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House Ethics Committee Says Reps Must Disclose Cryptocurrency Holdings




The US House of Representatives Committee on Ethics has released a memorandum declaring that members of the House of Representatives must disclose any cryptocurrency holdings that exceed $1,000.

The same day the Office of Government Ethics released similar guidance for executive branch employees, the US House of Representatives Committee on Ethics issued a memorandum advising reps and staff members that cryptocurrency holdings valued at more than $1,000 must be included in their annual financial disclosure statements and on periodic transaction reports (PTRs) throughout the year.

The memorandum also states that the committee has decided to classify cryptocurrencies as "other forms of securities."

However, the document acknowledges the somewhat patchwork approach to classifying cryptocurrencies, listing various other regulatory agencies that categorize and regulate in accordance to each agency's jurisdiction:

"The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has determined that it can regulate cryptocurrencies as commodities. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has indicated that for certain purposes, cryptocurrencies may be regulated as securities … The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has advised that for federal tax purposes, it will treat cryptocurrencies as property."

The directive, written by committee chair Susan Brooks and ranking member Theodore Deutch, is likely a response to a request from Representative Jared Polis of Colorado. In February 2018, Polis wrote a letter (incorrectly dated 2017, but in fact released this year) to Brooks and Deutch requesting the House Ethics Committee look into possible conflicts of interest that government officials may have when it comes to virtual currency. He wrote:

"It is critical that the House Ethics Committee provide additional guidance to Members of Congress and staff enabling them to accurately disclose and classify virtual currency holdings ... The committee should look to the CFTC, SEC and IRS' guidance to help inform any future action the Committee may take in requiring the disclosure of virtual currency." 

Annual financial disclosure statements are due each year on May 15. Since the memorandum providing this guidance wasn't released until more than a month after the deadline, its effects on these filings won't be seen until next year. However, cryptocurrency holdings are now subject to inclusion on periodic transaction reports, which take place numerous times throughout the year. Nearly 400 PTRs for 2018 are currently public.

Tim Prentiss

Tim Prentiss has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno. He lives in Reno with his daughter. In his spare time he writes songs and disassembles perfectly good electronic devices.

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