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The Netherlands has an established tradition of being at the forefront of innovation. And it is following this same path when it comes to Blockchain development. The Netherlands ranks in the top five countries when it comes to digital economies.
Amsterdam is named the best tech startup city in Europe, the digital city Groningen is hosting the largest Blockchain hackathon in the world, and Arnhem is the place with high concentrations of merchants that accept Bitcoin payments. This has allowed the Dutch to experiment with payments using volatile cryptocurrencies with their regulation still a distant concept.
Dutch Blockchain Action Agenda is the driving force for the innovative application of this technology in both products and services. Under the label “Dutch Digital Delta,” government, industry, knowledge institutions even the Royal family’s Prince Constantijn, with over 20 organizations in the financial sector, energy, and logistics, are active in this initiative.
Clearer policy and regulations were needed around the developing cryptocurrency, Blockchain sphere, agreed Dutch politicians, cryptocurrency companies and regulators, who appeared in the House of Representatives at a hearing on Jan. 24, 2018
A few years ago the Central Bank of the Netherlands (DNB) created its own cryptocurrency called DNBcoin, for internal circulation only, to understand better how it works. After studying it, DNB concluded that Blockchain might be “naturally applicable in fintech” for the settlement of complex financial transactions, cross-border payments, securities transactions and document and identity validation. At the hearing, DNB representative indicated that while “DNBCoin is still under consideration, it is also investigating a combination of Blockchain based cross-border payment services where cryptos are converted to fiat currencies and prepaid crypto debit cards.” DNB stated “it supports the EU having extended its anti-money laundering directives to include digital money, acknowledging that the Netherlands will adopt it into national laws within 18 months.” And reiterated that “cryptocurrencies are not legal tender, they will not be banned, since it would obstruct blockchain innovation.”
The five Dutch Banks, which control over 90 percent of the Netherlands’ retail banking market are exploring implementing Blockchain technology in their operations. ABN AMRO and Rabobank joined SWIFT global payments innovation project. ING has completed the testing of Blockchain-powered trade settlement platform in partnership with Calypso and the R3 consortium. And NIBC has set up an Innovation Lab to stimulate the adoption of technological advancements within the bank as well as to enter strategic partnerships with innovative Blockchain companies.
Willem Vermeend, the first official “FinTech Ambassador of the Netherlands,” said:
“Blockchain will become a critical part of the financial sector, but what’s needed is collaboration. There is a lot of creativity in the Netherlands. The problem is that I have spoken to 20 parties who do not know what each other is doing.”
The Dutch government is exploring how to use Blockchain technology to improve service delivery to citizens as the catalyzer for democracy, transparency, and participation. So far, more than 30 pilots were concluded utilizing Blockchain technology in a variety of areas like income tax, identity, logistics, autonomous vehicles, debt counseling, etc.
With 3,200 startup tech companies hitting a scale-up phase in the Netherlands, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) offers a new way of fundraising enabled by digital currencies and Blockchain technology. Currently, the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) does not regulate ICOs.
“When it comes to innovation and developing markets, the Netherlands always held a forward-thinking stance. ICO initiatives are not an exception. The Dutch landscape comprises of bottom-up initiatives such as meet-ups and conferences, Ethereum DEV NL, Skycoin Netherlands, and Bitcoin Wednesday, a thriving startup ecosystem with (pre-) ICO fundraising entities. Not surprisingly, the advisors of some of the most successful ICOs of the caliber of Bancor, Kik, and Monetha live in the Netherlands,” explained Emanuele Francioni, founder of Web3 Ventures.
Merel van Vroonhoven, chairman of the AFM, warned:
“Although the AFM sees the possibilities of Blockchain technology for financial services, it points to the high risks of ICOs in the current hype. The high risk of scams and loss of intake combined with the hype around ICOs at the moment is a dangerous cocktail.”
At the latest hearing, AFM urged that ICOs needed to be regulated at an international and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) level because they are cross-border by nature.
Last year Prince Constantijn joined the High-Level Group of Innovators that advises the European Commission (EC). On Feb. 1, 2018, the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum announced that “it is partnering with ConsenSys, an Ethereum powered global venture production studio, for the benefit of the single European Union (EU) market, ensuring they work collaboratively across borders to help integrate and consolidate views, analysis and visions coming from the Netherlands in a forum at EU level,” explained EC Spokesperson Nathalie Vandystadt.
Individual taxation of cryptocurrency
The Netherlands is an exciting place for Blockchain and cryptocurrency investments. Investors are urged to take into consideration applicable cross-border tax laws while forming crypto or token investment decisions.
“The Netherlands’ Finаnсе Miniѕtеr announced that the Dutch gоvеrnmеnt would be соnѕidеring cryptocurrencies and thе like аѕ “barter items” which are to be declared as a capital asset of the personal income tax return to the extent a person is not someone who actively trades in cryptocurrencies. As such, cryptocurrencies are taxed as income from savings and investments. This means you have to take its value in Euros on Jan. 1st of the year and declare this value. A fictitious yield is to be calculated over the fair market value of the taxpayers’ savings and investments, reduced by his liabilities, per Jan. 1st. This fictitious yield is taxed at applicable rates against 30 percent” explained Martijn de Jong of Amstone law firm.
“Non-resident individual taxpayers are only taxed on certain Netherlands sourced savings and investments. Should the non-resident taxpayer’s involvement be assumed to exceed passive management of funds, Dutch taxation in box one could apply. Currently, there is no clear guidance on how cryptocurrencies are taxed,” he added.
The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Cointelegraph.com.
Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA is an international tax attorney and CPA who frequently writes about tax, legal and accounting issues for TaxNotes, Bloomberg BNA, other publications and the OECD.