Italy – Tax treatment of transactions related to Bitcoin and other virtual currencies – resolution published

The Italian Tax Authorities (ITA) published Resolution No. 72/E of 2 September 2016, providing clarification on the VAT treatment applicable to transaction fees related to the buying and selling of "bitcoin" and other virtual currencies.

The Italian VAT Law does not provide specific rules that regulate these types of services. Consequently, the matter was resolved in light of the recent ECJ decision in the case Hedqvist (Case C-264/14), which dealt with a case very similar to the one at issue.

Preliminarily, ITA defined and explained what bitcoin is, i.e. a particular type of cryptocurrency alternative to the traditional currencies, mainly used as means of payment and less frequently with speculative purposes. Bitcoins may be purchased on the market in exchange for traditional currencies or received as means of payment for supplies of goods and services.

The supply under analysis consisted of the exchange of traditional currencies for units of bitcoin and vice versa, carried out under payment of a transaction fee equal to:

the difference between the price paid by the operator to purchase the currency on the market and the price at which it sells the currency to its client; or
the difference between the amount obtained by the operator when selling the currency on the market and the amount transferred to its client for the sold currency.

Adhering to the ECJ interpretation, ITA clarified that transactions related to such virtual currencies should be considered supplies involving, inter alia, "currency, bank notes and coins used as legal tender", which, under article 135(1)(e) of the VAT Directive 2006/112 and article 10(1)(3) of the Italian VAT Law, are VAT exempt.


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