Cryptocurrency Regulations in India: Key Features

Photo - Cryptocurrency Regulations in India: Key Features
India lacks a centralized authority governing its digital market. Here, cryptocurrencies aren't viewed as a means of payment or a tangible asset. Even with no clear guidelines for resolving crypto disputes, India's crypto market is on the rise!
How is this possible?
Financial markets can operate effectively without heavy-handed oversight when investors are proactive in shouldering risks. 
It's up to the citizens of this nation to decide whether this is advantageous. So far, they've championed a system of self-governance, and it's proving effective. 

India's Cryptocurrency Landscape

In India, every cryptocurrency trader is essentially navigating the tumultuous waters of a highly unpredictable digital market.

As of 2022, about 300 million people in the country, equating to one in every four residents, are actively involved in daily cryptocurrency transactions. This level of engagement places India's digital realm ahead of both Europe and Asia. While Indians have access to global giants like Coinbase, Binance, and CoinDCX, they also benefit from domestic digital trading platforms such as:
  • WazirX
  • Bitbns
  • Unocoin
  • ZebPay
The primary requirement for cryptocurrency exchanges operating in India is adherence to the 2002 Anti-Money Laundering Act. 
On March 7, 2023, the Union Finance Ministry issued a statement asserting that digital platforms and middlemen associated with Virtual Digital Assets (VDA) are obligated to undergo KYC checks for their clients and users. 
The term VDA encompasses all varieties of coins, tokens, and NFTs that can be traded via blockchain. Furthermore, these exchanges are compelled to report any suspicious activities to India's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU-IND).
That same month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman shared plans for the nation to collaborate with other G20 nations in devising a regulatory framework for crypto assets. 
Yet, even after three months since this announcement, local crypto aficionados haven't observed any significant shifts toward stricter regulations.

Crypto Taxes India

In November 2022, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) initiated pilot tests for its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) for both the retail (CBDC-R) and wholesale sectors (CBDC-W). They designated nine significant banks to issue this state-sanctioned virtual currency. The move aimed to sideline cryptocurrencies to create space for the CBDC.

India's Finance Ministry announced that revenues from non-governmental digital assets would be subject to a 30% tax, with an added 1% TDS on purchases of cryptocurrencies. 

  1. For crypto earnings, the only permissible deduction is the original purchase cost.
  2. Such profits cannot be offset by losses from other ventures.
  3. A 30% tax will also apply to gifted cryptocurrencies.
  4. Gains from one virtual currency can't be counterbalanced by losses from another's devaluation.
  5. A 1% TDS will apply to all sales of crypto assets, even if the transaction results in a loss.

This framework puzzled the local crypto community. 
Shortly after, regulatory officials heightened their oversight on digital markets, hinting at potential moves to anchor the economy to the dollar and even ban cryptocurrencies if they jeopardized the CBDC's rollout. 
This led to a nearly 70% decline in trading volumes on Indian crypto exchanges, prompting many traders to withdraw their assets.

By Spring 2023, it became apparent that the CBDC initiative wasn't gaining the expected traction among business leaders. Funds once stashed in hardware wallets started migrating back to crypto exchanges.

It's still uncertain if the Finance Ministry's tax scheme will be put into action, especially since exchanges haven't been mandated to provide comprehensive transaction details to tax authorities. They've only been instructed to flag suspicious transfers. 
Additional guidelines may be issued by the end of 2023, as tax filing deadlines approach. 
However, assuming Indian crypto enthusiasts will transparently report their earnings might be overly optimistic.