Venezuela To Eventually Sell Oil Only In Petro ERC20 Tokens, Starting March 2019

Colin Muller

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has announced that all of its oil exports will eventually be sold only in Petros (PTR), the country’s state-backed Ethereum-powered cryptocurrency. The announcement was made on state television, after a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin last week.

It was subsequently reported by teleSUR (a media outlet backed by several Latin American countries’ governments, including Venezuela’s) that the sale of oil for PTR will begin in March of 2019.

Getting Around Sanctions

The full import of the move, and of the meeting with Putin, was to move away from US dollar-denominated exchange in the hydrocarbon market. “Russia is buying and selling oil and derivatives in [Chinese] yuan [...] We are progressively going to sell all our oil production in Petros,” teleSUR quoted Maduro as saying. Ethereum transactions, of course, cannot be blocked.

The decision to eventually sell only in Petros will be seen as somewhat provocative, because although the United States has applied many sanctions to the Venezuelan economy and key political figures in the past years, it has not done so for oil exports which are by far the most important for the Latin American country. The US has, however, banned US citizens from buying PTR tokens.

In any case, the rhetoric against Venezuela has gone full tilt as of late, with US national security advisor John Bolton (widely understood as one of the principal architects of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003) recently referring to Venezuela as one of the “Troika of Tyranny,” part of a “triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua.”

It is notable in its own right that almost no English-speaking media outlets have picked up the story - indeed more crypto-news outlets have reported on it than traditional ones.

Venezuela also recently set a fixed price of $150 for one PTR token, each of which are purportedly backed by one barrel worth of crude oil - although this is well above the current going price of nearer $60. In the midst of economic hardship in the country, CryptoGlobe recently reported that Localbitcoins transaction volume in the country was “mooning.”

Outside the Circle of Trust

Venezuela joins Iran in launching a nationally-backed cryptocurrency, in an effort to sidestep international (mostly US-based) sanctions. A political rift between the US and EU recently arose, because of the US pressure applied on the SWIFT money transfer platform to exclude sections of the Iranian economy from transacting using the platform. Russia has also been considering a move in this direction of late.

CryptoGlobe reported on the troubles facing the Petro, including the fact that there sems to be no evidence of its use, and claims that its whitepaper was partially plagiarized.

Tax Deadline Approaching for Crypto Investors: Interview With BitTaxer President Brennan Snow

Avi Rosten

Brennan snow card.png

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Unfortunately, the same can be said for the world of crypto. While 2017 and 2018 saw investors make unparalleled gains (and losses) - taxes now have to be calculated, and for those in the US, the tax deadline is rapidly approaching.

We spoke with Brennan Snow, president and co-founder of BitTaxer - a company that makes it easy to file your crypto taxes. With a degree in Information Systems Security, Brennan has been working in the proprietary software space for over 13 years in corporate and startup environments, before he noticed the lack of tax resources for crypto investors. We talked about why he started BitTaxer, tax regulation and the IRS, and whether more states will start accepting taxes in crypto.

When did you found BitTaxer and why?  

We founded BitTaxer in late 2017, and into early 2018. Being crypto traders ourselves, my partner Wes and I looked at the market at the time and saw only a few viable options available, and were not happy with what was available. Each we felt lacked an intuitive workflow. We also felt that no one was doing a good job addressing the entire scope of the tax code in the US, as it seemed only Capital Gains and Losses (trade implications) were being focused on in the competitive apps we reviewed. Lastly, we found that all of the apps appeared to be geared toward individual users, instead of tax professionals. When we reviewed the available data, and found that only 600 or so people filed crypto taxes in 2016, we knew we had to do something to help those tax professionals, who account for over 60% of aggregate tax returns filed in the US, as it was our sense that they were not being served by the available offerings in the market. This was the onus for creating BitTaxer; to create an easier way to do things for individuals, and to create a tool suitable for tax professionals.

Do you imagine the IRS will start 'cracking down' on crypto traders?

I think we've already begun to see the writing on the wall in this regard in the US. With Gemini and Coinbase each providing data to the IRS relative to accounts that meet a certain threshold of activity, I think it takes very little imagination to picture that threshold being revised down to provide the ability to scrutinize a larger set of users. Since the exchanges appear to be willing in their cooperation with the authorities, I suspect this effort is being spent as a precursor to some activity planned subsequent to the filing deadline.

Do you think exchanges are making it easy enough for users to calculate their taxes?

This is a very tricky question to answer. The short answer is no, for the following reason(s). I think that exchanges are in kind of a tough spot. While they can, and some already have, started to provide tax information via their reporting tools, that information is only useful in a vacuum.  If users have traded on other exchanges beyond the one which provides the report for them, then the report provided by the exchange will no longer be of value, as the statistics will no longer have proper cost basis tracking. In order to support this properly/accurately, exchanges would essentially have to provide import/integration support for competitive exchanges, to allow users to import their history from those other locations, and this is something I don't see happening anytime soon for obvious reasons. I don't see exchanges easily/willfully giving oxygen to their competitors, as it works against their interest.

Do you think the US has introduced sensible laws regarding cryptocurrency taxes?  

While we try not to get too involved in the politics of legislative matters that pertain to our space, I can say that I think things are moving in the right direction.  As it stands currently, I think it's going to be tough to convince people to transact using cryptocurrency when each purchase made can have a capital gains implication. On the flip side, there was some clarity given in the 2018 tax bill as it pertains to like-kind exchanges and malicious losses, and lawmakers are beginning to introduce more legislation in the congress as they begin to understand the utility and potential in the cryptocurrency market. It seems a bit Byzantine as it stands currently, but having seen incrementalism at play in our government over the course of my lifetime, the fact that it remains a topic of conversation among legislators is encouraging.

Do you think more states will allow you to pay taxes with Bitcoin, like Ohio has done?  

I think Ohio will be an interesting case study that a lot of other States will be looking at. As making payment in cryptocurrency is still a taxable event, I suspect that there will be quite a few people for whom this benefits (the taxable event triggers a loss), and quite a few who end up with a gain they owe tax on in the subsequent year. I think the decreased volatility we've seen since around April 2018 (with a few exceptions) makes it a more viable option for municipalities, as they have less to be concerned with in terms of rapid depreciation of their tax revenues, as I'm sure this has to have been a concern for others in the past. All the same, I think it's an amazing step toward greater adoption and recognition, so the optimist in me would love to see that take place.

What’s on your roadmap for 2019?  

2018 has been such an amazing year for us at BitTaxer. Our community has grown exponentially, we've made some extraordinary partnerships, and we've gotten tremendous feedback from our community. I think the rest of 2019 will find us working to develop some of that feedback we received, working to integrate more exchanges into our offering, and finding new ways to add value for our community.