With the legal status of bitcoin still under debate in Poland, a recent announcement by an official from the country’s Ministry of Finance sheds more light on the complex issue.
A growing number of local businesses are embracing the use of bitcoin, but national authorities remain cautious about regulating the use of digital currencies in the Polish economy.
On 18th December, a seminar on the legality of bitcoin was held at the Warsaw School of Economics (Szkoła Główna Handlowa). Based in the Polish capital Warsaw, SGH is one of the country’s leading business universities.
Speaking at the seminar, Szymon Woźniak, an official from the Polish Ministry of Finance, said that the ministry does not consider bitcoin to be illegal, although it does not consider it to be a legal currency either.
“What is not forbidden is permitted. However, we certainly cannot consider bitcoin to be a legal currency.”
The ministry is carefully observing the development of bitcoin, according to the ministry official. The ministry is also monitoring how other European Union member states are regulating the status of bitcoin, Woźniak said, adding:
“We are not blocking the way for the development of bitcoin. However, we expect its users to declare whether they want the state to protect and regulate, or to remain uninvolved.”
According to the official, under Polish law, profits generated by digital currency transactions are subject to taxation, and those who do not declare them to the country’s revenue service could face sanctions.
Despite the legal uncertainties, some local observers believe that the Polish bitcoin market has significant growth potential and point to the increasing popularity of bitcoin mining in Poland.
Krzysztof Piech, Ph.D., an economist and lecturer at SGH, said at the seminar that Poland is in the avantgarde of the worldwide digital currency movement.
Poland-based bitcoin miners rank tenth among all countries in terms of their output, according to data obtained by Piech:
“We have a human resources potential and innovative financial institutions. Regulations are the lacking element which could help both sides [cooperate] for the benefit of the economy”.
Other speakers at the event included Lech Wilczyński, co-founder of local startup InPay. The company is currently developing a pilot program in a number of Polish cities which is set to boost the use of bitcoin among the country’s retail outlets.
To achieve this, InPay will provide local retailers with payment terminals and educate them on the legal and tax-related aspects of implementing digital currency payments at their businesses.
The question of bitcoin’s legal status was previously addressed in a policy document signed by the country’s Deputy Minister of Finance, Wojciech Kowalczyk and released in July 2013, as earlier reported.
The document stated that, under Polish law, bitcoin and other digital currencies cannot be considered as legal currencies, as they are not universally treated as such by Poles.
As a result, all transactions made in bitcoins are to be considered as a result of two parties agreeing contractually to use the digital currency in settling their dealings, according to the policy document.
The finance ministry also said that the question of the legal status of digital currencies was debated not only in Poland, but also in a number of EU member states, and “all eventual actions related to digital currencies should be taken at international level, in particular at the European Union level.”
Despite the lack of official recognition of bitcoin by national authorities, Poles trade digital currencies on local platforms.
Poland map via Shutterstock