Is France the next crypto powerhouse?

From being highly suspicious of crypto and ICOs, the French government has had a change of heart. Back in January French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, said that we want a stable economy,” and that, “we reject the risks of speculation and the possible financial diversions linked to Bitcoin.

However, it seems he has been persuaded. This week he assured a meeting of entrepreneurs that the French blockchain and crypto sector has his “total and determined support”.

Noting that a year ago he was a “rookie”, he said he had been “seized with a passion” for all things crypto. The conversion took a year and now he wants to help his “fellow citizen” go on a similar journey so that France can become “the leading country for blockchain and crypto innovation in Europe”.

When it comes to cryptocurrencies and ICOs the big questions for government are how to protect its citizens from risks they might not understand, and how to levy taxes to receive revenue from crypto activity.

As a new industry, no consensus has yet emerged as to whether digital assets are similar enough to existing ones to get away with using old regulation, or whether an entirely new system is required.

Le Maire said that he did not favour the suggestion that cryptocurrencies could be taxed along the same lines as precious metals. Instead he prefers a more stable new structure whereby ICOs and investors could plan for the long run. He also suggested that transactions within the cryptocurrency ecosystem might only be taxed if they were converted to fiat currency.

On the ICO question there was acknowledgement of the need to balance the potential innovation and benefits of a thriving ICO sector with the desire to protect the public from excessive risks and fraudulent practices. Le Maire said that there was a need to “professionalise” the ICO space and introduce independent oversight, perhaps through ratings agencies.

As to when France might introduce the new regulations, Le Maire plans to hold discussions with the relevant parties over the summer before including a new framework in September’s Finance Bill.

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