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Legality in Crypto Currencies and Legal Frameworks in the United Kingdom

Published on : 14 Feb 2024

Crypto Currencies and Legal Frameworks in the United Kingdom

The world of cryptocurrency has experienced exponential growth over the past decade, revolutionizing traditional financial systems and opening up new avenues for investment and financial innovation. In the United Kingdom (UK), the rise of cryptocurrencies has prompted regulatory bodies to establish frameworks that balance the need for innovation with the necessity of consumer protection and financial stability.

Understanding Cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital or virtual currency that rely on cryptography for security and operate on decentralized systems using blockchain technology, with Bitcoin being the first and most famous example, launched in 2009. Since then, thousands of alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins) have emerged, each with its own unique features and use cases.

In the UK, cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tender, but they are legal and widely accepted as a means of exchange. The regulatory approach towards cryptocurrencies in the UK is generally permissive, with the government acknowledging their potential benefits and the need for a balanced regulatory framework.

The regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies in the UK is overseen by several key bodies, including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England. The FCA, in particular, plays a crucial role in regulating crypto assets and activities to ensure market integrity, consumer protection, and financial stability.

Crypto Asset Regulation

In January 2020, the FCA implemented a regulatory framework for crypto assets, requiring businesses involved in crypto-related activities to register and comply with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) regulations. This move aimed to protect consumers and maintain the integrity of the financial system.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has the authority to permit the operation of exchanges facilitating the trading of crypto-assets under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II). As a result, businesses operating under the jurisdiction of the FCA must adhere to its regulations regarding crypto assets.

For regular consumers in the UK, purchasing virtual assets like Bitcoin is straightforward. However, it's crucial to ensure that cryptocurrencies are not used for illicit purposes such as financing terrorism or money laundering. Therefore, crypto businesses must comply with FCA regulations, particularly regarding Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures.

KYC procedures involve collecting personal identifying information from customers, such as IDs, passports, driver's licenses, and photos, to verify the validity of the provided information. Additionally, Customer Due Diligence (CDD) procedures are implemented to assess customers' risks and take appropriate precautions in line with anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulations.

The FCA regularly monitors crypto businesses to ensure compliance with KYC regulations and takes swift action if businesses fail to meet the desired standards, emphasizing the importance of market integrity. Regulatory arrangements introduced by the FCA aim to mitigate money laundering risks associated with crypto exchanges.

The Crypto Asset Taskforce was established in the UK in March 2018 to regulate various uses of cryptocurrencies. It categorizes crypto assets based on their function, such as barter, investment, or supporting capital increase through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Depending on the use case, different regulatory frameworks apply, with cryptocurrency operators complying with Payment Services Regulations 2017 (PSR) if the cryptocurrency functions as a fiat fund.

Regarding taxation, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the UK taxes crypto assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Income Tax may be applied to commercial earnings from crypto asset trading for individuals and businesses. HMRC distinguishes between utility tokens, security tokens, and exchange tokens, with only exchange tokens being subject to taxation.

HMRC has provided guidance on taxation transactions involving exchange tokens, updating its policies in 2019. It plans to address the taxation of utility and security tokens in the future. Exchange tokens are considered crypto assets used primarily as a payment method.


The United Kingdom has embraced the potential of cryptocurrencies while simultaneously implementing measures to safeguard consumers and maintain financial stability. The regulatory framework, overseen by bodies such as the FCA, aims to strike a balance between fostering innovation and protecting market participants. As the crypto landscape continues to evolve, staying informed about legal developments and adhering to regulatory guidelines will be crucial for individuals and businesses navigating the exciting world of cryptocurrencies in the UK.


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