Read this document and see if you think they are talking about Bitcoin. Here's an excerpt..

Any individual or group of people engaged in conducting, controlling, directing or owning an informal value transfer system in the United States is operating as a financial institution. Therefore, IVTS operators must comply with all Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requirements, which include establishment of an anti-money laundering (AML) program, registration with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as a money services business, and compliance with the record keeping and reporting requirements, which include filing suspicious activity reports (SARs).

I found it here: http://www.fincen.gov/news_room/rp/advisory/pdf/advis33.pdf

  • This is a question for a lawyer, not an Internet q&a site. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 3:47
  • The date on that document (2003) would indicate that they did not specifically have Bitcoin in mind when that was written. However, there have been other electronic currencies in the past such as E-gold. Naturally the goal of policy writers is to cover the general case so the same document can apply to later adaptations of similar ideas. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 7:22
  • @NateEldredge I think it is only necessary to refer people to lawyers when they are trying to figure out legalities directly concerning their own endeavors. On the other hand, this one sounds as if the person is just curious.
    – Murch
    Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 9:21

1 Answer 1


As the document predates Bitcoin, it does not specifically address the Bitcoin network. While the document may apply according to the phrasing, I am not sure whether the Bitcoin network as such is a legal entity as it does not have any formal structure. I would assume that only participants in the Bitcoin network could be addressed by law, i.e. "a company", "an organization" or "a user", much like laws could be passed concerning "anyone spending more than $100 in cash in one transaction", but not "the group of people that get out of bed with their left foot first".

Concerning participants in the Bitcoin network though, according to CoinDesk Bitcoin miners and investors are not money transmitters. Specifically, CoinDesk quotes there

“The first ruling states that, to the extent a user creates or “mines” a convertible virtual currency solely for a user’s own purposes, the user is not a money transmitter under the BSA. The second states that a company purchasing and selling convertible virtual currency as an investment exclusively for the company’s benefit is not a money transmitter,” the release states.

So, as far as I understand, regular users, miners, and investing companies neither have to register, nor implement the measures listed in the question, while I'd assume that online wallet services and Bitcoin exchanges have to do so.

IANAL, this is not legal advise.

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