UPDATED | January 18, 2019
On January 14, Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer reintroduced The Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act. The bill, which is now being co-lead by Florida representative Darren Soto, states that "[n]o blockchain developer or provider of a blockchain service shall be treated as a money transmitter," and aims to protect these entities from the harsh penalties faced by those who operate an unlicensed money transfer platform.
Emphasizing the importance of blockchain development in the US, Emmer said, "The United States should prioritize accelerating the development of blockchain technology and create an environment that enables the American private sector to lead on innovation and further growth. These technologies hold untold promise for our economy and for all Americans."
ORIGINAL | September 21, 2018
Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, today introduced three blockchain-related bills for consideration by Congress.
In the announcement on his website, Emmer said he had introduced the bills because "the United States should prioritize accelerating the development of blockchain technology and create an environment that enables the American private sector to lead on innovation and further growth."
Despite the boldness of that hope, the three bills Emmer has introduced make only modest statutory changes.
The first of his submissions is a resolution that, even if it passes, will probably have little real-world effect. The bill "expresses support for digital currencies and blockchain technology" and asserts that the US should "prioritize accelerating" blockchain development and "create an environment" that will lead the industry to grow. The bill also calls for the federal government to develop a framework to support digital currencies and to use a "light touch" when creating legislation. Essentially a statement of support for the blockchain industry, the resolution neither creates nor repeals any actual statutory provisions to which the industry must conform.
The second of Emmer's submissions, the Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act, is a little more direct in its likely effect. Though about half of the language is dedicated to defining terms (digital currency, blockchain developer, blockchain network, and blockchain service), the core of the bill is this passage: "No blockchain developer or provider of a blockchain service shall be treated as a money transmitter."
The intent is to clarify that those who create or operate blockchain services, over which cryptocurrency can be transferred, are not in violation of a section of federal law (18 USC 1960) that makes it a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, to operate a money transfer service without a license. The relevance of the law to blockchains has been debated in the past, and some crypto exchange operators have been charged under the statute.
The third bill, called the Safe Harbor for Taxpayers with Forked Assets Act of 2018, would essentially forgive those who did not pay taxes on cryptocurrency they received through a hard fork, specifying that they are not liable for any penalties. This "safe harbor" period would stretch back until the beginning of 2017 and would continue until the IRS establishes a set of rules regarding the tax treatment of forked cryptocurrencies.