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Australia creates a crypto-monitoring task force and looks to exclude cryptos from foreign currency taxes

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(Kitco News) - Australia is tightening its grip on its growing crypto economy after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced it has established a new unit designed to specifically focus on monitoring crypto-related transactions. 

Following a rise in the use of cryptocurrencies to facilitate criminal activity since the AFP made its first crypto seizure in early 2018, the agency decided to set up a dedicated crypto team in August, according to Stefan Jerga, the national manager of the AFP’s criminal asset confiscation command.

The new unit comes as the AFP has reportedly surpassed its $600 million revenue-raising target two years ahead of schedule, a target that was originally set by the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce and was expected to be reached by 2024.

The $600 million in assets were seized by the AFP after being tied to financial crimes. The seizures include $380 million worth of residential and commercial property, $200 million in cash and bank accounts, and $35 million in cars, boats, aircraft, artworks, luxury items and cryptocurrencies. 

Stefan Jerga, the national manager of the AFP’s criminal asset confiscation command, suggested that the crypto gains seized were small compared to “traditional” criminal assets such as property and cash, but the additional focus has provided great intelligence insights. 

“It’s targeting assets, but it’s also providing that valuable, investigative tracing capability and lens for all of our commands across all of our businesses, whether they’re national security-related, child protection, cyber – or the ability to trace cryptocurrency transactions across the relevant blockchains is really, really important,” Jerga said. 

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Australian Treasury seeks public comments on draft legislation

In other developments out of Australia, the country’s ministerial depart of Treasury has reached out to the public seeking consultation regarding draft legislation that would exclude cryptocurrencies from being taxed as a foreign currency if passed. 

In a press release dated June 22, Assistant Treasurer Stephen revealed the Australian government’s intent to exclude cryptocurrencies from “foreign currency tax arrangements under the Albanese Government.” 

“This clarification will deliver a consistent tax requirement for crypto asset holders and will be backdated to 1 July 2021 for the avoidance of ambiguity following the decision by the Government of El Salvador,” Stephen said in the release. 

Now, the public has been asked to submit comments on the proposed legislation and will be able to do so from Sept. 6 to Sept. 30. 

According to the announcement, “The draft legislation relies on amending the existing definition of digital currency in the GST Act (A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999) before adopting it as an exclusion from the definition of foreign currency in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.”
GST is a broad-based tax levied on goods, services and items sold or consumed in Australia. As seen in the comments above, this move to exclude cryptocurrencies as foreign currency is a direct result of El Salvador adopting Bitcoin as a legal tender. With it, the Australian government is attempting to minimize the potential uncertainties related to taxing cryptocurrencies. 


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