Por 1 junio, 2022 No Comments

Panamanian Legislature has recently passed Bill 697/2022 (pending signature by President Laurentino Cortizo) to regulate the local use and trading of cryptocurrencies. Once approved by the President, an estimated period of 3 to 6 months will be required for the final adjustments by Panamanian institutions regarding:
– Crypto use, investment and custody within the banking system
– Issuance of digital securities in the Stock Exchange
– Fiscal legislation governing cryptocurrencies
– Use of cryptocurrencies for the purchase of goods and services.

Constitutional legality of crypto usage in Panama

Panama is one step ahead in crypto regulation and has an advantage compared to other countries that have attempted to implement cryptocurrencies as a “medium of payment”, mostly due to the Monetary Freedom in force as stipulated by section 262 of their Constitution that rules: “No compulsory currencies shall be permitted”. In other words, all legal tenders are permitted in Panama; this is of particular interest considering BTC is legal tender in El Salvador.

This constitutional principle of “Monetary Freedom” (mentioned in the Bill) has given rise, as from 1904, to the US Dollar-based official currency. This means that the Panamanian Balboa (Panamanian legal tender), along with the US Dollar and with identical exchange rate, are both considered as legal tenders for all transactions in Panama. Today, this constitutional principle governs the legality of cryptocurrencies together with the Panamanian Balboa and the US Dollar.

Usage of cryptocurrencies by natural and legal persons for local transactions

One of the most innovative aspects of the Bill is the express authorization to Panamanians and foreigners (as long as they are residents in Panama) to state amounts in cryptocurrencies in contracts and transactions. Therefore, the purchase of real property with crypto, among other transactions, will be permitted.

Panamanian legal persons such as corporations, limited liability companies, foundations, among others, will be likewise authorized to use crypto to carry on their transactions.

Usage of cryptocurrencies as payment methods

The Bill provides for that the following cryptocurrencies will be considered “legal for payments”: BTC, ETH, XRP, LTC, XDC, XLM, IOTA and ALGO. However, even when these cryptocurrencies are considered as “units of value” and can be suitable “reserves of value” for investors, some cryptocurrencies such as BTC or ETH may not be eligible as “payment methods” due to their high volatility. This issue will require to be legislated in the near future.

Usage of cryptocurrencies in the banking and investment industries

The authorization envisaged by the Bill to use XRP and XLM as legal cryptocurrencies would permit those financial entities operating within the “Panamanian Banking System” to transfer international funds in a few minutes and at a very low cost, as opposed to the expensive and old SWIFT system. Additionally, currencies could be automatically converted at the best available rates, something quite practical in the FOREX market operation. The future usage of XRP and XLM within the Panamanian banking system could become a competitive advantage compared to other banking systems worldwide and could cause to develop the FinTech industry in Panama.

Taxes and cryptocurrencies in Panama

We can mention 3 initial rules (subject to future regulation) connected to taxes and cryptocurrencies in Panama:
– Crypto transfers and transactions will not be subject to the “Value Added Tax” in Panama
– Cryptocurrencies will be levied with a fixed “capital gains tax” of 4%
– Cryptocurrencies will not be taxable whenever used as “payment methods” for products and services within the Panamanian territory

Other innovative features

Finally, we would like to point out some additional concepts included in the Bill such as:
– Issuance of Redeemable Digital Securities
– Tokenization of precious metals: gold and silver
– Permits for entities in charge of issuing digital securities
– Application of strict due diligence rules for crypto use
Further regulatory legislation is expected to be approached once the law is made effective.

To conclude, Panama is expected to emerge as a leading nation (at least in Latin America) in crypto adoption considering some key factors such as connectivity, geographical location and fiscal and banking structures, aiming to become a hub of innovation and technology in the region.

PGS Legal
Alliott Group en Panamá