Privacy-focused cryptocurrency Zcoin is now available for spending in Thailand at any merchant registered with the Thai QR code system through Satang App. According to an announcement published by Zcoin on Aug. 15, over 50 million users of Satang App can now use Zcoin at local merchants both in-store and online by scanning a QR code. The system instantly settles transactions and allows merchants to be paid in Thai Bhat via regulated exchange Satang Pro. Although the development is an important step in the mainstream adoption of digital currencies, Zcoin noted in its announcement that: “One common problem with convincing merchants to accept cryptocurrencies is that they would need to deal with volatility, conversions and basic understanding of handling them for very little benefit as there may be only a handful of people who pay using cryptocurrencies.” As reported in late February, the Zcoin team and its major investors donated $24,000 worth of cryptocurrency to support the students and school staff at the Jolly Mercy Learning Center in Kampala as part of Binance Charity Foundation’s blockchain-based lunch program in African schools. Earlier in August, South Korean business-to-business fashion platform Sinsang Market joined the Terra Alliance ecosystem, a stablecoin-focused association of large e-commerce companies. The project aims to create a payment system that deploys Korean mobile payment service Chai.
The IRS has begun sending letters to people with digital currency transactions who may have failed to report income and pay taxes, or who did not report their transactions properly. By the end of August, more than 10,000 taxpayers will receive the letters, targets the IRS says it obtained through various ongoing IRS-compliance efforts. According to the head of the IRS, Commissioner Chuck Rettig: “Taxpayers should take these letters very seriously by reviewing their tax filings and when appropriate, amend past returns and pay back taxes, interest and penalties. The IRS is expanding our efforts involving virtual currency, including increased use of data analytics. We are focused on enforcing the law and helping taxpayers fully understand and meet their obligations.” IRS letters There are three versions of the IRS missive: Letter 6173, Letter 6174 or Letter 6174-A. They all stress their tax and filing obligations and how to correct past errors. They refer to information on IRS.gov, including which forms and schedules to use and where to send them. Recipients of the IRS letter are on notice, as the IRS thinks they may need to report. So, take a look at what you reported, and fix whatever you missed. Actually, though, even if you don’t receive one of these IRS letters, you should consider doing the same thing. After all, the mere fact that you don’t receive a letter does not mean you are in the clear. Besides, basic reporting isn’t that hard. Amending tax returns to ask for big tax refunds is a well-known audit trigger. Amending to report extra income and pay extra tax is usually much less so and can head off much bigger problems. Still, when amending your taxes, be careful with the IRS. Related: US Crypto Holders Only Have a Few Days to Reply to the IRS 6173 Letter Of course, not everyone is going to look at this situation, or their own facts, with the same degree of concern. If you get an IRS letter, don’t ignore it. Consider making corrective filings for a number of past years and paying taxes without being asked. The IRS is generally considerably more forgiving if a taxpayer makes corrective filings before being audited or investigated. These letters can be seen as a warning that you could…
Friday, Aug. 16 — Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) are seeing some upward movement as XRP continues to slump. Market visualization. Source: Coin360 Bitcoin is trading at $10,480 at press time, representing a 4.58% price increase on the day. Bitcoin is seeing some momentum for an upward climb, peaking at $10,500 so far and continuing to stay away from the four-figure mark it fell to yesterday. Still, BTC needs to climb by about 15% to retake the $12,000 barrier, which it surpassed multiple times earlier this month. Earlier today, anticipated BTC futures platform Bakkt announced that it has been approved for launch — namely by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and New York State Department of Financial Services — and will roll out on Sept. 23. Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360 The number two cryptocurrency, Ether, has turned around to trade slightly in the green today. ETH is trading over $185, showing a 0.61% increase on the day. ETH has largely been on the decline this week, trading over $218 on Friday and falling by approximately 14.7% to hit its current price. Ether 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360 XRP, the second-largest altcoin by market cap, is trading at $0.262 and trending down by 0.24% on the day. Like many of the top cryptocurrencies, XRP has been slumping this week. Unlike BTC and ETH, however, XRP has not managed to get back into the green as of press time. XRP 7-day price chart. Source: Coin360 Alongside BTC and ETH, other top-20 cryptos in the green today include EOS, Tether (USDT), Bitcoin SV (BSV), Binance Coin (BNB), Monero (XMR), Stellar (XLM), Dash (DASH), and Tezos (XTZ). The total market capitalization of the top 100 cryptocurrencies is currently over $270.9 billion at press time, according to Coin360. Keep track of top crypto markets in real time here
Ethereum core developers finalized late Thursday a list of six different code changes to be activated for ethereum’s next system-wide upgrade, Istanbul. As agreed in prior meetings, Istanbul will be executed in two parts. The first, which will feature all six code changes, or ethereum improvement proposals (EIPs), is tentatively expected to execute on ethereum mainnet this October. The second, which is scheduled for mainnet activation sometime in the first quarter of next year, will feature EIPs requiring further testing and deliberation from core developers. Those include a proposed mining algorithm change called “ProgPoW.” Speaking of the two-part structure of the Istanbul upgrade, core developer Péter Szilágyi said on Thursday’s call: “We split Istanbul into two. One of them we can actually ship within weeks. [The other contains] two really big EIPs that would be nice to have but require some stuff that cannot be done within the two- or three-week timespan.” Istanbul Part 1 will be the eighth hard fork to be activated on the $22 billion blockchain network. It is expected to boost chain interoperability with privacy coin zcash and help secure the broader network against replay attacks, among other efficiency improvements. Developers behind major ethereum clients such as Geth and Parity now have exactly one week to integrate the newly affirmed list of six EIPs into their software and prepare to implement the full code on a live ethereum test network. The last hurdle While the original target date for Istanbul’s testnet activation on ethereum testnet Ropsten was this Wednesday, Aug. 14, Szilágyi noted during Thursday’s call that the target needed to be pushed back two weeks in order to give developers time to finalize the list of EIPs going into Istanbul Part 1. Because that list has just now been agreed upon by core developers, Szilágyi said a hard fork activation date on Ropsten for Wednesday, Sept. 4 may have to be reconsidered and pushed back once more. “With previous hard forks, after everybody implemented [to their clients], we had literally months of testing before rolling out to the testnet. Now, we just came up with a final list of EIPs and we want to fork in two weeks? That’s a bit brave,” Szilágyi said on the call. Other core developers agreed with this…
The director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said the casino industry needs to up the ante on reporting suspicious activities related to digital currencies. Speaking at an Anti-Money Laundering Conference in Las Vegas on August 13, FinCEN director Kenneth Blanco said the agency has not received the amount of suspicious activity reports (SARs) expected. “There is a misconception that just because FinCEN has not publicly issued enforcement action against a casino or card club since last year that FinCEN is not looking at this financial sector,” Blanco said. “Let me assure you, this is not the case.” According to regulatory guidelines published in May, casinos and card tables are required to identify and report “red flags” that point to potential instances of money laundering, sanctions evasion, and other illicit financing purposes” using cryptocurrencies. This is in light of casinos being targets for malware scams and “business e-mail compromise schemes.” “Casinos should be filing SARs (suspicious activity reports) when they encounter suspicious [convertible virtual currency] activity and any cyber events that affect, facilitate, or conduct transactions,” he said. Additionally, casinos must set policies, procedures, internal controls, and risk assessments related to crypto assets. Blanco raised several questions related to due diligence: “How will you conduct blockchain analytics to determine the source of the CVC? How will you incorporate CVC-related indicators into your SAR filings as appropriate?” Blanco further drew a distinction between registered casinos or card tables and online gaming sites that function as money transmitters. Licensed casinos, online or offline, must comply with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and any laws related to money services businesses, and later called compliance “a national security issue.” “We know the kind of significant information that casinos are able to develop on gaming customers. This information is extraordinary and relevant,” he said. Kenneth hopes that casinos will create a “culture of compliance” where distinct entities share information among themselves and with the proper authorities. Chips, poker, gambling photo via Shutterstock
Elliot Gunton, aged 19 and of Mounteney Close in Norwich, pleaded guilty to supplying online personal data and hacking services for cryptocurrency. A hacker for hire A press release published on Aug. 16 by the Norfolk police reports that the man was sentenced to 20 months in prison and ordered to pay back more than £400,000 (over $485,000) by the Norwich Crown court. Per the report, the police seized his laptop in April last year after finding the software which allowed him to commit cybercrimes. The discovery was reportedly made during a routine visit to Gunton’s home due to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order imposed on him by the court in June 2016 for previous offenses. Law enforcement reportedly found that he had offered to supply compromised personal data of individuals, which would enable so-called SIM swapping attacks. The police also allegedly found that he advertised compromised data and blackhat hacking services for $3,000 in Bitcoin (BTC). Police have reportedly been able to track and seize £275,000 ($334,000) worth of cryptocurrency including BTC under his control and uncovered fragments of conversations that he conducted with others online. In a Twitter profile of his, under the handle @Gambler, he said: “Having lots of money is cool… But having lots of money without people knowing is cooler.” Limited internet access He was charged with breaching a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, hacking offenses and money laundering. In addition, the Norwich Crown Court issued him a three and a half year Community Behaviour Order, which states Gunton must not own or use any device capable of accessing the internet other than one readily controllable by law enforcement. More precisely he is explicitly prohibited from using incognito mode, private browsing or other similar privacy-protecting measures, alongside VPNs or the Tor network.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has sent out warning letters to investors who have placed the majority of their retirement savings in cryptocurrencies. As part of an ATO effort to warn against high-risk retirement investment strategies, 18,000 holders of Self-Managed Super Funds (SMSFs), a type of retirement account privately managed by individuals, were told they face penalties up to 4,200 AUD for breaching regulations, according to local media reports. While the letter targeted any SMSF holder with over 90 percent of their retirement savings in a single asset – primarily in property – the ATO also singled out cryptocurrencies as a high-risk investment. “We have already seen two instances of SMSFs losing significant amounts of their retirement savings through investment in cryptocurrency,” an ATO spokesperson told the Australian news site Micky. To be clear, it’s not the asset class itself the agency warns against, but being highly overexposed in any one asset. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) takes a similar line: “Be wary of services offering to establish an SMSF for you in order to gain exposure to cryptocurrencies. Not only does operating an SMSF involve significant time, skills and responsibility, you may also be putting your retirement savings at risk.” Neither the ATO or ASIC responded to requests for comment by press time. Notably, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent a round of letters to crypto investors this week. Australian Taxation Office image via Shutterstock
Binance Jersey’s Twitter account was hacked by an anonymous twitter user called @LightningNetwo9. According to tweets posted on Binance Jersey by the hacker, the hacker is a security researcher claiming to operate with altruistic motivations. The hacking was confirmed via Binance Jersey’s telegram account. The hacker claims he could have used the successful hack to scam Binance Jersey users, particularly with a phishing scam. Image via Twitter Binance Jersey is one of four independent branches of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume. Binance also operates exchanges in Malta, Singapore, and Uganda with Binance US set to open with the next two months according to a recent report. Linking to his Twitter account, the hacker asked Binance CEO Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao to contact him directly. The Twitter hacking comes almost three months after a successful hacking of Binance’s online exchange, costing the exchange over 7,000 bitcoin. As of press time, Binance has deleted the posts. Images via Twitter
Bakkt has been cleared to launch. The Intercontinental Exchange’s young subsidiary announced Friday that it had acquired a New York state trust charter through the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS). The approval clears the way for the company to begin offering its highly-anticipated physically-settled bitcoin futures contracts. The company intends to launch its products on Sept. 23. Bakkt, first unveiled last August, has been working on regulatory approvals to begin offering the product over the past year. It intends to offer two types of contracts: a daily and a monthly contract. Both will be settled at the Bakkt Warehouse, a part of its New York-chartered trust company. In a blog post Friday, Bakkt CEO Kelly Loefler wrote, “Our contracts have already received the green light from the CFTC through the self-certification process and user acceptance testing has begun.” “With approval by the New York State Department of Financial Services to create Bakkt Trust Company, a qualified custodian, the Bakkt Warehouse will custody bitcoin for physically delivered futures,” she said. “This offers customers unprecedented regulatory clarity and security alongside a regulated, globally accessible exchange in a market underserved by institutional-grade infrastructure.” She went on to add: “Uniquely, Bakkt bitcoin futures contracts will not rely upon unregulated spot markets for settlement prices, thus serving as a transparent price discovery mechanism for the benchmark price for bitcoin. The importance of this differentiator is only amplified by reports of significant manipulative spot market activity, and other concerns such as inconsistent anti-money-laundering policies and weak compliance controls.” Kelly Loeffler image via CoinDesk archives
After losing out to Busan in the competition to be declared Korea’s blockchain “regulation-free” zone, Jeju Island is redoubling its efforts to stay in the game, according to a report in the Jeju Island Daily News. The island, which lies 282 miles south of Seoul and is also a province, announced on August 13th the establishment of the “Global Blockchain Hub City Development Research Service,” in which it will be investing 175 million won ($145,000) for research running through December. The modest project will be carried out by Tilon, a Seoul-based company specializing in secure virtualization. Established in 2001, the company often works with local governments and a wide variety of public institutions. Under the terms of the agreement, Tilon will analyze possible blockchain services suitable for the island and develop a model for blockchain on Jeju. A roadmap will be delivered. As part of the engagement, Tilon will examine advances in the U.S. and the U.K. The goal of the project is to establish the island as another hub for blockchain in South Korea. Jeju is in a unique position to achieve the relevant developments. Under a special deal with the national government, it has been self-governing since 2006. No other province has that designation. Jeju has considerable freedom in terms of local administration and legislation and has ambitions to use its autonomy to become a “Free International City.” In recent years, blockchain and crypto have become central to the island’s plans. The Modified 2nd Comprehensive Plan Jeju Free International City, published in February 2017, makes specific reference to the creation of a virtual currency. Since South Korea’s Financial Services Commission banned ICOs in September 2017, Jeju has been attempting to use its special status as a way to circumvent the regulation and become the country’s only area for these offerings. In 2018, Governor Won Hee-ryong was reelected on a pro-ICO platform. In March 2019, the island established the Jeju Blockchain Smart City Composition Association (JBCSCCA), and the possibility of a crypto exchange was discussed, to be called “Bit-Island.” But little has come of the island’s many efforts, and Jeju was passed over as the country’s chosen blockchain hub just last month. Other areas, such as Seoul City, are also pushing their own programs…