Happy Bitcoin Pizza Day!

Duane Morris LLP


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In case you haven't heard of it, today marks the 14th anniversary of the first recorded use of bitcoin to pay for goods and services, the delivery of two large pizzas.
United States Technology
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In case you haven't heard of it, today marks the 14th anniversary of the first recorded use of bitcoin to pay for goods and services, the delivery of two large pizzas. With the price of bitcoin currently hovering around $70,000, it is shocking to hear that the price paid was 10,000 bitcoins. However, at the time, bitcoin was worth less than half a cent, around $0.0041, making the purchase price about $41.

While Bitcoin Pizza Day is a fun milestone for the cryptocurrency community to celebrate, in many ways the commercial use of bitcoin in the United States has not evolved much since 2010. Buying, holding and using bitcoin is generally not illegal, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the US Department of the Treasury has acknowledged that a seller may accept payments in bitcoin as a medium of exchange. However, bitcoin is still not legal tender (except in El Salvador). Sellers in the U.S. are not required to accept bitcoin, and most of them do not.

For banks that want to facilitate crypto payments by their customers, there are a number of hurdles to overcome. Pursuant to a joint statement on January 3, 2023 by the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, banks are "neither prohibited nor discouraged from providing banking services to customers of any specific class or type." Nonetheless, the regulators believe that the holding of crypto assets by banks "is highly likely to be inconsistent with safe and sound banking practice," and they are continuing to assess whether crypto activities "can be conducted in a manner that adequately addresses safety and soundness, consumer protection, legal permissibility, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering and illicit finance statutes and rules."

Alternatively, there are now a number of non-bank apps and other payment services that will convert bitcoin into dollars for purposes of facilitating payments. These services tend to be treated as money services businesses or money transmitters subject to strict anti-money laundering rules under the Bank Secrecy Act, FinCEN regulations and state law. Different states take varying views on the use of crypto, and these services may not be licensed to operate in every state.

In addition to these challenges, a buyer has to be careful of the tax law consequences of using cryptocurrencies to make purchases. Under Internal Revenue Service notice 2014-21, cryptocurrencies are property, and capital gains tax is due if the fair market value of the property or services purchased exceeds the purchaser's adjusted basis in the cryptocurrency used to make the purchase. In other words, if a person bought one bitcoin in 2010 and used that bitcoin in 2024 to splurge for a Porsche (or a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT) for $70,000, that person would owe capital gains tax on $70,000 (minus the $0.0041 cost of buying the bitcoin).

With all that in mind, spend your crypto wisely.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.

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