Real-life Doge at 18: Meme that’s going to the moon

https://cointelegraph.com/magazine/real-life-doge-18-meme-going-to-the-moon/

“I posted Doge for the first time,” John Monarch mentions casually, just minutes after I sit at his table upon sneaking into the Tokyo hotel’s breakfast buffet.

Excuse me? Yes, apparently I was sitting next to the creator of the original Doge meme, and we were about to board a bus to the 18th birthday party of Kabosu, the real-life dog behind Doge.

Kabosu: The real-life Doge turns 18

Kabosu lives in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, which is not far from Tokyo’s Narita Airport. When her breeder went out of business in 2008, she and 19 other Shiba Inus were taken to an animal shelter to be put down. However, she was rescued by local kindergarten teacher Atsuko Sato, (better known as @kabosumama to her 67,000 followers on X), who named her after a citrus fruit due to her round face.

“Kabosu likes to make this face all the time when relaxed,” Atsuko responded to a question from the birthday crowd.

In a rare 2020 interview with KnowYourMeme, Atsuko recalled that she contacted the shelter because “two years had passed since I lost my previous dog, and I wanted to live with a dog again.” Most of Kabosu’s brothers and sisters weren’t so lucky.

Magazine author Elias Ahonen flew to visit Doge on her 18th birthday. Bad Luck Brian, another meme, can be seen in the background.

Fifteen years later, on November 2, 2023 at her party, she’s lucky to still be with us. 18 is about 90 in dog years, which is an impressive feat.

As the mayor of Sakura excitedly addresses a crowd gathered around a Dutch-style windmill, Kabosu’s stroller is wheeled toward the stage, delighting onlookers. It’s her 18th birthday (sort of), with Atsuko having decided she was three years old on adoption. A declaration by a National Day Calendar representative is read out: henceforth, November 2nd is International Doge Day.

“I remember her staring at me from the corner of the room with doll-like eyes,” Atsuko recounts, holding her.

Kabosu is DOGE — “Do Only Good Everyday,” as Atsuko puts it — though for years, she hadn’t even heard the word.

The rise of Dogecoin: From meme to crypto phenomenon

The story of the dog of the day forked in 2010 when, in North Carolina, Monarch, then 23, happened across an image of an anonymous dog sitting on a couch, making a funny face. The image was originally one of a series of eight taken by Atsuko’s husband earlier that year and posted on her blog. John posted the image on Reddit with the title “LMBO LOOK @ THIS FUKKIN DOGE.” The word “doge” itself was already in use, though obscure.

“You make a dumb post and don’t expect it to do anything — 300 likes, not so serious.”

It spread slowly, at some point picking up a comic sans theme and eventually getting its own subreddit, r/doge, in early 2013. Images of different Shiba Inu dogs were presented in a similar format, and text in Doge speak like “much wow” saw it named Know Your Meme’s “top meme” of that year. At that point, it was everywhere, with a late 2013 Huffington Post article complaining that the “beloved internet meme” was being ruined by uncool Republican members of U.S. Congress using it incorrectly.

A decade on, doge reigns strong. It has recently also become associated as a mascot of another meme, NAFO, which is described as a “meme and social media movement dedicated to countering Russian propaganda and disinformation about the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The Doge McLaren
The Doge McLaren. (Twitter @dogeclaren)

On the bus to Chiba, I ask some of the birthday party organizers and attendees what Doge means to them and what it stands for. “To me, Doge is that spark of magic, a noble mission of spreading joy,” explains Gary Lachance, a big fan of the doge meme, who once drove a McLaren wrapped in Doge faces across the United States. He sees it as a wholesome counterweight to the dark and toxic places that exist on the internet.

Along with “doge-loving hippy hacker” Griff Green, Lachance previously worked to bring a doge-themed art car — Disco Doge — to Burning Man.

Bad luck brian
Bad Luck Brian. (Reddit)

“Silliness and whimsy,” says another, because the world is too serious. “Doge means love!” another pipes in with confidence. For some, this is a pilgrimage.

Others look at the crypto angle, with local doge fan and birthday attendee Kaneko Otanel saying, “Doge is a starting point for those unfamiliar with crypto, especially in Japan.”

Then I got to ask a meme himself: Tay Zonday, known for his 2007 “Chocolate Rain” song video, which 4chan helped make viral.

“I’m a meme, Bad Luck Brian is a meme, Doge is a meme,” he stated matter-of-factly, referring to meme colleague Kyle Craven, who was also present at this “meme gathering.”

“I believe blockchain has the potential to save us from the worst outcome of social media.”

Elon Musk and the celebrity influence on Dogecoin’s popularity

Shibemint
A 2014 brass coin produced by “Shibemint” to commemorate the Dogecar. “Crypto Imperator” also produced brass, silver and gold coins embedded with private keys to 10,000, 100,000 and 1 million Dogecoin, respectively. (Shibemint)

Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer launched their joke cryptocurrency that no one would take seriously on December 6, 2013. And they picked doge as their mascot.

Despite the founders’ exit, the Dogecoin community has banded together to crowdfund some memorable projects.

In January 2014, they made headlines after raising money to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Sochi Olympics, inspired by the movie Cool Runnings.

Later that year, 100 million DOGE was collected to sponsor Nascar driver Josh Wise’s car #98, which came to be known as the Dogecar. The car is playable in the Nascar 14 video game.

Fun and social, Dogecoin has also seen success as a tipping currency on online forums like Reddit.

In mid-2020, when coins cost a quarter of a penny, a viral TikTok trend promoted the idea of DOGE eventually going “to the moon” and reaching a $1 valuation. Not long after, a known spaceman named Elon Musk jumped onto the doge train in December 2020, writing a short tweet: “One word: Doge.”

In January 2021, Dogecoin became connected with the meme-stock community surrounding the GameStop short squeeze and gained nearly 1,000% in a two-week period. The rise to $0.07 was in part fueled by a barrage of tweets from Musk, including a play on the Vogue magazine as “DOGUE.”

In May, Musk held a Twitter poll asking if Tesla should accept DOGE (78% agreed), soon announcing that the car company was selling merchandise for DOGE, and SpaceX would soon follow.

Then came the announcement on April 1 — April Fool’s Day — that a literal Dogecoin was going to the literal moon aboard a SpaceX rocket, and the price soon quadrupled into the $0.25 range.

Doge-1 to the moon: Will Dogecoin moon, too?

The next month, on May 9, Dogecoin reached its all-time high of around $0.70. On that day, Canadian technology company Geometric Energy Corporation announced it would launch Doge-1, a CubeSat fully funded by Dogecoin, into lunar orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

According to Musk, founder of SpaceX, it would become both the first crypto and the first meme in space. (However, a physical Bitcoin was sent into space on the Peregrine lunar lander last month. This developed problems shortly after takeoff and never made it to the moon.)

The Doge-1 probe will feature a camera livestreaming a screen, and users can put up messages and pictures by controlling pixels via tokens. There will be “five tokens available: two for location (Beta for the X coordinate and Rho for the Y coordinate), two for pixel control (Gamma for the brightness and Kappa for the color), and XI for time — meaning, how long the advertisement will be displayed,” according to Space.com.

“There might be companies which want to depict their logo… or it might end up being a bit more personal and artistic,” the company’s CEO, Samuel Reid, told Business Insider.

One noted critic of the mission has been Dogecoin co-founder Jackson Palmer, already known for taking a harsh tone regarding the industry and for accusing Musk of peddling pyramid schemes. Billy Markus, the other co-founder, is known as Shibetoshi and famously sold all his Dogecoins in 2015 when prices hovered around $0.0001, netting “about enough in total to buy a used Honda Civic.” Doge peaked at around $0.70 in 2021. Though he’s no longer attached, he observes that “it’s weird that something I made in a few hours is now part of internet culture.”

A $258-billion class-action suit was brought against Musk by investors who alleged that he had “engaged in a crypto pyramid scheme” involving Dogecoin, stating that “this is a securities fraud class action arising from a deliberate course of carnival barking market manipulation and insider trading.”

Real life Doge more than a meme

Despite the commotion around Dogecoin, Kabosu has led a quiet life in Sakura with Atsuko and her family, which included three cats to whom “she is like a big sister.” The doge meme isn’t that widespread in Japan; however, Kabosu is still a minor celebrity, with Atsuko’s pet blog being among the most popular in the country.

“Around me, nobody knows about the Doge meme. Maybe I don’t understand memes very well, because I’m living such an analog life,” Atsuko told The Verge in late 2013, adding that she had become aware of risks related to the personal information she shares publicly.

10 years on, her distance remains. For all but a handful of visits and encounters, Kabosu has lived a life removed from the meme and token she inspired.

“I’m not too familiar with cryptocurrency, but seeing my beautiful dog’s face on the internet is heartwarming.”

This was apparent at Kabosu’s birthday party, where Dogecoin the cryptocurrency seemed little more than a tacked-on addition to a community celebration for a beloved dog. “I came to this event because I read about it on Atsuko’s blog — I had no idea it was related to crypto,” mentions Lauren, an English teacher from Canada who — in one-to-a-billion odds — recognized me as a high school classmate from half a world and lifetime away. Doge magic, they called it.

Dogecoin DAOs and community: Charities and social impact

In 2021, with some outside help, Atsuko minted the famous image as an NFT, and PleasrDAO purchased it at auction for 1,696.9 ETH, or $4 million. The original couch that Kabosu was pictured on was also sold — with the anonymous buyer taking delivery at Twitter (now X) headquarters, a source involved with the sale tells me. Donating much of the NFT proceeds to charity — some of whose representatives attended the birthday — Atsuko said she believed Kabosu had been “given a special mission by the universe.”

Doge

“During the past decade the meme had been on its own story — Atsuko was doing her own thing, and never profited from Kabosu as she is not crypto native or a meme-r.”

“I think nobody really drew a line back to Atsuko and Kabosu, despite other dog-coins like Shiba taking off,” says Tridog, a member of PleasrDAO and now also the “top dog” at Own The Doge. He describes the latter as a “culture DAO of Doge” that aims to proliferate the Doge meme mainly through real-world positive impact. He recalls someone at the Ethereum Foundation drawing the line back to Atsuko, who in October 2019 brought Kabosu to a Devcon 5 event in Osaka.

PleasrDAO fractionalized ownership of the NFT across 16,969,696,969 DOG tokens, allowing anyone to purchase a “share” of the image with the possibility of “dog-parking,” a take on staking, to claim ownership of a specific pixel of the image. PleasrDAO sold 25% in a presale, with plans for 20% to be distributed via airdrops and 24% going to Own The Doge. “They’re going to give Atsuko 1%, too!” says CryptoPathic, an involved influencer who previously led the fractionalization of another of the original Kabosu images, known as Feisty Doge, into Non-Fungible Doge NFD tokens.

Doge, Shiba Inu and other dog tokens

Kabosu is not the only famous “meme” dog in the Shiba Inu breed. Cheems Baltze, also known as Ball Ball, was a contemporary of Kabosu, appearing in the “bonk” and the “Swole Doge vs. Cheems” memes, the latter of which features a giant muscular Kabosu and a sedate Baltze. Baltze lived in Hong Kong and passed away in August 2023 at the age of 15.

Swole Doge vs Cheems. RIP, Cheems
Swole Doge vs. Cheems. RIP, Cheems. (Ruinmyweek.com)

There are also more than a few kennels worth of dog coins. On a CoinMarketCap listing of memecoins, dogs dominate, with Shiba Inu (SHIB) holding a respectable — or absurd, depending on who you ask — $5-billion valuation and the Cheems-inspired BONK sitting near $1 billion. Dogwifhat (WIF) is a Solana token and the new talk of the town. There’s also Dogelon Mars — because, of course, there would be.

Of the top 11 memecoins by marketcap, 8 are dogs
Of the top 11 memecoins by market cap, eight are dogs. (coinmarketcap.com)

The future of Dogecoin

Diagnosed with leukemia in late 2022, Kabosu no longer eats solid food nor moves around independently without a custom wheelchair. Though she appears calm, she is sleepy and barely able to lift her head unaided, making one wonder whether her quality of life is worth the struggle. She spends many of her days resting at the kindergarten where Atsuko works. At the birthday celebration, Atsuko told the crowd that “your love has saved Kabosu’s life many, many times,” crediting fans’ “love and support” for allowing her to live into old age.

Atsuko and the Mayor of Sakura pose with Kabuso and her statue after the unveiling ceremony. The original couch was sold to someone at Twitter headquarters
Atsuko and the mayor of Sakura pose with Kabosu and her statue after the unveiling ceremony. The original couch was sold to someone at Twitter headquarters. (Soranews24.com)

“A lot of memes fizzle out — a lot of communities do, too — but somehow, Kabosu and the doge has only expanded from the blog, to Dogecoin, to NFTs, and now DAOs — some day, the torch may pass on. We are just spreading smiles,” Tridog notes.

Come next what may, Kabosu is now a permanent part of Sakura through the newly unveiled bronze statue of her, flanked by three cats, sitting on the very couch on which she was famously photographed. The project was led by SaladPingers, an Australian-based project manager for Own The Doge. “Doge is about people of all backgrounds coming together to celebrate a funny, loveable dog. It’s silly and wholesome and accessible, and the real world impact is always doing good and giving to charity.”

The statue, a gesture paid for mostly with Dogecoins, left Atsuko visibly moved.

“We have received a wonderful gift, a statue of Kabosu. I believe Kabosu will forever be here where she will see beautiful sunsets.”

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Breaking into Liberland: Dodging guards with inner-tubes, decoys and diplomats

https://cointelegraph.com/magazine/breaking-into-liberland-dodging-guards-decoys-and-diplomats/

Disembarking the Liberty houseboat moored off the frontier of the European Union, we’re met by a pair of Serbian police officers, their lit squad car nearly blinding us in the dark forest.

“How many people are staying on the boat?” one asks, holding a large dog at bay. “I really don’t recall,” says my colleague from Reuters. Fortunately, they let us go.

We must run, using phone lights to navigate the muddy path to the rally point a bit further in Croatia, in hopes that the departing presidential convoy has not left us behind.

We are meters from the border of Liberland, an unrecognized micronation of crypto fans claiming a piece of land between Croatia and Serbia on the Danube river. At just seven square kilometers — 2.7 square miles — the piece of land is roughly the size of Gibraltar.

Liberland “president” Vít Jedlička explains it had not officially been claimed by either neighboring country, making it terra nullius — nobody’s land — when he planted a flag there on April 13, 2015.

Though neither permanent infrastructure nor habitation has been established, the project has attracted a sizable community of Libertarian-minded folk. The de facto home in exile in Liberland is Ark Liberty Village, a nearby campground on the Serbian side.

It’s here that Magazine attends Floating Man, a Liberland festival including wilderness and water survival training, music, a two-day blockchain conference, and a daring visit to Gornja Siga, also called Liberland. Getting into the independent state is going to be tricky, says Jedlička.

“It’s good to get in and out of Liberland without being beat up.”

Breaking into Liberland

As the conference concludes, the president takes the stage in front of a huge Liberland flag, pointing out the borders of Croatia and Hungary and the best ways to cross into the micronation on the map.

The route straight into Croatia to access the Danube is fastest, but most perilous — the border police know about our gathering and are expecting an incursion and, as such, are likely to prevent suspicious vehicles from entering. Flags, stickers or even Liberland-branded beer are a no-go at the crossing, as they will be confiscated, he explains.

The Croatian border, where officers were serious but friendly. (Elias Ahonen)

Entering the Schengen area through Hungary is more certain, with the Hungarians being indifferent to Liberland, making it possible to drive into the Croatian countryside and get to its land border with Liberland without prior detection.

The presidential convoy will go this route, while a boat carrying “settlers” will go upstream from a nearby port in Serbia to distract border patrols. Jet skis dragging inner tubes will take yet another route, with the aim of landing on Liberland’s island before interception.

“They may arrest you, but you are not breaking any law, so the longest they can hold you without charge is four hours.”

It feels like a military operation.

I begin to have doubts and unenlist myself from the jet-ski expeditionary troops to instead go with the convoy — I hadn’t bought a bathing suit, and being detained in international waters in my underwear was more than I’d do for a story.

Also read: Why are crypto fans obsessed with micronations and seasteading?

Not to mention that the last time someone took a jetski to the island, they were brutalized — tackled and kicked on the ground — by Croatian police in an incident for which the police offered an apology and disciplined the officer in question. The event was widely reported in the country, in part because Croatian police were operating outside the nation’s borders.

Travelling to Liberland on Jedlička's presidential convoy felt like teetering on the edge of reality - too real to be unreal, yet still not quite reality
Traveling to Liberland on Jedlička’s “presidential convoy” felt like teetering on the edge of reality — too real to be unreal, yet still not quite reality. (Elias Ahonen)

Terra nullius not on firm legal ground

From the perspective of international law, the validity of Liberland’s claims depends on which theory of state recognition is considered. According to Declarative Theory, supported by the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, an entity is a state — regardless of outside recognition — if it meets four criteria: a defined territory, permanent population, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

The area in question is neither Croatian nor Croatian-claimed — Jedlička says that matter was settled when Croatia entered the visa-free Schengen area at the start of 2023, with clearly defined borders being a set requirement of entry.

The land is also not Serbian. As un-owned and unclaimed land accessible from an international waterway, it appears to fit the definition of terra nullius, nobody’s land, which may be freely occupied. A permanent population is the only missing feature, which Jedlička says is only a matter of time. If they can get in, of course.

Also read: Thailand’s crypto utopia — ‘90% of a cult, without all the weird stuff’

The competing Constitutive Theory of Statehood asserts that a state only exists if it is recognized by another state. Here, Liberland fails, though Jedlička argues it is passively recognized already.

“They are checking people’s documents before they go to Liberland, and then once in Liberland they don’t really care — so it’s happening already,” Jedlička explains as we drive toward the border for a ceremony marking the “opening the land border with Croatia.”

Web3 nation?

Jedlička recalls that he first heard about Bitcoin through his Libertarian circles when its value was under $1 and began to buy it on Mt. Gox for $32. When he proclaimed Liberland’s independence in 2015, the coin stood at $225. With many of the early participants in the projects making their contributions in BTC, the treasury gained value with each bull market.

“Bitcoin is really one of the most foundational parts of Liberland — 99% of our reserves are in BTC.”

Attracting blockchain companies is a key part of the micronation’s strategy, with the vision to offer a low-regulatory jurisdiction with only “voluntary taxes” just off Europe, directly accessible via the Danube river.

Who can become a Liberlander? Just about anyone willing to pay $150 for an e-residency, which comes with an ID card that looks like any other. Citizenship requires 5,000 Liberland Merits (LLM) — a little over $2,000 — or can be earned via contributing to the project. 

According to “Minister of Justice” Michal Ptáčník, while Bitcoin is the preferred currency in Liberland, the Liberland Dollar (LLD) will be used to pay transaction fees on the Liberland blockchain, which is envisioned as the backbone of on-chain companies, the judiciary, government contract execution and Liberland’s stock market.

The chain is built using Polkadot’s Parity Substrate Network, a solution from which customized blockchains can be built using modular components. 

As we stand by the Hungarian border crossing, waiting to go in, I chat with the head ambassador of Polkadot, David Pethes. He notes that Liberland’s governance token, the LLM, already has 19 live validators, and the website explains the requirements:

“Only Liberland citizens can run validators, adding an extra layer of security against bad actors even in a scenario where less than 50% of circulating LLD is staked.”

Pethes, who is Polkadot’s man in Eastern Europe, notes that “Liberland is not on our list yet, but I’d like to have it formally included in the Polkadot ecosystem.” He sees the projects as ideologically aligned. “The participants in the ecosystem have very similar views on how money should work, how you can send value without a central point of failure,” he says.

“Liberland governance and corporate governance have many similarities — the blockchain is basically forked from Polkadot,” he notes. A land registry functioning on NFTs is also on the roadmap, as well as the Liberverse.

LLM Tokenomics
LLM tokenomics. (Liberland)

Journey to Liberland

It begins to rain as we approach the Hungarian border. This apparently causes their internet to malfunction, resulting in an hours-long line for processing. Nearly giving up, we pull into the diplomatic channel, which the Hungarian officials are unhappy about upon recognizing Jedlička. They let us through, making us stay put for perhaps 20 minutes after processing, in what I understand is a summary “slap on the wrist” for abusing diplomatic convention.

Journey to Liberland
The border guards have a word. (Elias Ahonen)

Crossing into the Hungarian countryside, we encounter a roadblock meant to catch illegal migrants. But we’re able to continue and cross into Croatia by ferry.

I am told stories of previous journeys. Last year, police warned that it would be dangerous to venture into Liberland because it was hunting season. “We could hear gunshots some distance away, but they thought we could not tell hunting rifles from pistols — no one hunts with a pistol,” explains our driver, suggesting that police were firing their service pistols to scare them away.

Other times, border patrols would take it upon themselves to “rescue” those they deemed stuck in Liberland — against the wishes of the rescued. Technically, such actions may constitute kidnapping per both Croatian and Liberland law. Jedlička also notes that Liberlanders have been arrested for disobeying a no-parking sign installed in the forest.

“We’re on the northern border,” Jedlička notes as we turn to a back road near the Danube river. Others have already arrived, and a Croatian police boat is tied to the shore with an officer respectfully collecting everyone’s passports and taking them to the boat. Another police vessel speeds to the location, but within 20 minutes, passports are returned.

Jedlička takes a picture of the BORDER CROSSING LIBERLAND-CROATIA sign. Houseboat visible on the right
Jedlička takes a picture of the “BORDER CROSSING LIBERLAND-CROATIA” sign. Houseboat visible on the right. (Elias Ahonen)

The supply van is opened, and each Liberlander takes what they can carry — boxes of equipment, rucksacks of supplies, coolers of food and drink. I carry water. We trek 700 meters into the forest, turning toward the river where a houseboat bearing the Liberland flag is moored.

Pictures are taken, and Jedlička carries the border crossing sign to a nearby tree, to which it is attached.

Someone announces that it is time for border control, and a line forms to get Liberland, American and Swedish passports stamped.

Passports, including from America an Sweden, being stamped as people prepare to board the Liberland houseboat
Passports, including from America and Sweden, being stamped as people prepare to board the Liberland houseboat. (Elias Ahonen)

“Will the stamp cause a problem if I have it in my real passport?” one nervous visitor asks.

The answer is yes, it will, but at that moment, we were not aware of the headache it would create.

Liberland stamp on an American passport
Liberland stamp on an American passport. (Elias Ahonen)

There is an element of theater — the tree and passport table are on shore, still in Croatia. The real border lies 200 meters further down the path, where officers lean against their cruiser, guarding the exit from Europe. I approach them.

Though they at first deny permission to pass, I returned with others to inquire again. They discouraged our entry, saying the forest is too dangerous due to wild boars. I asked how big they are, and the taller officer laughs and brought his hand near chest-level, suggesting that there are monsters beyond the boundary.

But they eventually allow us to pass on the promise that we would return before dark. I walk into the dimming wilderness, exiting the EU and Schengen area. I’m in no man’s land — Liberland. It’s something of an anti-climax.

Journalist Elias Ahonen in Liberland
Journalist Elias Ahonen in Liberland. Looks very similar to Croatia in fact. (Elias Ahonen)

After 20 minutes, we return and our passports are again checked to reenter Croatia.

Back on the boat, there’s is much eating and drinking and with some fanfare, “Radio Liberland,” whose signal was “sent from soil of Liberland,” makes its first broadcast.

Below deck, 26-year old Patrick Banick, a “settler” who has been living on the boat for two months, offers me a beer.
Below deck, 26-year-old Patrick Banick, a “settler” who has been living on the boat for two months, offers me a beer. (Elias Ahonen)

“I’m an unusual person — I don’t feel like myself when I have things tying me down, like being in a strict relationship with having commitments to be in certain places at certain times,” he explains, saying that he was attracted to the project for its Libertarian philosophy.

“I originally expected that we would just go to the land, build a camp, and refuse to leave — but it’s been very different. I’ve learned a lot about how diplomatic you have to be,” he reflects on Jedlička’s approach.

Banick is optimistic about the project’s blockchain aspirations. “From my understanding, they create smart contracts that can be enforced as a sort of immutable court without third parties, without corruption.” He also sees cryptocurrency as promoting “economic freedom, which correlates with every single boost in the standard of living, including longevity, literacy rates and infant mortality.” He is a true believer.

“They’re interested in utilizing smart contracts and blockchain to revolutionize governance and law.”

Elias Ahonen (center) with Patrick and Jonas on Liberty, the houseboat where they were living.
Elias Ahonen (center) with Patrick and Jonas on Liberty, the houseboat where they were living. (Elias Ahonen)

Jonas, a Czech national who was moving on to the boat that day, compares his vision for Liberland with Hong Kong’s former Kowloon walled city, which once contained 35,000 residents on 2.6 hectares. “It had like the cheapest rent, the cheapest medical care, the cheapest food, even though it was like the densest population of any place ever,” he explains — though by most outsider accounts, the city was not exactly a comfortable place.

As I return above deck, there is silence. I’ve been left behind.

Croatian border guards break the law

Though some cars have already left, I manage to catch a ride with Jedlička after having my passport checked yet again by newly arrived police officers. Less than two kilometers away at the old guard post, we are again stopped for passport checks.

The final challenge was encountered at the Batina Croatia–Serbia border crossing, where Croatian officers took issue with two Americans and a Swede, whose passports were stamped by Liberland, refusing to return the passports unless they each pay a 230-euro fine.

The 7th time passports were needed
The seventh time passports were needed. (Elias Ahonen)

A Croatian-American dual national with a Liberland stamp in her American passport says later that, in a private room, the Croatian officials threatened her with immediate loss of her Croatian citizenship if she refused the fine. This is legally impossible.

Throughout the ordeal, the officials at the otherwise deserted border post held all passports — including the author’s Finnish passport — for approximately two hours and refused to explain the reason for the delay.

Driving back to the Ark camp through Serbia in the wee hours, we come across a melancholy sight: several dozen migrants traveling under cover of darkness, making their way to the Schengen border. Seeing them struggle and risk it all to get to Europe made me question whether what we had just done — with far greater resources and far lower stakes — made a mockery of their struggle. Could Liberland realistically become much more than a bunch of Bitcoiners LARPing sovereignty?

And while the early August Floating Man festival appeared — a turning point at the time — with the construction of small cabins and the establishment of a small settlement on the land mass, relations with neighboring Croatia have since taken a turn for the worse. On September 21, Liberland Press reported an “unannounced extraterritorial incursion” in which multiple settlers were arrested, newly built structures demolished, and equipment, including a generator, quad bike and food, were taken under the oversight of Croatian police.

The story of Liberland appears far from over.

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5050 Bitcoin for $5 in 2009: Helsinki’s claim to crypto fame

https://cointelegraph.com/magazine/5050-bitcoin-for-5-dollars-2009-helsinki-claim-to-crypto-fame-crypto-city-guide/

This “Crypto City” guide looks at Finland’s crypto culture: The most notable projects and people, its financial infrastructure, which retailers accept crypto, and where you can find blockchain education courses.

City: Helsinki
Country: Finland
Population: 1.55 million 
Established: 1550
Languages: Finnish and Swedish, with English widely spoken

Jump to: Crypto Culture, Where to spend crypto in Helsinki, Crypto projects and companies, Local crypto controversies, Crypto education and community, Notable crypto figures from Helsinki

Situated on the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is the capital of Finland and is arguably the world’s most northern metropolis, with 1.5 million people — 30% of the country’s population — calling the metro area home. Its inhabitants spend winter in a cold, still darkness but enjoy 11 pm sunsets in summertime.

Helsinki Cathedral at sunrise, after a night of partying. (Elias Ahonen)

Major population centers are nearby, with both Tampere and Turku reachable in two hours via road or rail. There are regular ferry services across the Baltic — including to Estonia’s capital of Tallinn, which can be reached in two hours by sea, and there are also plans to link the cities via an undersea tunnel. The nearby Helsinki-Vantaa airport is the country’s main international gateway and serves as a transfer hub for Asia.

Finland has been ranked the happiest country in the world for six consecutive years by the World Happiness Report. Its income tax rate tops out at 56% — one of the highest in the world — and the tax data of every resident is public. Helsinki played host to the 1952 Summer Olympics. The country joined the European Union in 1995 and adopted the euro as its currency in 1999. In 2023, Finland became a member of NATO.

As the capital, Helsinki’s crypto events draw participants from across the country, making it the natural meeting place for the industry. For that reason, projects and companies from nearby cities like Tampere and Turku are also included here.

The area was first settled around 5,000 BC as the ice age retreated. Vikings raided the established settlements, as did Swedish crusaders in the 10th and 13th centuries. The city was formally established in 1550 as a Swedish trading post, defended by Suomenlinna (Finland’s fortress), the largest sea fort in Europe. Later, under Russian control as the Grand Duchy of Finland, the emperor moved the capital from Turku to Helsinki, which was closer to St. Petersburg. Finland became independent in 1917, after which it resisted Soviet occupation in the 1940 Winter War.

The Finnish Parliament
The Finnish Parliament. (Elias Ahonen)

Crypto Culture

Helsinki’s claim to crypto fame rests with Martti Malmi, a software developer who in 2009 sold 5,050 Bitcoin (BTC) for a $5.02 PayPal transfer, marking the first time that Bitcoin was exchanged for fiat currency. It occurred before the much better-known May 22, 2010, “Pizza Day,” when Bitcoin was first used to purchase a physical good. Eventually, Malmi used most of his Bitcoins to purchase a studio in the metro area. If he’d hung on to them, they’d be worth $171 million today. The Bitcoin was used to seed an exchange called New Liberty Standard, which established the first BTC price of 1,309.03 Bitcoin for $1.

Malmi was in some ways a product of his environment, with Helsinki recognized as a bed of technical innovation since Nokia began to dominate the cellphone market. In 1991, Linus Torvalds began working on what became Linux at the University of Helsinki. It is also home to many video game companies, with local firm Rovio’s Angry Birds achieving global fame in 2009. Helsinki is also the home of Aave founder Stani Kulechov, though he has moved abroad with the company.

In 2019, a then-staunchly Bitcoin maximalist group called Konsensus organized the translation of Saifedean Ammous’ 2018 book The Bitcoin Standard into Finnish, and later also translated The Little Bitcoin Book by The Bitcoin Collective. According to one member, the organization has since become more accepting of other cryptocurrencies and blockchain use cases.

The “crypto community” in Helsinki and Finland is somewhat disorganized and divided, with many enthusiasts being interested in one facet — be it Bitcoin, NFTs, or Web3 — without embracing the whole, and thus having few common threads. Still, a certain grassroots energy is evident.

Founding meeting of The Finnish Bitcoin Association in Helsinki on May 6, 2023
Founding meeting of The Finnish Bitcoin Association in Helsinki on May 6, 2023. (Elias Ahonen)

Where can I spend crypto in Helsinki?

Paying with Bitcoin is not common in Finland, where card and app payments dominate. One notable exception is the restaurant Faro, at which a few people are likely to buy a burger and beers with sats at the monthly Bitcoin meetup.

On the bar side, Taudo Baari and Time Bar also accept crypto. There is also the Osuva shooting range.

Samuel Harjunpää, CEO and co-founder of hardware startup Xellox and regular at the Faro Bitcoin meetup, comments to Magazine on the state of Bitcoin acceptance:

“A few restaurants and bars have already been ‘orange-pilled’ — the biggest obstacles are the payment infrastructure and bookkeeping.”

Crypto projects and companies in Helsinki

Today, Helsinki has a vibrant tech and startup scene with many coworking spaces. The city is also host to the annual Slush startup conference, which draws 25,000 participants.

Web3 Helsinki is a student-run organization that organized its first event on April 20, 2020, with about 150 people in attendance, making it perhaps the largest single crypto event of the year.

This year’s events have included the Web3 Bash in late April, followed by the Aurora Nordic Web3 Conference in June. On June 6, the BRIDG3 Blockchain summit was held at Tampere’s Nokia Arena, focusing on Web3, the metaverse and decentralized autonomous organizations.

The Aurora Nordic Web3 Conference, held in Helsinki on June 6, 2023
The Aurora Nordic Web3 Conference, held in Helsinki on June 6, 2023. (Elias Ahonen)

The Finnish Bitcoin Association was established on May 6, in an event attended by Magazine, with membership fees paid primarily with Bitcoin via the Lightning Network. Upon the conclusion of formalities, the saunas of the hosting coworking space were fired up.

For those interested in nonfungible tokens (NFTs), Fungi is a platform advertising a no-code solution that lets organizations build NFT-based communities. One of these was a metaverse island called cornerstone.land for VR studio ZOAN, where 100 plots could be purchased as NFTs.

HABBO NFT, operated by the local creators of the 23-year-old online chat room game HABBO Hotel, has dropped an 11,600-piece avatar collection on Opensea and is currently developing an NFT-based game. A group called The Future of Art has also dedicated itself to promoting digital art and runs an NFT gallery.

The Finnish Web3 Landscape, according to Tampere-based The Good Cartel, which exists to support Finnish Web3 startups
The Finnish Web3 Landscape, according to Tampere-based The Good Cartel, which exists to support Finnish Web3 startups. (The Good Cartel)

An aspiring LinkedIn competitor, Kleoverse, is a “proof-of-talent” Web3 platform for recruiters and jobseekers that displays skills such as knowledge in programming languages through badges instead of text on a resume.

Phaver is building a Web3 social media app powered by Lens Protocol, which bills itself as the “social layer of Web3”. Phaver is one of many local projects that have worked with tech design studio STRGL, which specializes in protocol-level Web3 solutions. STRGL’s managing director, Kasper Karimaa, sees Helsinki as a haven for developers:

“Finland’s role in blockchain innovation through its agile engineering community make Helsinki the perfect place to assemble a skilled team in research, design and development.”

One of the most widely known crypto companies in the country was P2P exchange LocalBitcoins, which employed about 50 people before closing its doors in February 2023. CEO Nikolaus Kangas told Cointelegraph that this was due to a failure to “turn our trade volumes and declining market share back to growth.”

Bittiraha, which translates to “bit money” in Finnish, is another old local crypto company. It was founded circa 2012 and installed the country’s first Bitcoin ATM at the Helsinki railway station in December 2013.

The company was also a distributor of Casascius physical Bitcoins and eventually made its own line of “Denarium” wallets. The parent company Coinmotion, based a few hours north in Jyväskylä, now operates a cryptocurrency exchange. 

Another major Finnish exchange called Northcrypto can be found in Turku.

A euro stablecoin has also been developed in the city. Membrane Finance’s EUROe was launched in February 2023 and is designed to be an “EU-regulated full-reserve stablecoin” that is compliant with recent legislation. While this is notable considering the relatively few operational euro stablecoins, volume remains low at approximately $20,000 per day.

Helsinki native Anita “Krypto Granny” Kalergis spends most of her time in Dubai, where she organizes blockchain conferences. She feels that Finnish entrepreneurs and decision-makers lack bravery, preferring to wait for someone else to take the lead and for regulatory certainty both from the national and EU levels. “Most activity is not advertised, with especially older business people afraid to rock the boat or make major moves,” she observes.

“Companies here will build something to 95% completion before opening their mouth, whereas projects in other countries will raise money and build partnerships based on a whitepaper while ‘testing in production.’”

Helsinki is surrounded by sea and leaves room for nature
Helsinki is surrounded by sea and leaves room for nature. (Elias Ahonen)

Helsinki’s crypto controversies

In 2018, the Finnish customs service planned to auction 1,666 BTC that it had seized in a drug case, but decided not to proceed “due to concerns that the virtual money would return to the hands of criminals,” displaying a rather negative official view of cryptocurrency. In July 2022, the state eventually auctioned nearly 2,000 BTC for $47 million, with proceeds being donated to Ukraine. 

In December 2021, local media reported a trend of investment scams involving the faces of prominent people, including industrialist Heikki Herlin and then-Prime Minister Sanna Marin. 

Earlier in 2018, the police also made warnings regarding a trend of Bitcoin blackmail relating to bogus claims that hackers had webcam material of users visiting pornographic websites. In 2022, a Helsinki watch dealer fell victim to a common crypto scam, handing over Rolex watches worth $400,000 after mistakenly believing that he had received a Bitcoin transaction.

Cryptocurrency, often adjacent to scams in the news, has come to be viewed with a relatively high degree of suspicion across most of society. Commenting on the decision to halt the 2018 customs seizure sale, Pekka Pylkkänen, head of finance at the Finnish Customs Service, highlighted concerns about money laundering, telling national broadcaster YLE that “the buyers of cyber currency rarely use them for normal endeavors.”

National media regularly interview outspoken cryptocurrency critic Aleksi Grym, head of fintech for the Finnish Central Bank, as an authoritative expert without seeking alternative pro-cryptocurrency views, though coverage has been improving.

As one may notice from this article, the term “Web3” is preferred, presumably due to its distancing from the negative stereotypes of cryptocurrency.

Neither the country’s political establishment nor any major party or other large grouping of the population could be described outright as being “pro-crypto.”

One reason for this could be Finland’s stable, highly functional, and high-trust society, in which most people do not see the need to “disrupt” or fix something with cryptocurrency. Bank transfers are free and near-instantaneous across the EU, with cash use increasingly rare. Virtually nobody is un-banked, and the most trusted institution is the police, with 95% public support. Harjunpää, whose startup is working on solutions to protect private keys, explains the disconnect:

“Many people don’t understand Bitcoin and think it’s something between criminal money and a pyramid scheme.”

It is also notable that the “moon” mentality and dreams of quick wealth found in many cryptocurrency investors is generally seen in a particularly negative light, with Malmi noting that he never set out to make money with Bitcoin “perhaps owing to Finnish culture” and his idealistic mentality. 

In the same vein, cryptocurrencies are seen by some as drivers of inequality in a country in which large differences in wealth are often considered taboo.

Crypto education and community

The Finnish Innovation Fund, or Sitra, has stated it as a priority to accelerate the local development of Web3 services, saying that “it’s in Finland’s interest to play an active role in ensuring that the metaverse is created in line with European values.”

The fund has also worked with the Finnish National Gallery to create The Finnish Metagallery, an art gallery in the Decentraland metaverse whose building is modeled from the Finnish Pavilion as it appeared at the 1900 Paris World Fair.

Johanna Eiramo from the Finnish National Gallery presenting The Finnish Metagallery in Helsinki at Web3 Bash on April 27
Johanna Eiramo from the Finnish National Gallery presenting The Finnish Metagallery in Helsinki at Web3 Bash on April 27. (Elias Ahonen)

In the old capital of Turku, The University of Turku hosts the Critical Inquiry Into DAO’s (CIDS) research group, of which the author is part. 

Notable crypto figures from Helsinki

Martti Malmi, the first person to sell Bitcoin for fiat; Henri Brade, board member of Coinmotion; Aleksi Löytynoja, CEO & co-founder of Kleoverse; Niko Laamanen, founder of Konsensus.

Martin Wichmann, chairman of Konsensus; Antti Innanen, founder of Fungi; Sointu Karjalainen, founder of The Good Cartel; Juha Viitala, CEO and co-founder of Membrane Finance; Mika Timonen, founder of Habbo NFT; Olli Tianinen, CEO of Equilibrium Labs; Kasper Karimaa, managing director at STRGL; Jarmo Suoranta, CEO of TX – Tomorrow Explored.

Keir Finlow-Bates, CEO of Chainfrog; Ville Runola, CEO and founder of Northcrypto; Samuel Harjunpää, CEO and co-founder of Xellox; Joonatan Lintala, CEO and co-founder of Phaver.

Cointelegraph team members often found in Helsinki: Elias Ahonen.

If you have any suggestions for additions to this guide, please contact eliasahonen@cointelegraph.com.

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Journeys: Hervé Larren on Bitcoin, Apes and the psychology of ‘blue-chip’ NFTs

https://cointelegraph.com/magazine/journeys-herve-larren-on-bitcoin-apes-and-the-psychology-of-blue-chip-nfts/

During a period of hyperinflation in 2013, “my Venezuelan mother asked me to send money to Caracas, the country’s capital,” Hervé Larren recalls. However, bank transfers were not possible between the two countries. 

Busy with work in New York, he told a friend that he planned to fly to Caracas — carrying cash for his mother — and return the same day. “Why don’t you just send Bitcoin?” his friend asked, which quickly led to a change of plans as Larren made his first Bitcoin transfer.

“My first crypto transaction, in 2013, was to wire Bitcoin from the U.S. to Venezuela. Due to the economic collapse, there was no functioning banking system between these two countries.”

Switching from a career with luxury goods company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Larren co-founded a large-scale crypto mining operation and worked with Grayscale to bring crypto assets to old-school investors. He later became a key adviser to ApeCoin and the first person to bid a million dollars for a nonfungible token.

From old to new

“We were reporting to Nicolas Sarkozy, and he was coming to our meetings,” Larren recalls of his time as the head of a high school student council in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the wealthiest old-money suburb of Paris, where he grew up. 

Sarkozy served as the local mayor for 20 years before becoming the president of France. Larren’s mother — from Venezuela — was a TV host and the first Latina model signed by the L’Oreal cosmetics brand. His French father imported wine to Canada,  where a third of the population is French-speaking.

In the late 90s, Larren began undergraduate business studies at Montreal’s Concordia University. In 2019, Concordia labeled him “The Blockchain Maven” as part of a “50 Under 50” alumni distinction. Upon graduation, he got a job at Moët Hennessy’s New York office, where he worked on brand development of the firm’s Hennessy cognac brand in the United States.

Larren worked on his MBA at Columbia University part time while at LVMH, graduating in 2010 and entering the venture capital world with Peak Ventures, which “was involved in tech companies including Twitter.” It was Larren’s first experience in the technology sector, which he describes as very different from the old-world, intergenerational luxury goods industry.

Larren quickly moved to accept Bitcoin at an e-commerce business he was involved with, a company that helped charities raise money by partnering with celebrities. In 2015, he formed crypto mining firm Global Crypto Ventures, which grew into an operation of nearly 3,000 machines composed primarily of Bitmain Antminer S9 miners in Las Vegas and Texas, where “the cost of infrastructure and electricity was cheaper.” 

Larren at his mining facility. (Hervé Larren)

Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund 

While speaking at the 2017 World Technology Forum in New York, Larren met Digital Currency Group CEO Barry Silbert, who was talking right after him about the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, through which retail investors could get exposure to Bitcoin through their brokerage. He was also working on a new investment vehicle called Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund (GDLC), which represented a weighted portfolio of cryptocurrencies, including Ether, MATIC, ADA and SOL, in addition to Bitcoin. 

As a publicly traded investment instrument, it would require approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission. One relevant matter would be to ensure that the fund could buy its digital assets from a trusted source, preferably from within the United States. Larren’s mining firm was an ideal source, and having a ready buyer for mining proceeds made business smoother.

This opportunity represented Larren’s first foray into crypto beyond Bitcoin, and it “attracted me to a new space.”

Working with the SEC was no easy task, Larren recalls. “It was a nerve-racking process. Though the company was very confident about getting approval, there was a lot of uncertainty because no such investment trust had been approved previously.”

However, the GDLC was approved, expanding the potential pool of crypto investors. Though many in the industry continue to preach the “not your keys, not your coins” mantra, Larren argues that just as with stocks, owning Bitcoin and other crypto assets through a financial instrument instead of on an exchange or cold-storage device is preferable for most of the public.

There is less risk of being hacked or losing access to keys, and regulated funds must meet stringent security policies and often carry insurance. He also notes that they are easier to manage on a portfolio basis, particularly regarding taxation and being more straightforward for accountants to understand.

Will BlackRock’s Bitcoin ETF be approved?

These advantages make it easy to see why heavyweights of the financial industry see an opportunity in offering Bitcoin investment vehicles accessible to retail investors. One of these is BlackRock, which recently applied to launch a Bitcoin spot exchange-traded fund in the United States.

“BlackRock offers the credibility to convince the SEC that the Bitcoin market can be operated safely and has much to offer investors,” Larren says optimistically. He expects that with BlackRock’s track record of 575 approved ETFs versus one denial, it will soon come online, with similar products expected in other markets.

“I think it would lead to an automatic rise in Bitcoin’s price. I think many people are on the sidelines waiting for clarity, and that’s a step in Bitcoin’s institutional adoption.”

“For a very long time, Grayscale had a premium on its shares” compared with the price of Bitcoin, Larren notes, explaining that the security, certainty and convenience meant that more conservative investors were historically willing to pay more per BTC. BlackRock’s ETF is unlikely to hold a large premium, which would serve to make the market more efficient.

All roads in Decentraland lead to Beeple

Larren first heard about the metaverse through Decentraland’s initial coin offering in August 2017. “They were selling 90,000 pieces of NFT land in the metaverse,” he recalls, adding that he felt a proximity to the project’s Argentine founders due to South America’s shared currency issues. “My first NFT purchase was actually buying my name in the metaverse,” he says, recalling how he spent 100 MANA to name his avatar.

He was also given a piece of land on which to build the Airvey art gallery, where Larren placed various NFTs for sale. When Christie’s announced it would auction Beeple’s “Everydays” piece in its first-ever NFT auction in March 2021 — a story previously covered by Magazine — the auction house contacted the Airvey gallery to invite bids.

“I wanted to be the first person in the world who bid seven figures on an NFT.”

“Well that escalated quickly” was Beeple’s only comment when Larren’s bid for $1 million came through, representing the first volley in a bidding battle that would see an anonymous buyer later revealed as Vignesh Sundaresan, also known as Metakovan, beat Tron founder Justin Sun with a record-setting bid of $69 million.

Beeple posted his reaction to the $1 million bid on Instagram.

Bored Apes design ApeCoin

With a newfound passion for NFTs, Larren joined Horizen Labs in 2021, months before the firm began discussions with Yuga Labs, a small company where four founders were working on an NFT project involving monkeys.

Yuga contracted Horizen Labs to create ApeCoin, a large allocation of which was distributed to holders of Yuga’s NFT collections — including Bored Ape Yacht Club, Mutant Ape Yacht Club and Bored Ape Kennel Club — via massive airdrop. 

“We did everything from the white paper, tokenomics, to listing on exchanges. In less than 20 minutes, it became an $8 billion project,” Larren says, referring to the token’s undiluted market cap, now about $2 billion. In addition to the launch, Larren notes that Horizen Labs designed the token’s staking mechanism, which will see “100 million tokens distributed to the community over three years.

As Gucci and TAG Heuer began accepting ApeCoin as a form of payment, Larren’s luxury contacts came calling back.

“I spent a week with Chanel’s team at a castle in the English countryside, educating them on all aspects of Web3,” including MetaMask and NFT drops. Larren observes that as he moved from “the most successful physical goods company, LVMH, to the most successful digital goods company, Yuga Labs, the thought process was the same.”

He describes metaverse real estate and PFPs, which include Yuga’s famous monkey pictures, as fitting into a broad category of “consumer NFTs” that are purchased by individuals in a way not dissimilar to luxury goods. Indeed, he notes that many of LVMH founder Bernard Arnault’s children — heirs of the world’s second-richest man — are actively dabbling in them.

Larren overlooking the Horizen Labs office floor in Milan. (Elias Ahonen)

“People want to feel that they are part of an exclusive community with like-minded individuals,” he explains, relating the concept sold in luxury boutiques and exclusive events the world over. In the case of Yuga’s NFTs, he argues that “there is value for many people in being members of a group that shares similar cultural references, whether it being digital or at concerts,” referring to events like ApeFest, the next of which will take place in Hong Kong in November.

Can an ape JPG really be a blue-chip NFT?

NFTs that gain mass appeal as recognizable status symbols are often labeled as “blue chip” among the NFT community, a nod to a term typically referring to reliable stocks and originally derived from poker, where blue chips are traditionally the most valuable. 

“It’s a brand-building element as recognition of industry and buyers. Supply is far less than demand, and there is a strong fan and collector base. In traditional art, Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat are blue chips,” he explains, noting that Bored Apes and CryptoPunks hold such a position within the PFP hierarchy.

“The price is a result of the value that has been created. When you go to a Louis Vuitton store, the price is nowhere to be seen.”

“Holding a BAYC can make sense because you can stake it to earn tokens, and it can act as a financial instrument because you can borrow against it,” he notes, naturally enough, considering his company designed the staking mechanism. 

Larren poses in Milan with images of NFTs, including a Bored Ape and an Otherside land plot. (Elias Ahonen)

“There are blue chips in other categories as well, such as metaverse land,” he adds, cautioning that its value, “like traditional real estate, will depend on the income generated with it.” 

This is because, in his opinion, people will not remain interested in vast spaces of empty metaverse land but rather in spaces that are built up and useful, like his art gallery. “Traditional real estate involves buildings — the same will be true of metaverse land.”

Where might we look for the next crop of blue chips?

“I’m now passionate about building on top of Bitcoin with BRC-20s and Ordinals,” Larren explains, hinting that something big is in the works. For him, the coming metaverse is a place and time “when your digital life is more important than your physical life and where digital image matters more than physical image.” In this new environment, he believes that the Bitcoin chain, with its newfound capability to host NFTs, will hold a key position as a central pillar.

“In Web3, you need to anticipate how consumer taste will evolve and what the market will want in the next six months.”

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Bitcoin 2023 in Miami comes to grips with ‘shitcoins on Bitcoin’

https://cointelegraph.com/magazine/bitcoin-miami-2023-shitcoins-for-bitcoin/

Among the more memorable displays at Bitcoin 2023 is a real-life toilet with the logos of various non-Bitcoin cryptocurrencies. It’s an ad for a booth selling “buttwipes” that are “moistened with the tears of no-coiners.” The marketing message is clear: Bitcoin is the real thing — everything else is a shitcoin that belongs in the toilet. 

But only a few steps away is another booth selling trading solutions for BRC-20 tokens, which some have labeled shitcoins for Bitcoin. Across the walkway are more booths slinging NFT minting software — also on Bitcoin. The conference even hosts a Bitcoin NFT art gallery. 

As Miami hosts the largest Bitcoin conference for the third year in a row in May, the air feels markedly different. Though there are only 15,000 attendees compared to last year’s 35,000, the atmosphere has an energy and freshness that’s a world away from the gloom and bear-market blues that one might expect after the massive drops from the 2021 highs.

Bitcoin is the real thing — everything else belongs in the toilet (Elias Ahonen)

What’s changed this year is the ordinal renaissance, brought on by the recent reality of not only NFTs but tokens being issued on the Bitcoin blockchain. There are certainly haters — with some calling for a fork to undo the Taproot updates that made “spam” possible on the chain. 

But despite the Bitcoin community’s traditional hatred for NFTs, tokens and DeFi, however, things are surprisingly quiet. Despite the blowback online, almost no one Magazine encounters at Bitcoin 2023 has anything particularly bad to say about Ordinals — and some did not even realize they are related to Bitcoin. 

Among old-school Bitcoiners — in circles where the cryptocurrency that starts with “E” can barely be mentioned without drawing comments of derision regarding “monkey pictures” and scam coins — the Ordinal NFT phenomenon is decisively met with a quiet acceptance or shrug. Most old-timers aren’t interested but appear to accept that this is what the “young people” want today — that Bitcoin needs to change with the times. 

Are Bitcoiners quietly accepting a new era where the network takes on a radically new role in the Web3 ecosystem, or is this the calm before the Bitcoin purist storm? 

Bitcoin Ordinals: A new era

With the exception of the Lightning Network, which made fast and cheap Bitcoin payments possible so as to make mass payment feasible, the Bitcoin ecosystem has been relatively unchanging over the years from an outside perspective. 

Mining, halvings every four years, the 21 million supply, hardware storage — beyond these core concepts, Bitcoin has lacked a certain dynamism that has placed it largely outside of the more colorful Web3 space of competing protocols, smart contracts, ICOs, NFTs, DAOs, stablecoins and myriad different tokens.

Indeed, the Bitcoin community has so ardently held on to its core tenets — rejecting new iterations, interpretations and innovations — that it is unironically considered by some as a religion, and semi-ironically as such by multitudes more. 

But is a reformation — or even renaissance — in the works? 

Bitcoin 2023
Author Elias Ahonen at Bitcoin 2023 (Elias Ahonen)

A stroll through Bitcoin 2023 — the world’s largest Bitcoin conference held in May in Miami — suggests so. This is because in addition to the yearly fare of booths related to mining, physical art, exchanges, wallet solutions and various hardware, a new entrant is out in force: NFTs.

Well, no — not NFTs. Bitcoiners call them “Ordinals.”

The word “ordinal” simply means a number used to put things in order: 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. Due to the November 2021 Taproot Bitcoin upgrade, individual satoshis, the smallest unit of Bitcoin, can now be individually numbered and thus made permanently identifiable. 

Uniquely numbered satoshis — Ordinals — are nonfungible, meaning that they can no longer be substituted for another. Being (1) nonfungible and (2) tokens, they are NFTs by definition.

In Miami, perhaps the most visible landmark to this new phenomenon is Ordinal Alley, “the very first art gallery dedicated to Ordinal inscriptions” where various Bitcoin NFTs can be viewed.

Subhan Syed, co-founder of YourFund Coin, tells Magazine that “Ordinal art — whether a JPEG or MP3 — may seem irrelevant today, but as time goes on, collectors will look towards unique pieces that have truly been immortalized on the blockchain.” 

The system is new and experimental, with Syed explaining that “the way inscription works today might be completely different a few years from now,” adding that it’s feasible that one day, there might not be enough satoshis to fill everyone’s inscribing needs.

“We might need a more robust solution in the long term that does not carry a load on the blockchain timestamp.”

NFTs and shitcoins — Now on BTC

In March 2023, an anonymous developer named “domo” introduced the BRC-20 system, which uses Ordinals to enable users to mint and transfer tokens on Bitcoin, in a simplistic take on Ethereum’s ERC-20 standard.

Merchants
There were plenty of merchants at Bitcoin 2023 (Elias Ahonen)

According to BRC-20.io, at one point, the market cap exceeded $1 billion, although after the initial hype died down, the 187 tracked tokens fell to half a billion, and in the midst of the SEC-derived bear market, they’re worth around $132 million with a daily volume around $47 million (although the site is offline at the time of writing).

While the conference has several booths related to Ordinals — mainly services for minting or “inscribing” them — few openly promote BRC-20 tokens beyond offering functionality to hold or trade them. While Ordinal NFT images appear to have become accepted by the mainstream Bitcoin community, it appears that BRC-20 tokens — viewed by many as shitcoins on Bitcoin — have not yet received quite the same level of acceptance.

It will be interesting to see how this changes next year when the conference moves to Nashville.

Wizards vs. laser-eyes

At a talk titled “The Great Ordinal Debate,” Bitcoin experts Udi Wertheimer and Eric Wall appeared in Taproot Wizard costumes as they made a dancing entrance. The Ordinals project celebrates the Magic Internet Money meme from the early Bitcoin days and welcomes the return of innovations being built on top of the protocol.

Magic Internet Money
The Magic Internet Money meme

Certain Bitcoin maximalists hate them and the “spam” of Ordinals, believing it undermines the true purpose of Bitcoin.

Wertheimer reported that “friends reached out and implored me to reconsider going to Bitcoin Miami, due to many public violent threats” from “laser eye podcasters” who believe NFTs have no place in the Bitcoin community.

The rift that Ordinals has caused in the Bitcoin community may well be summed as a conflict between the wizards and the laser-eyes — the former representing the experimental and fun-loving early ethos of Bitcoin, while the latter conveys intensity, seriousness and an unyielding focus on their vision for the greatest form of money known to man.

Eric wizard
Eric Wall is a professional crypto investor (Twitter)

After the conference, I connect with Logan Golema, who is firmly on the wizard side and has deployed a BRC-20 token for his project Galaxer, which is building a “space-based AR capture-the-flag” game to work on Apple’s Vision Pro artificial reality goggles. 

Believing that Bitcoin and its Ordinals will exist “for eons” into humanity’s future, he argues that “Ordinals — whether art or money — will be important much further into the future than the deployer today may intend.”

DeLorean
If you could take the DeLorean back in time to buy cheap Bitcoin — or prevent the Taproot upgrade — would you? (Elias Ahonen)

While some in the laser-eyes camp have raised the possibility of a fork to roll back the Taproot upgrade that enables Ordinals, Golema thinks it’s unlikely. Recalling the block-size wars that were a key driver in the Bitcoin Cash fork led by “Bitcoin Jesus” Roger Ver, Golema explains that while disagreement certainly exists, “it would take a lot for a chain fork to happen” again. 

Although various ways to remove what some core developers consider “spam” have been discussed, Golema believes the innovations will be broadly accepted and integrated — even if only begrudgingly because doing away with them may bring even more trouble. 

But Ordinals come with benefits, too, says Golema, helping to ensure Bitcoin’s transaction fees can sustain the network after the block reward halves away to nothing in the future.

“We’ve seen for one of the first times that the fee reward was bigger than the block reward — that’s very important for the future of Bitcoin’s security.”

For Bitcoin miners, the new age means more BTC coming into their collective coffers because the minting, deploying and transfer of Ordinals and Bitcoin-based tokens all require paying miners fees. This could help solve the issue of what happens when there’s no more BTC left to mine. “Direct mining rewards will end in the year 2140, so fees will be all that’s left to incentivize miners,” Golema notes. 

Similar benefits may exist for BTC hodlers — the long-term Bitcoin faithful. It is easy to imagine that as Bitcoin gains Ethereum-like capabilities, it will gain market share in NFTs and tokens, which will translate to demand not only in absolute terms but relative to competitors. 

Perhaps by bringing NFTs and tokens to Bitcoin, the wizards can even prevent the flippening, the potential ascent of Etereum to the top market cap position, which until now has been theorized to happen one day as a result of Bitcoin falling behind technologically while Ethereum innovates.

Major cryptoassets by percentage of total market cap
Major crypto assets by percentage of total market cap. (CMC)

Bitcoin dominance is a metric that shows the relative values of various cryptocurrencies and is followed by many Bitcoiners. Starting the year at 40%, BTC has climbed to 48.1% of the market as of writing. Can JPEGs push Bitcoin back into the 60% range and herald a new bull market?

The Ordinals wizards

Some Bitcoiners are starting to rationalize Ordinals into their worldviews. 

According to Aravind Sathyanandham, chief strategy officer at Bitcoin DeFi platform Velar, the Ordinals community is markedly different from the primarily Ethereum “ape” community, which has a bad reputation among the Bitcoin crowd. 

“These are Bitcoin guys — these are people who had to figure out how to run an entire node to ‘inscribe’ stuff on Bitcoin, the mother chain.”

He is referring to a kind of do-it-yourself hardiness — a rugged individualism emblematic of the money and tech conservatism of older stereotypical Bitcoiners as opposed to the also -stereotypical imagining of a more communal, liberal and younger Ethereum community. 

From this Bitcoiner perspective, Ethereum is viewed as little more than a sandbox for children, while Bitcoin is eternal. Ethereum, Sathyanandham says, is a “great experiment for NFTs and DeFi to take their first form,” and now it’s Bitcoin’s turn.

“These Bitcoin wizards understood early on that the block space on Bitcoin is prime real estate — it’s forever immutable and censorship-resistant data,” he adds, not forgetting to add that Ethereum is “semi-centralized.”

Bitcoin car
Elias was invited to sign the Bitcoin Car, first auctioned for 1,000 BTC in 2013 (Elias Ahonen)

The phenomenon also appears to be growing the Bitcoin user base.

“Ordinals have on-boarded so many individuals onto Bitcoin — new Bitcoin wallets like Hiro and Xverse that are akin to MetaMask have made it simple,” Sathyanandham explains, referring to the wider ecosystem being built entirely for Ordinals that mirrors Ethereum’s in many ways. He notes that “the Ethereum NFT community’s bleeding into the Bitcoin community is very evident on Crypto Twitter.”

While Syed agrees with Ordinalist exceptionalism, he sees them more as technologists than strict Bitcoiners. “I’ve seen that BRC-20 and Ordinals early adopters are individuals who are slightly more tech-savvy digital collectible fans — it’s not like some virtual flood gates opened up to bring in loads of Bitcoin maxis,” he observes.

Syed notes that “currently it’s the same people who collect ETH, Solana or BNB digital collectibles jumping in early. Early adopters always win and the bottom line is: We are all early.”

“When the next bull run comes, perhaps correlated with the BTC halving, we might see everyone rush over the BRC-20 and Ordinal narrative.”

It certainly feels like magic internet money once again.

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Best and worst countries for crypto taxes — plus crypto tax tips

https://cointelegraph.com/magazine/best-worst-countries-crypto-taxes-crypto-tax-tips/

Tax is a nightmare for compliance. And crypto taxes — which include a variety of innovative mechanisms and products that have no analog in traditional finance — are 10 times worse.

Complicating matters even further, the global industry operates across borders and jurisdictions. But there are definitely better and worse countries for the newly crypto-rich to base themselves as tax havens — even Americans who get followed around by the IRS with its hand out no matter where they are.

(The information provided is not legal or financial advice and should serve only as a starting point for further research.)

To start off, we need to define what income and capital gains are.

What is income for crypto tax?

Income tax generally covers things such as wages, dividends, interest and royalties. Within the context of digital assets, these might include income earned via mining, staking, lending, crypto-denominated salaries and even airdrops. 

In many jurisdictions, these would be taxed according to the market value on the day they were received. You can often subtract expenses (such as the cost of electricity for mining).

What are capital gains for crypto tax?

Capital gains are the profits from selling things like stock or a house. They are usually calculated on the difference between the price you bought something for and how much you sold it for. In most cases, capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than normal income, and the sale of cryptocurrency and NFTs generally count as capital gains. 

Switzerland gets an A for effort with crypto taxes. (Pexels)

Jurisdiction matters for crypto taxes

The first issue is whether one needs to pay tax at all. In certain countries, including Bahrain, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Singapore, Switzerland and the UAE, no capital gains are generally levied on things like stock or digital asset sales. For most people, determining the country of their tax residence is as simple as answering “where do you live?”

For the lucky few in crypto whose portfolio has gone stratospheric, it’s fairly natural to want to move to a country that will tax them less. Strategically shopping for favorable jurisdictions is comparatively easy for those in the blockchain industry, as their wealth is less likely to be tied to a physical business or assets.

Sadly, American citizens are at a distinct disadvantage because, unlike most countries, the U.S. levies taxes according to citizenship in addition to residency. Even American citizens born abroad must pay U.S. taxes even if they never set foot in the United States. They do, however, have the option of being taxed as a resident of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that is not a state. Perhaps fittingly, its name is Spanish for Rich Port. Hervé Larren, a dual U.S. and French citizen, lives on the island. He is the CEO of Airvey.io, which advises Web3 companies, and says:

“This is the best tax residency for Americans — they can keep their U.S. citizenship while benefiting from these tax advantages.”

Puerto Rico is a crypto tax haven

Crypto rich Americans are basing themselves in Puerto Rico for favorable tax regulations
Crypto-rich Americans are basing themselves in Puerto Rico for favorable tax regulations. (Pexels)

Larren explains that, due to a 2012 law called Act 60, companies moving to or establishing themselves in Puerto Rico can pay a corporate tax of 4% — far lower than on the mainland. There’s also a 0% capital gains tax.

“These incentives have been created by the government of Puerto Rico to stimulate job employment and growth on the island by focusing on promising fields like the blockchain industry particularly,” he says, explaining that the island is envisioning itself as one of the crypto capitals of the United States. 

“In order to demonstrate tax residency, U.S. citizens should set up a primary address, a driver’s license and a local voter ID in addition to physically spending six months of the year on the island,” Larren explains. 

On the other side of the world, the United Arab Emirates is another tax-friendly jurisdiction attracting crypto wealth, notes Soham Panchamiya, a lawyer at Reed Smith LLP in Dubai.

“As more countries begin to regulate and tax cryptocurrencies, investors will need to navigate complex tax laws and potentially incur higher tax liabilities,” he says. At the same time, he argues that governments should ensure that policies are not made needlessly complicated.

“The taxation of crypto globally has significant implications for both individual investors and governments alike.”

For Panchamiya, increasing regulation by governments can be taken as a sign that the industry is maturing. While the UAE draws industry players with 0% personal tax, he expects that the government is likely to benefit from the introduction of corporate tax later this year.

Are crypto-to-crypto trades taxable?

Outside of the few no-tax jurisdictions, “crypto-to-crypto trades are mostly taxable, but some countries do not tax them,” explains Filip Kraljičković, an expert on cryptocurrency taxation. He worked as a lawyer and manager of corporate taxation at KPMG in Croatia before joining crypto tax automation firm Taxtris as a tax and legal manager. 

Countries that do not tax crypto-to-crypto include France, Austria, Croatia, Poland and, as of 2023, Italy, he says. In such jurisdictions, no taxes are levied as long as crypto assets stay “in the metaverse” and do not get exchanged for fiat. 

According to Kraljičković, this type of treatment is gaining favor, and there are direct efforts to implement it EU-wide “because taxing crypto-to-crypto swaps produces cash flow problems” for people in the industry. Notably, most major jurisdictions like the U.S. and the U.K. currently consider trading Bitcoin for Ether a taxable event. Even something as innocuous as “wrapping” ETH into wETH can be interpreted as a trade, as the Australia Tax Office has spelled out (sparking considerable debate):

“When you wrap the ETH you have created a different asset for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) purposes. This means that converting ETH to WETH triggers a CGT event and you have to work out capital gains tax when you convert.”

In many jurisdictions, there is also a difference in tax treatments between short-term and long-term capital gains. In the United States, long-term capital gains get a discount, but selling before 365 days taxes the gains at the same percentage as regular income, which means that the effective tax rate can double. Canada does not differentiate between long- and short-term capital gains, taxing them all at half the rate of income tax.

Crypto tax capital gains rules in Europe

“Germany and Croatia also differentiate between short- and long-term gains — after 12 and 24 months, respectively, the rate is 0%,” Kraljičković explains, adding that, because Croatia does not tax crypto-to-crypto swaps, it is possible to pay no tax even without holding the original asset for a year. It’s also notable that Germany allows up to 600 euros of tax-free short-term gains per year.

“In Croatia, if you are happy with your gain in Bitcoin, you can just transfer your position to stablecoins and wait one to two years to realize your tax gains tax-free.”

“I’m not paid for advertising Croatia, but it’s a favorable place for crypto traders,” Kraljičkovićs says. Even when not using the crypto-to-crypto two-year method, taxes on crypto capital gains are about 10% depending on the city one lives in, he explains.

Some jurisdictions are of course less favorable. In addition to taxing crypto gains at 30%, India has “also imposed a 1% tax deduction at source (TDS) on each trade, claiming it would help them track the movement of funds,” with exchanges saying that such moves are likely to severely affect business. 

A similar 0.11%–0.22% VAT on all crypto transactions has been imposed by Indonesia, which Kraljičković describes as a method for the government to track all crypto transactions by imposing a reporting requirement via the otherwise small tax.

Adding to this, India treats cryptocurrency in a way comparable to lottery tickets and other gambling, whereby losses cannot be deducted from gains. “Basically, everybody trading crypto in India fled from local crypto exchanges and started using decentralized apps,” Kraljičković observes. 

According to Kraljičković, Estonia is the only European country currently restricting the deduction of losses. “You’re only taxed against your gains, but any losses that you realize are not tax deductible, which is kind of weird from an accounting perspective — but that’s their position.” Marko Jukic, CEO of automated tax reporting software provider Taxtris, mentions that there is currently an active lobbying effort to change this.

Another pitfall that investors should be wary of is the risk of being classed as a professional trader, as opposed to a casual trader or hobbyist. Many governments make this differentiation, but the line can be very blurry and is largely up to tax authority interpretation. 

“There are certain factors to take in like the number of transactions, size of transactions, regularity. All these factors can influence the determination of the government,” Kraljičković explains. Those who go pro, even against their will, might have to report all their trading gains as income tax, which carries a much higher rate and otherwise be far more stringent in their accounting. “You will have to behave as a company or as a craftsman depending on jurisdiction.”

No matter where you are, crypto taxes are still a pain to work out
No matter where you are, crypto taxes are still a pain to work out. (Pexels)

How are capital gains calculated?

There is not one single answer. When it comes to calculating taxable gains, the critical step is to calculate the cost basis, which is the amount local tax law considers an asset to have been bought for. There is a good deal of variance between the accounting methods used by different countries. Some countries even let you choose the method as long as you are consistent.

First-in, first-out, or FIFO, is among the most common methods and means that gains are calculated by assuming that the earliest acquired units of an asset are sold first. This means that a person who bought 1 BTC for $10, one for $100, $1,000 and $10,000 over a five-year period and sold one of them in 2022 for $20,000 would be taxed as if they sold the first Bitcoin purchased for $10, resulting in a taxable gain of $19,990.

Average cost is another method, which would calculate the average cost of the assets as the purchase price. Per the previous example, where someone purchased a total of 5 BTC for $11,110, the average price per Bitcoin would be $2,222, meaning that the taxable gain from selling a fifth of holdings in 2022 would be slightly lower at $17,778.

Last-in, first-out (LIFO) sounds nearly the same as FIFO but is effectively the opposite, resulting in a vastly more favorable outcome for our trader, whose taxable gain would now be only $10,000 since the profits are calculated from the most recent purchase opposed to the earliest one.

The tax agencies of many jurisdictions, including those of the U.S., U.K., Australia and Japan have issued guidance explaining that taxpayers can choose one of these methods, with certain limitations and usually provided that they then stick to that method. However, Canada requires the use of cost averaging because the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) views cryptocurrencies as commodities and taxes them as such.

Though most readers’ capital gains will fall under one of these accounting systems, there are outliers, such as the “French method,” which is close to the average cost calculation. “Poland and Hungary have their own methods based on cash flow and revenue expense, but European countries otherwise tend to follow the standard methods,” Kraljičković notes.

Whether you use FIFO or LIFO, capital gains are typically calculated by adding up all the year’s losses and gains followed by subtracting the total losses from the gains. As such, it is possible to find that the net gains are negative, in which case no taxes would apply and losses could possibly be counted against gains in the following year, again depending on the jurisdiction. An exception to the above can be found in India and Estonia, which Kraljičković says do not allow losses to be deducted from crypto tax calculations.

Crypto tax loss harvesting

“If the market goes down, you can sell assets to create a loss to offset gains,” Kraljičković remarks.

This is called tax loss harvesting and can sometimes result in even a large net gain becoming tax-neutral through the reduction of capital gains liability. It can be employed strategically at the end of the tax year because taxes are usually calculated on an annual basis. Immediately in the new tax year, both the gaining and losing assets can be rebought.

“In the U.S., tax loss harvesting is banned for securities but not for crypto, so people in crypto usually sell off their loss positions before the tax year ends.”

This, however, is illegal in the U.K. and Ireland, Kraljičković notes. “They will spot the loss and rebuy happening within 30 days and disallow the losses,” he says, adding that similar restrictions will likely arrive across the European Union. “It’s a matter of time before countries figure that out and apply that anti-abuse rule,” he predicts. In fact, President Joe Biden has proposed making the practice illegal this year. 

Can NFTs be tax-loss harvested? 

“There is no accounting method for NFTs because they are nonfungible, so you can always easily identify profit — for fungible assets like Bitcoin, you don’t know which Bitcoin you sold, which is why the FIFO method exists,” Kraljičković reasons. 

That said, he describes NFTs as “a complicated conversation” — Europe, for example, does not have much of the guidance or terminology sorted out. “More or less, they are treated like cryptocurrencies,” Kraljičković says, implying it is largely a default position in the absence of clarity.

When it comes to NFTs, it’s also worth noting that some countries such as Spain, Poland and Belgium treat at least their initial sales in the same way as the provision of virtual services, like a Netflix service, Kraljičković expands. In these cases, Value-Added Tax (VAT) applies.

Wealth taxes

“There is a third type of tax in addition to income and capital gains, and that’s the wealth tax — you’re paying taxes based on your portfolio value on a specific date,” Kraljičković adds. For example, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway and Argentina collect wealth taxes that are based on the net wealth of taxpayers each tax year. 

Norway, for example, charges a flat 0.85% of wealth above an approximate $160,000 threshold, meaning that someone with net assets worth $1 million at tax time would be expected to pay over $7,000. These rates go as high as 3.5% in Argentina and as low as 0.1% in some areas of Switzerland, sometimes starting at a much higher threshold than Norway’s. “It’s coming to Italy next year.”

While the valuation of fungible cryptocurrencies is relatively straightforward, valuing NFTs for wealth taxes is a different story. In traditional markets, if no liquid market is present such as for property, software or intellectual property, financial experts can be hired to estimate value based on evidence like supporting documentation and expert witnesses. 

At this point, however, Kraljičković notes that NFT valuations are a conversation between the tax authority and the individual. “NFTs are very minor sources of tax revenue now. Tax authorities are looking to spend their time where they can harvest the most,” he observes.

NFT Taxation.
Author Elias Ahonen gets worked up on the subject of crypto taxes. (Elias Ahonen)

Evaluating jurisdictions for crypto taxes

If you made money with crypto, then proactive planning regarding crypto taxation liabilities is likely to pay a worthwhile return no matter where you live. Some of these strategies like tax-loss harvesting or taking advantage of long-term capital gains may fall into the “try this at home” category, whereas more advanced methods like jurisdictional arbitrage may require one to venture from the home port and set up camp in a faraway land when it comes to personal tax residency. For those with serious capital, the setting up of an off-shore entity in a friendly jurisdiction may also be an option, albeit with many caveats.

In regard to personal taxation, it is rather objective to say that some countries are more advantageous than others from the perspective of a cryptocurrency investor. 

The likes of the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Switzerland and various Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico, naturally get an A grade due to the near lack of tax liability. On the downside, these A-grade tax havens often come with considerable living costs.

Countries like Croatia, France, Austria, Poland, Italy and perhaps Germany rate highly, in the B range, due to the lack of taxation on crypto-to-crypto transactions or other workable solutions like discounts on long-term capital gains.

The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and much of Europe fall into the C category due to disadvantageous rules, variably including the taxation of crypto-to-crypto trades and swaps as well as restrictions on tax-loss harvesting.

India and, surprisingly, Estonia can be placed into the D category primarily due to the ineligibility of deducting investment losses from gains, thus making compliant trading particularly impractical. The F grade naturally goes to those countries that disallow the trading of crypto altogether, which we might interpret to mean a tax rate of 100%.

All of these ratings can of course change as new laws and practices are introduced. While higher and less permissive taxation may increase government income, they may similarly drive both brain drain and capital flight whereas the introduction of policies friendly to the digital asset industry can be expected to promote its growth within national borders. These are complex and politically charged issues for countries to consider.

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