New AML Rules for Australia's Bitcoin Exchanges Kick In Today

Australia's cryptocurrency exchanges must now follow new rules aimed to counter money laundering and terrorism financing (AML/CTF).

Providing a timely reminder to exchange platforms in the crypto space, Austrac, the country's financial intelligence agency, has just published a new web page setting out their new obligations as of April 3.

Going forward, exchanges must meet new obligations, which include: registering with the agency, adopting and maintaining an AML/CTF program, identifying and verifying users, and

reporting suspicious behaviour and transactions involving fiat currency of A$10,000 (US$7,700) and over. They must also maintain records for seven years.

While offering exchange services without being registered can now bring criminal charges and penalties, Austrac says in the post:

"A 'policy principles' period of six months will be in place from 3 April 2018. During that period, the AUSTRAC CEO can only take enforcement action if [a cryptocurrency exchange] fails to take 'reasonable steps' to comply."

And, while exchanges' registration applications are being considered, a transitional arrangement will allow existing firms to continue providing services, however they must to register by May 14.

Aimed to counter illicit uses of cryptocurrencies, the new regulations were first announced when the Australian Senate approved the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill 2017 in early December 2017. The bill also gave Austrac oversight of cryptocurrency exchanges.

That bill was the second notable piece of legislation to be passed in Australian last year. Another bill, passed in October 2017, ended the long-controversial "double taxation" of cryptocurrencies. Previously, cryptos were taxed first upon purchase, then effectively again when buying items subject to the tax - a situation that arose from a previous 2014 law that treated cryptocurrencies as bartered goods for goods and services tax (GST) purposes.

With the passing of the bill, as of July 1, 2018, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will now get the same GST treatment as foreign currencies.

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