U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin says that the federal government is concerned about the use of bitcoin in illicit dark web markets.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Mnuchin stated that bitcoin is on the Treasury Department’s radar and that he is in conversations with regulators across the world about the correct approach to ensure that it is not used to make “illicit transfers of funds.”
“It’s something we are looking at very carefully and will continue to look at,” Mnuchin said. “The first issue and the most important issue is to make sure that people can’t use bitcoin for illicit activities. So we want to make sure that you don’t have the dark web funded in bitcoins. And that’s something that is a concern of ours today.”
He emphasized that although the Treasury does not have a specific timetable for the announcement of an official position on cryptocurrency or new regulations to govern this nascent asset class, the department has established working groups which are actively looking into bitcoin usage.
“And again [bitcoin is] something we’ll be watching very carefully,” he stressed.
The Treasury is one of many U.S. regulatory agencies beginning to take a more active role in regulating the cryptocurrency markets. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has very publicly stated its concerns about initial coin offerings (ICOs), many of which it says may violate federal securities laws. Similarly, the SEC has warned that celebrity ICO endorsements may be illegal in some cases if the token is later determined to be a security.
This year’s meteoric bitcoin price rally, meanwhile, has caught the attention of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which claims that far too few people are reporting cryptocurrency-related investment income on their tax returns. Earlier this year, a report revealed that the agency has paid a blockchain-tracing firm thousands of dollars to help them track down and identify bitcoin tax cheats. Moreover, the IRS has taken bitcoin exchange Coinbase to court in an attempt to force the company to hand over customer records so they can prosecute bitcoin tax cheats.