to protect consumers, while regulations are still being developed
Turkey 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not regulated
  • After lawmakers originally deemed bitcoin incompatible with Islam, government policy is starting to shift
  • The government has expressed interest in developing a national cryptocurrency
Uganda 4. Improving
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • They are not regulated
  • In cooperation with a local UN body, regulations are being developed
Ukraine 4. Improving
  • There is no regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies
  • A working group on cryptocurrency regulation was established in January 2018
United Arab Emirates 4. Improving
  • The regulatory landscape is confusing and ambiguous, although making various steps towards regulation
  • The financial regulator of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) introduced its own crypto regulatory framework in June 2018
  • Dubai is set to launch a digital currency in 2018, emcash, which is pegged to the dirham and backed by the state
United Kingdom 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal but are not legal tender
  • There are registration requirements for exchanges
  • There are no laws specifically relating to cryptocurrencies
  • Guidelines on cryptocurrency policy are expected to be released in September 2018
United States 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal but are not legal tender
  • Regulation of exchanges varies by state
  • On the whole, the US is fairly crypto-friendly, but tax laws and other fine details vary widely from state to state
Uzbekistan 5. Global leader
  • Cryptocurrencies are legal
  • A presidential decree on July 3, 2018 enacted mandates to encourage the development of blockchain and cryptocurrency industries in the nation
  • Another decree on September 2, 2018 established a state blockchain development fund, legalised mining, and made trading legal and tax free
Venezuela 2. Hostile
  • Against the backdrop of a failed fiat currency, cryptocurrency is very widely used in Venezuela
  • Crackdowns are common, and bitcoin users can be arrested
  • Despite this, the Venezuelan government has introduced its own cryptocurrency, the Petro
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Cryptocurrency regulations by region

Before we examine how governments and regulators around the globe treat cryptocurrencies, it’s important to point out that nothing is set in stone. Bitcoin and other digital currencies are such a new phenomenon that regulatory frameworks are still being developed and fine-tuned.

The state of cryptocurrency is constantly shifting in countries all over the world, and each new government announcement about crypto regulation can potentially drive price movements across the entire market. Make sure you stay up to date with policy changes where you live to ensure that your cryptocurrency use doesn’t put you on the wrong side of the law.

That said, here’s how cryptocurrencies currently stand with the world’s regulators:

North America

Canada and the USA both responded quickly and moved to work cryptocurrencies into existing financial systems. However, the two countries have adopted quite separate approaches to how they regulate digital coins and tokens.

South America

There’s a diverse patchwork of individual approaches from different countries in South America, ranging from outright bans to openly embracing cryptocurrencies.

Europe

It’s legal to use cryptocurrencies in the European Union (EU), but member states aren’t allowed to introduce their own digital currencies. The regulatory environment also varies from one country to the next, with some nations delegating all crypto regulation to the EU and others taking a more hands-on approach.

Africa

Many African countries have yet to issue a ruling either way, but reasonable concerns around terrorist funding, tax evasion and other criminal uses have led to outright bans in some countries and tight regulations in others.

The Middle East

Several countries across the Middle East have banned cryptocurrency, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain and Iraq. In Egypt, the Dar al-Ifta, who is the primary Islamic Legislator, went so far as to label cryptocurrency Haram, prohibiting it under Islamic law. Several other nations in the region have banned it at an institutional level, preventing financial firms and banks from engaging with cryptocurrencies.

Asia and Oceania

Many countries around Asia were some of the earliest and most enthusiastic cryptocurrency adopters, but government responses vary. China is clamping down on the sector, having banned ICOs in 2017 and shut down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges.

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Disclaimer: Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.
SourcesReuters, Law Library of Congress

Images: Shutterstock

Crypto regulations spotlight

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