The US government has stated that government officials must disclose cryptocurrency holdings.
The United States Office of Government Ethics, or OGE, clarifies that virtual currency is “property held…for investment or the production of income” and should thus be declared to avoid conflicts of interest.
It specifies that this applies whether the holdings are described as coins or tokens.
The letter states that politicians have been seeking guidance from the OGE about what to do about their cryptocurrency, and the office is thus aware that “virtual currencies are experiencing a surge in use and access”.
It also recognises that the legal framework governing the assets is not yet solidified, and warns that further guidance will likely need to be issued.
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It notes that the IRS, the country’s tax authority, considers virtual currency to be property, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission views them as commodities, while the Securities and Exchange Commission is still deciding. It recently said that while Ethereum is not a security (which caused the price of that token to jump by nine percent), many are being promoted as investment assets and thus would come under its jurisdiction. Ripple, a major cryptocurrency company, is currently facing a lawsuit over exactly this issue.
The OGE says that it itself does not consider cryptocurrency to be legal tender, but according to the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 government employees must report any source of income. Thus, they are now required to report cryptocurrency holdings if those holdings exceed a value of $1000 and/or bring them $200 in profit during a specified reporting period.
American government ethics
The United States Office of Government Ethics (OGE) was once part of a larger government office, becoming a separate entity in 1989.
General counsel Walter M. Shaub Jr. resigned his position in July 2017, six months before his five-year term was due to end, after repeatedly clashing with Donald Trump on the subject of conflicts of interest.
“There isn’t much more I could accomplish at the Office of Government Ethics, given the current situation,” he said. Trump appointed a new General Counsel of the office in July 2017, made the position temporary, and in September 2017 a policy prohibiting private lobbyist donations to White House staff members was quietly reversed.