Is it Legal to Buy Cryptocurrency?

Crypto is legal in the UK. But what about worldwide, and why?

Updated: May 24, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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I don't have any Bitcoin. I don't own any cryptocurrency, I never will. 

Warren Buffett: Source

With the help of incredible technologies like cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, consumers can conduct business with anybody online with less involvement of a middleman — although there are lots of regulations and schemes. There are also concerns about whether these systems will ever be lawful because of their permission-less nature. 

After all, using Bitcoin to purchase narcotics on Silk Road and get past the financial embargo imposed on Wikileaks were two of its initial applications. Surely, governments could not let such technology exist?

Here is a quick guide to explain whether it is legal to buy cryptocurrencies and why.

Reasons that Crypto Worries Authorities

Although many authorities oppose anonymized types of internet transfers for theoretical purposes, among the key motivations for the establishment of BTC was to circumvent these prohibitions on digital banking privacy.

Although earlier platforms like Liberty Reserve and e-gold were helpful for users who wanted anonymity in their online payments, they were ultimately shut down — and accomplishing this was simple given that those networks were centralised.

The main goal of Bitcoin is to create a new, unregulated monetary system that is not subject to oversight or regulation by any national government.

Is it Legal to Buy Cryptocurrency? — Overview

The usage of different types of cryptocurrencies is entirely legal in the majority of nations worldwide. The majority of individuals worldwide may move some Bitcoin from one phone to another without having to fear police officials showing up at their door, despite reports of strict rules or outright prohibitions making a lot of noise over the past year.

This is not to argue that using cryptocurrencies is completely unrestricted. Governments will undoubtedly continue to want to impose restrictions on the use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin in different crimes, including terrorism and money laundering.

Additionally, there is strict regulation around the main points of exchange between digital and fiat cash — by this, we mean the big crypto exchanges like Coinbase, Binance, or Kraken — which all are in the top three largest worldwide. 

People are finding it more and more challenging to exchange significant sums of Bitcoin for fiat money without having to provide a lot of personally-identifying details to local officials.

For the time being, it would be more accurate to state that Bitcoin is becoming more regulated than it is unlawful. This page provides a detailed map of the world's legal framework for cryptocurrencies.

The original idea was to remove “middlemen” altogether — but to get access to these markets, step one is to create a trading account so that you can begin investing — this allows you to buy, sell, view live markets, and store them. These platforms have to operate according to the laws of the country they operate in, turning them into middlemen by default. 

Learn More ★ Trusted UK Crypto Apps.

Can Governments Even Stop Crypto?

A country or group of countries would likely have a hard time effectively making cryptocurrencies criminal at this stage. Although it would be challenging to implement, legislation may be introduced prohibiting the usage or exchange of Bitcoin.

How could it possibly be established that an individual has a Cryptocurrency wallet on their smartphone if that person's smartphone is encrypted and cannot be transparently readily viewed by police forces? 

The real question is how much manpower a government would be willing to exert in order to monitor and penalise people who install less-known exchanges that somehow do not require KYC (know your customer), which is to do with making sure every user inputs enough data that they can be linked to their accounts by policing authorities. 

It’s unsure how true it is when former American president Barack Obama asserted that encryption effectively allows everyone in the world to carry a Swiss bank account in their pocket.

What are a Few Countries that Criminalize or Restrict Crypto and Why?

It is not backed by anything, the volatility is colossal, so the risks are very high. We also believe that we need to listen to those who talk about those big risks. 

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia (Source)

It all comes down to perception — whether a government believes crypto will help its country to run better, or whether there are serious hazards that cannot be overlooked. Although there are presently few nations that limit or outright prohibit the use of Bitcoin, some nations do exist.

Nevertheless, most of those nations attempting to restrict the use of BTC within their territories are also engaged in their own blockchain-related initiatives, with China‘s impending digital currency serving as the most prominent illustration.

These nations adopt a “blockchain not Bitcoin” stance as it enables them to maintain and maybe even strengthen their total control over the domestic financial system.

Even though the initial intention of Bitcoin was to establish a system free from governmental control, this technology has the potential to be used to establish a financial surveillance state, and this could happen on both the Eastern and Western sides of the fence.

‘Major’ nations with tighter regulations on cryptos like BTC include:

  • Russia
  • China 
  • Egypt
  • Algeria
  • Pakistan 
  • Venezuela

What Countries are Tolerant to Crypto?

Tons of nations nowadays accept cryptocurrencies. Many of these nations are even considering how they may set up legislative “sandboxes” where companies can test out new concepts without fear of going to jail for breaking the letter of the law. The following are a few of the biggest nations accepting cryptocurrencies:

  • US & Canada
  • UK 
  • Germany
  • South Korea
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

It should be emphasized that opinions on BTC and other cryptocurrencies may change rapidly in certain nations.

It's feasible that a political climate opposed to encryption may acquire traction if a terrorist attack or other criminal event turns discovered to have been sponsored by a crypto coin.

Regulations

Depending on the country, cryptos like BTC may be considered either goods or money. For instance, while BTC has been categorised as property in the U. S., it has been determined to be money in other countries.

At first glance, the question of whether Bitcoin should be considered property or money may seem unimportant, but in actuality, it has a significant impact on how the crypto is taxed. Generally speaking, it is far more challenging to use property-classified assets as an exchange medium since many operations would have tax repercussions.

Legal Tender

Cryptocurrencies are not accepted as national money anywhere other than El Salvador. (A currency that is required to be taken for the settlement of bills is known as legal tender.) The only type of legal cash in a nation is often its own fiat money.

As Bitcoin directly competes with each government's control over the regional financial system, it is doubtful that a state would recognise it as legal tender. The fact that BTC is only held and never directly due strengthens the argument that it is property rather than money.

Businesses

Businesses can accept crypto wherever it is not officially prohibited. The majority of limitations and rules apply when trading crypto for fiat money as opposed to products or services.

Businesses are subject to rules governing the taxation of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies if they want to accept crypto in exchange for their goods or services. Businesses that accept cryptos as a means of payment must be mindful of the extra reporting obligations.

To Sum Up

Overall, the governance of coins is strict everywhere, and this tendency of tighter regulation is probably here to stay. The bulk of crypto-related activities will still take place directly on the online markets, as this is where legislation will have the biggest influence.

Anybody wishing to purchase or sell coins through an online exchange will be required to provide a substantial quantity of personal information in order for the issuer's operator to confirm the person's identification.

On a network level, there are theoretically no rules governing certain original cryptos like BTC. Once more, the whole aim of developing this new fiscal technology was to get around regulations, although it was bound to hit large roadblocks.

Further attempts to govern the Bitcoin protocol at the network level are possible, and we are yet to see how the markets and original privacy proponents will adjust.

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