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Baby Steps Forward For Bitcoin In Australia

This week the Australian Senate Economics References Committee released its report in to digital currency - ‘Digital currency—game changer or bit player’ (yes, I kid you not, that’s the name of the report).

Most media commentary regarding the report has centred around the committee’s recommendation to modify the Australian Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act to recognise digital currency as ‘money’. In effect, this would mean that bitcoin transactions would not attract GST in Australia - removing the current ‘double GST’ on a variety of bitcoin transactions.

Obviously, this recommendation has been welcomed by the Australian bitcoin community. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that to action these changes for Australian law purposes is not a trivial task. Practically, it requires agreement from every state and a Federal government to actually drive the amendment - given the current size of the industry this seems unlikely. So although this is a great basis for further conversations with government, there is no practical impact for bitcoin startups in Australia - just yet.

As with reports similar to this one (see for example the Canadian inquiry report), it shows that many within the highest ranks of government see the importance of innovation in the financial services sector. With ‘software eating the world’ banks are looking less and less likely to drive this change. This means that startups need to lead the way.

To allow this to happen in the digital currency space, a legal framework that provides a welcoming environment for innovation to thrive in is required. This report hopefully provides a step in this direction for the Australian Bitcoin industry.

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Alan Tsen

Alan Tsen is the Melbourne GM of Stone & Chalk - an independent, not-for-profit fintech hub which fosters and accelerates the development of world-leading fintech start-ups.

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