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Australian government to scrap bitcoin 'double tax'


The federal government has announced plans on Monday to remove the'double tax' treatment from those dealing in digital currency such as bitcoin. In its report [PDF] Backing Australian FinTech, the government said it recognises that that the current treatment of digital currency under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) law means that consumers are "double taxed" when using digital currency to buy anything already subject to GST. "The government is committed to addressing the "double taxation" of digital currencies and will work with the industry on legislative options to reform the law relating to GST as it is applied to digital currencies," the statement says. According to the government, blockchain technology -- the underlying technology behind Bitcoin -- has attracted considerable interest, adding it is currently being applied to a number of areas within the international financial system. The government believes the technology has the potential to revolutionise key services like international transfers between banks, equities clearing, and settlement, and financial contracts. Currently, the government said there are over 600 digital currencies available, with different protocols for transaction processing and confirmation, as well as different approaches to the growth in the supply of digital currency units.

ASIC and OSC sign agreement to support fintech firms looking to expand


The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has signed an agreement with the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) this week to provide mutual support to fintech businesses in Australia and Ontario, Canada as they seek to expand into each other's markets. The regulators will provide support to fintech businesses before, during, and after authorisation to help reduce regulatory uncertainty and speed up time to market, according to an announcement made on Wednesday. Under the agreement, the regulators will refer "innovative" fintech businesses across each other's markets. This means, for instance, if an Australian fintech startup meets the eligibility criteria and wants to operate in Ontario, Canada, then the agreement ensures that the startup has access to dedicated staff to help them understand and learn how best to operate within the regulatory framework in Canada. The agreement between ASIC and OSC follows the launch of OSC's LaunchPad in October which was also created improve the regulatory experience for emerging fintech businesses in Canada.

Australia partners with Kenya for fintech development


The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has signed a cooperation agreement with the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA) in a bid to boost financial services technology for both countries. The agreement, signed in Hong Kong during a board meeting of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), establishes a framework for both parties that allows the sharing of information on their respective markets such as emerging trends as well as regulatory issues. According to both parties, the partnership has been established as a result of the growing need to compare regulatory road blocks with other regions, with ASIC noting that innovation in the fintech space is not confined by national borders. "The CMA has recently commenced efforts towards the establishment of a Regulatory Sandbox structure that is designed to encourage innovation in the capital markets. This strategy reflects the CMA's role in facilitating the introductions of new fintech products in the capital markets area," Paul Muthaura, chief executive of the CMA, said in a statement.

Equity crowdfunding Bill introduced into Australian Parliament


The Corporations Amendment (Crowd-Sourced Funding) Bill has been reintroduced into Parliament on Thursday morning, after being shelved by the Australian government earlier this year. The amended Bill [PDF] enables unlisted public companies with less than AU$25 million in gross assets and less than AU$25 million in annual turnover to raise capital via crowdsourced equity funding, which is a relatively new form of funding in Australia, allowing companies to raise funds from a large pool of investors through an online portal. Under the new Bill, companies will be able to raise up to AU$5 million in any 12-month period through local equity crowdfunding platforms such as Equitise and VentureCrowd. Where previous legislation limited the scope of equity crowdfunding to wholesale or sophisticated investors who earn at least AU$250,000 a year or have AU$2.5 million in assets, the new proposed Bill enables retail investors to invest up to AU$10,000 per company per year, with a 48-hour cooling-off period. In addition, small businesses that decide to become public companies to take advantage of the new crowdsourced equity funding framework will be granted an exemption from certain corporate governance and reporting obligations for up to five years.

Australian government forms 'fintech bridge' agreement with UK


Australia has signed an agreement with the United Kingdom that will benefit its fintech companies looking for improved access to global markets. The UK-Australia FinTech Bridge, signed in London on Thursday, will deepen ties between the Australian and UK governments and regulatory agencies, according to Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison. "We will work to identify emerging trends, share policy developments, and position firms for the challenges of entering a foreign market," Morrison said. "It will provide exciting new opportunities for trade and investment into the future, in an ever-increasingly digital world where innovation and competitive edge are paramount. "Importantly, it presents fintech firms on both sides of the Bridge with a fast track to pursue international expansion and hit the ground running."