Bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin and cryptocurrency investing

Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn advise on investing in cryptocurrency.

Question: Are there any protections over money invested in cryptocurrency? I came into $100,000 inheritance and invested most of it in different cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and dogecoin, as it made more sense than putting it in the bank when interest rates are so low. However, my brother said that there are no protections in Australia if the currencies go bust. Could I really lose my entire $100,000? What protections are available with this kind of investing? I’m starting to regret my decision – Jimmy, Vic.

Answer: Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum are being touted as digital gold, with prices hitting record highs this year.

With more young people investing in cryptocurrency, and reports of almost one in five Australians estimated to have a financial interest in cryptocurrency, we expect we’ll be seeing more queries about what investors should do to protect themselves.

The biggest challenge around cryptocurrencies is that there is no paper trail. If you lose your key or password, or something happens to you, the money may be gone forever.

Laws can be slow to change and often technology moves at a faster pace than the legal system does, which adds further challenges when it comes to legal rights.

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The Australian Stock Exchange and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have been reluctant to allow exchange-traded funds linked to bitcoin to be listed in Australia. This has forced investors to use offshore products, or trade the cryptocurrency directly via exchanges based offshore, which means limited investor protections.

ASIC has said that digital currencies usually do not fall within the legal definition of “financial product” within relevant laws that protect consumers when investing in regular shares and companies. However, if an Australian company has issued crypto-assets that fall within that definition, then the usual protections will apply.

Currently it is the laws relating to “financial products” that provide investors with legal rights and recourse when things go wrong.

As you’ve invested in bitcoin and dogecoin, you won’t be protected under the Australian legislation (unless a financial advisor has recommended these products to you, and then you will likely have protections).

There are an increasing number of Australians who have reported cryptocurrency scams to ASIC, and most of the crypto “investment opportunities” reported to ASIC appear to be scams.

Offenders are difficult to catch and any money that has been lost in crypto scams is difficult to recover, especially when a lot of the offenders are operating online and in countries other than Australia.

The Australian Taxation Office requires anyone acquiring or disposing of cryptocurrency to keep a record of the transactions, including:

• The date of the transactions, and receipts for purchase, transfer or sale of the cryptocurrency

• The value of the cryptocurrency in Australian dollars at the time of the transaction

• What the transaction was for, and who the other party was (even if it’s just their cryptocurrency address)

If you are trading in cryptocurrency, it can be considered an asset for capital gains tax purposes when you dispose of it.

“Disposal” includes:

• Selling or gifting

• Trading or exchanging (including exchanging one cryptocurrency for another)

• Converting cryptocurrency to regular currency (even if it’s not Australian dollars)

• Using cryptocurrency to obtain goods or services

Some capital gains or losses from disposing of a personal use asset cryptocurrency are disregarded. Cryptocurrency is a personal use asset if it is kept or mainly used to purchase items for personal use or consumption. It won’t be considered a personal use item if it’s mainly kept or used as an investment, in a profitmaking scheme, or for carrying on a business.

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Only capital gains you make from personal use assets acquired for less than $10,000 are disregarded for capital gains tax purposes. However, all capital losses you make on personal use assets are disregarded.

With limited legal protections and likely difficulties enforcing any legal rights you may have, what should you do to protect yourself?

It is recommended that you do the following to minimise the risk of being taken advantage of or ripped off:

• Put your private keys in a safe place. Ask your lawyer about secure options for storing and accessing the crypto wallet that holds your private keys. Don’t make it too cryptic or hide it under the mattress. One option could be to put it in another document that can be accessed by someone you trust in the event something happens to you

• Make sure someone you trust knows where to find your private key so in the event you forget where you put it, that person can help you locate it

• Don’t write your private keys into your will – it becomes a public document if and when probate is granted, which means there is a risk someone could steal your cryptocurrency

• Clearly identify cryptocurrency in your will – unlike traditional assets such as shares or bank account, cryptocurrency does not leave an obvious paper trail

• Understand the tax implications if you decide to liquidate the cryptocurrency and convert it into dollars as you may incur capital gains tax

This is an area that is changing every day, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your specific circumstances.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.

If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email stories@news.com.au

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This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here

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