Virtual currency bitcoin has been recognized by the German Finance Ministry as a "unit of account", meaning it is can be used for tax and trading purposes in the country.
Bitcoin is not classified as e-money or a foreign currency, the Finance Ministry said in a statement, but is rather a financial instrument under German banking rules. It is more akin to "private money" that can be used in "multilateral clearing circles", the Ministry said.
"We should have competition in the production of money. I have long been a proponent of Friedrich August von Hayek scheme to denationalize money. Bitcoins are a first step in this direction,"said Frank Schaeffler, a member of the German parliament's Finance Committee, who has pushed for legal classification of bitcoins.
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Bitcoin is a virtual currency that allows users to exchange online credits for goods and services. While there is no central bank that issues them, bitcoins can be created online by using a computer to complete difficult tasks, a process known as mining. Currently one bitcoin is worth just over $119.
Schaeffler said the new ruling showed German authorities were preparing regulations on how to tax bitcoin transactions. According to German newspaper Die Welt, the government has stated that the legal classification of bitcoin means that commercial profits that stem from using the currency may be taxable.
Kathleen Brooks, a research director at FOREX.com, told CNBC that classification by the German government gave bitcoin legitimacy to be used as a settlement currency in one of the world's largest economies. She said this was a big step forward for the bitcoin movement.
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