A small addition to a pension application form provoked interest in Australia yesterday, with its request that applicants declare their “cyber currency” assets such as bitcoin.
A printed reference to bitcoin value in a government-issed document such as this, according to a digital currency legal expert, “legitimizes the concept of digital wealth beyond a niche area”.
On page 14 of the application form published by the Department of Human Services (DHS), bitcoin is listed alongside other potentially valuable assets: “taxi plates, time shares, racehorses, greyhounds, travellers cheques” and collectables such as stamps, wine, art and fishing licences.
Amor Sexton, a Sydney-based lawyer with digital currency specialist firm Adroit Lawyers, told CoinDesk bitcoin’s appearance on the form was subtle yet significant.
“The concept of ‘digital property’ or ‘digital assets’ may seem straightforward but it actually challenges some of the fundamental rules of property law. This recognition of cryptocurrency as an asset is an evolution of property law and the concept of wealth.”
Intangible assets, up to now, had rights that could be enforced – such as intellectual property – but could not be easily traded. They had value and could even be taxed, but they weren’t considered to be ‘wealth’.
Bitcoin becoming mainstream
By including bitcoin and other digital currencies on one of its standard forms, the national government is recognizing these are indeed forms of wealth, and they have also become mainstream as wealth.
Jason Williams, who heads Australia’s local Bitcoin Foundation chapter the Bitcoin Association of Australia, said the organization is “delighted” by bitcoin’s inclusion and recognition by a federal government department.
He agreed the government is making a clear statement legitimizing the concept of cyber currency as form of wealth, and was no longer treating it as a niche.
“Not only does this legitimize bitcoin as a form of wealth, the very inclusion of bitcoin into official government documents indicates there is real effort by the government into understanding and realising cyber currencies in general, and bitcoin in particular, are technologies that are set to be a permanent part of our financial landscape.”
Australia has established itself as one of the world’s most bitcoin-friendly jurisdictions, attempting to understand and accept digital currencies as part of mainstream finance.
A Senate inquiry into bitcoin will present its findings to parliament in March 2015 and, although its rulings have been questioned by some in the industry as confusing and potentially double-taxing, the Australian Tax Office has also made several statements on digital currency and attempted to integrate it into the current tax regime.
Australian Parliament image via Shutterstock