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US Crypto Regulations: The Fine Line Between Innovation and Control

With the rise of digital currencies, the need for regulatory frameworks has become increasingly important. As such, many are looking at US crypto regulations to understand where the rest of the world might be headed.

Due to the dynamic shifts and problems with crypto regulation, US customers lost access to many popular crypto services, like Binance, for example. However, it is reassuring to know that American citizens can still rely on reputable exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitstamp, which continue to provide their services in the country.

Still, understanding crypto regulation in the US is essential to navigate the American market with confidence. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Main Regulatory Bodies

When it comes to the crypto world, navigating the regulatory landscape might feel like traversing a maze with no clear path. Given the decentralized and borderless nature of the technology, US crypto regulations often seem confusing, leaving individuals uncertain about their implications.

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In the United States, where the crypto industry has gained substantial traction, various regulatory bodies have emerged to oversee this new digital frontier. So, let’s take a closer look at the key players responsible for shaping and enforcing crypto regulations in the US.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

One of the key players of crypto regulation in the US is the Securities and Exchange Commission, commonly known as the SEC. It's responsible for protecting investors, maintaining fair and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation. It mainly oversees and regulates activities that involve securities and asset exchange.

The SEC does this by enforcing regulations that require companies and individuals issuing or trading securities to comply with certain rules and standards. The goal is to foster transparency and provide a level playing field for investors.

To understand the SEC's US crypto regulations, it's important to know how they define securities. According to the SEC, a security is a tradable financial asset, which can include stocks, bonds, and investment contracts.

When it comes to cryptocurrencies, the SEC has deemed certain digital assets as securities if they meet particular criteria[1]. For example, if a token is sold as an investment with the expectation of profit solely from the efforts of others, it's likely to be considered a security under the SEC's framework.

US crypto regulations: the SEC.

This brings us to some problems with crypto regulation. US crypto platforms claim that, as the requirements for digital assets to be considered securities are not completely clear, staying compliant can be really difficult.

Besides that, many argue that the existing regulatory framework was designed primarily for traditional securities and may not be well-suited for the unique characteristics of cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, critics state that excessive regulations can stifle innovation and hinder the growth of the crypto industry.

In recent years, the SEC has been increasingly active in cracking down on fraudulent or non-compliant activities in the crypto space. They have pursued legal actions against individuals and companies involved in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) that violated securities laws.

The SEC has also scrutinized cryptocurrency exchanges and trading platforms to ensure they adhere to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations.

It’s worth noting that the SEC's stance on crypto regulations is still developing, and they continue to try to adapt existing traditional financial regulations to the rapidly changing landscape. In the meantime, many token issuers and exchanges are left clueless about what actions to take.

As of writing, many key players in the crypto space argue that the SEC is causing problems with crypto regulation in the US – without clear rules, the SEC’s actions end up seeming a bit random.

US crypto regulations: Coinbase and coins.

Coinbase, one of the biggest players today, took a significant step in April 2023. It filed a petition called a "writ of mandamus" to compel the SEC to respond to a previous request made in 2022. In this request, Coinbase asked the SEC to create clear rules for identifying whether a token is a security and to outline the legal registration process for token issuers with the SEC.

However, the SEC responded to Coinbase's petition by denying it on December 15, 2023. It was denied in a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Gary Gensler supporting the denial.

But what about crypto lending regulation in the US? Well, there’s no specific crypto lending regulation in the US, but the SEC is also working to make companies register crypto lending products in order to ensure they comply with risk management, capital and disclosure rules.

While the SEC's US crypto regulations are designed to ensure transparency and prevent fraud, finding the right balance between innovation and control remains a challenge. The ongoing dialogue (which sometimes seems more like a battle) reflects the complexities and opportunities that cryptocurrencies present in the financial world.

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)

When it comes to US government crypto regulation, another important agency that plays a significant role is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, commonly known as FinCEN.

FinCEN operates as a bureau of the US Department of the Treasury, with a primary focus on combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. It serves as the main regulatory body responsible for enforcing AML and CTF regulations.

With the rise of cryptocurrencies, FinCEN recognized the need to extend its oversight to this evolving sector. In 2013, the agency issued guidance that clarified how existing AML and CTF regulations apply to virtual currencies and businesses involved in cryptocurrency transactions.

This guidance helped establish a framework for crypto-related activities and obliged certain entities to register as money service businesses (MSBs) and implement robust compliance measures.

US crypto regulations: FinCEN.

To comply with FinCEN's regulations, crypto businesses, such as exchanges and money transmitters, must implement customer identification programs (CIP) and adhere to record-keeping and reporting obligations. These requirements aim to deter illicit activities, ensure transparency, and facilitate investigations when necessary.

One of the vital tools employed by FinCEN to combat financial crimes is the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR).

Financial institutions, including cryptocurrency exchanges, are required to file SARs when they detect transactions that appear suspicious or potentially linked to illegal activities. These reports are essential to identify patterns, detect trends, and support law enforcement investigations.

As the crypto landscape continues to evolve, FinCEN has been adapting its approach at US crypto regulations to keep pace with new challenges and opportunities.

US crypto regulations: collecting information.

In 2020, the agency proposed regulations that would require exchanges to collect additional information on transactions involving self-hosted or unhosted wallets. This proposal sparked debates within the crypto community, with concerns raised about privacy and the potential impact on innovation

After receiving this feedback, the Treasury Department extended the commenting period. In 2021, FinCEN withdrew the proposal, stating the requirement for additional analysis. This demonstrated a commitment to finding the right balance between regulatory oversight and fostering innovation.

FinCEN's evolving approach and ongoing efforts to adapt to this rapidly changing landscape are crucial for creating a safer and more secure environment for crypto-related activities in the United States.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

When it comes to US government crypto regulations, another key player that cannot be overlooked is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

The OCC, an independent bureau within the US Department of the Treasury, serves as the primary regulator for national banks and federal savings associations.

In recent years, it has emerged as a significant authority in the realm of crypto, working to encourage change while maintaining control.

One of the OCC's notable actions was the issuance of a groundbreaking interpretive letter in July 2020. This letter clarified that national banks and federal savings associations have the authority to custody cryptocurrencies on behalf of their customers.

Essentially, this move allowed traditional financial institutions to enter the crypto space, providing a bridge between the traditional banking system and the digital asset world.

US crypto regulations: national bank.

This interpretive letter opened up new avenues for banks to offer custodial services for cryptocurrencies, potentially attracting more institutional investors and mainstream adoption.

By giving banks the green light to engage with cryptocurrencies, the OCC aimed to foster innovation and provide consumers with more secure and regulated options for managing their digital assets.

However, it is important to note that the OCC's involvement in the crypto sphere has not been without controversy. Critics argue that the OCC's actions may undermine the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies and expose them to traditional financial risks. They fear that too much regulation could stifle innovation and limit the disruptive potential of cryptocurrencies.

Nevertheless, the OCC's foray into the crypto world highlights the recognition of cryptocurrencies as a legitimate asset class within the traditional financial system. It also demonstrates the need for collaboration between different regulatory agencies to ensure comprehensive and effective oversight of the crypto industry.

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Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plays a significant role regarding crypto regulation in the US. The IRS is responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses comply with tax laws, and cryptocurrencies are no exception.

The IRS considers cryptocurrencies as property rather than traditional currency. This means that every time you buy, sell, or trade cryptocurrencies, it's viewed as a taxable event. So, whether you're purchasing Bitcoin, Ethereum, or any other digital asset, you need to keep track of your transactions for tax purposes.

One important aspect of crypto taxation is capital gains. If you sell your cryptocurrencies for more than what you initially paid for them, you'll likely have a capital gain and will be required to report it on your tax return.

Similarly, if you sell your cryptocurrencies for less than what you bought them for, you may have a capital loss that could be deducted from your overall taxable income.

Additionally, the IRS has made efforts to crack down on tax evasion related to cryptocurrencies. They have implemented various measures to ensure compliance, such as issuing warning letters to crypto holders who may have failed to report their transactions correctly.

US crypto regulations: IRS.

To help taxpayers navigate the complexities of crypto taxation, the IRS has provided some guidance. They released a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that address common scenarios and offers clarifications on reporting requirements.

Furthermore, they have issued official guidance on cryptocurrency taxation through Notice 2014-21, which provides more detailed information on the tax treatment of virtual currencies.

It's important to keep in mind that tax laws can be complex and subject to change. Crypto holders should consult with a qualified tax professional or seek expert advice to ensure compliance with IRS regulations and reporting requirements. Failing to do so can result in penalties, fines, or even legal consequences.

Overall, it's clear that cryptocurrencies are regulated from various angles, classifying them as money, property, commodities, and securities simultaneously. This could lead to redundant rules and requirements that may hinder necessary and beneficial innovation within this field[2].

Compliance Obligations

When it comes to US crypto regulations, compliance obligations are set to maintaining a balance between innovation and control. In essence, compliance obligations include both legal and non-legal criteria that an organization must adhere to. So, what kind of crypto compliance obligations are there?

Registration Requirements

One of the key compliance obligations for crypto businesses is to register with the appropriate regulatory authorities.

Depending on the nature of their operations, companies may need to register as money service businesses with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Additionally, platforms that offer trading of securities tokens may need to comply with registration requirements enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission.


To prevent illicit activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing, crypto businesses are required to implement robust AML and KYC procedures in accordance with US crypto regulations.

These obligations involve verifying the identities of their customers, monitoring transactions for suspicious activities, and reporting any suspicious transactions to the appropriate authorities.

US crypto regulations: AML and KYC.

By implementing these measures, regulators aim to ensure transparency and accountability within the crypto industry.

Tax Compliance

Crypto assets are subject to taxation in the United States.

Individuals and businesses engaged in crypto-related activities must comply with tax regulations set forth by the Internal Revenue Service. This includes accurately reporting their crypto holdings, capital gains, and losses for tax purposes.

Failure to comply with these US crypto regulations may result in penalties or legal consequences, so it's essential to stay informed and fulfill your tax obligations diligently.

Consumer Protection

To safeguard the interests of consumers, regulators impose certain obligations on crypto businesses.

This may include providing clear and accurate information about their products and services, ensuring fair and transparent pricing, and protecting customers' funds and personal data.

Crypto businesses are also expected to promptly address customer complaints and maintain a high standard of customer service.

Compliance with Securities Laws

As was mentioned before, many crypto assets fall under the purview of securities laws in the US, even though there’s currently no clear regulation or guide on the matter.

US crypto regulations: laws.

Thus, if a token is deemed a security, issuers and trading platforms must comply with the regulations set forth by the SEC. This typically involves registering the token as a security or qualifying for an exemption, providing necessary disclosures to investors, and complying with ongoing reporting requirements.

Failure to comply with these obligations may lead to legal consequences and regulatory enforcement actions.

International Compliance Considerations

Given the global nature of crypto transactions, businesses operating in the US must also consider international compliance obligations.

They need to be aware of the regulatory requirements in the countries they operate or provide services to. This includes complying with international AML standards, data protection laws, and any specific regulations imposed by foreign jurisdictions.

Compliance obligations form a vital framework within which the crypto industry operates in the United States. It's important to stay up-to-date with evolving regulations and seek legal advice when necessary to ensure compliance and contribute to the growth of the crypto ecosystem.

Reporting Obligations

Among US crypto regulations, another crucial aspect that often gets overlooked is the reporting obligations imposed by the authorities. These obligations serve as a means to ensure transparency and accountability within the cryptocurrency ecosystem. There are four main reporting obligations when it comes to crypto: tax, FinCEN, SEC, and state-level reporting.

I've kind of discussed tax, FinCEN, and SEC reporting obligations when talking about compliance obligations.

However, apart from federal reporting obligations, individual states within the US may also have their own set of reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies.

Some states have introduced regulations specific to virtual currencies, such as licensing requirements for cryptocurrency-related businesses or additional reporting obligations.

US crypto regulations: reporting.

To ensure compliance, individuals and businesses should stay informed about the specific regulations within the states they operate in and be prepared to meet any applicable reporting obligations.

Navigating the reporting obligations and problems with crypto regulation in US can be challenging, but it's crucial for participants to stay on the right side of the law. Failing to meet these obligations can lead to legal consequences, penalties, or reputational damage.

It's advisable to consult with legal and tax professionals who specialize in cryptocurrencies to ensure compliance and mitigate any potential risks.

By understanding and fulfilling reporting obligations, individuals and businesses can contribute to a more transparent and responsible crypto ecosystem while safeguarding their interests in this rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Top Exchanges for US Traders

Okay, now that you know all the basics of US crypto regulations, you might be wondering which crypto exchanges can be used in the US. Well, a few of the most reputable ones include Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitstamp.

Nevertheless, it's important to note that regulations surrounding cryptocurrencies are continuously evolving, leading to ongoing changes. So, while the aforementioned exchanges operate within the US as of writing, they encounter numerous challenges each day. Thus, make sure to always DYOR to get the latest information.


Coinbase has become a household name for many US traders. Founded in 2012, this San Francisco-based platform has grown to be one of the most popular and trusted exchanges in the country.

At its core, Coinbase serves as a bridge between the traditional financial system and the world of cryptocurrencies.

The platform’s user-friendly interface and intuitive design make it an ideal choice for beginners entering the crypto space.

Furthermore, Coinbase's commitment to security is commendable, as they store the majority of their customers' funds in offline cold storage, away from potential online threats.

US crypto regulations: Coinbase.

As a US-based exchange, Coinbase seeks to comply with US crypto regulations, operating under the watchful eye of various regulatory bodies such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Securities and Exchange Commission. It has obtained various licenses that allow it to operate in the US jurisdictions.

Besides, to meet regulatory requirements, Coinbase has implemented KYC procedures, which help prevent fraudulent activities and maintain a level of trust within the platform. Additionally, it has been proactive in implementing AML measures, monitoring transactions for any suspicious activity and reporting it when necessary.

It’s important to note that Coinbase's success has not only contributed to the growth of the exchange but has also paved the way for the wider acceptance of cryptocurrencies in mainstream finance.


When it comes to buying, selling, and trading cryptocurrencies, having a reliable and secure exchange is essential, for sure. One such exchange that has gained popularity among US traders is Kraken.

Kraken is a San Francisco-based exchange that was founded in 2011. It has since grown to become one of the largest and most reputable exchanges in the crypto industry.

Kraken offers a user-friendly interface, making it easy for both beginners and experienced traders to navigate the platform. The exchange provides various order types, including market orders and limit orders, allowing users to execute trades according to their preferences.

Besides, one of the key priorities for Kraken is security. The exchange employs advanced security measures, including two-factor authentication (2FA) and cold storage for funds. This added layer of security has helped Kraken maintain a strong reputation and gain the trust of its users.

US crypto regulations: Kraken.

When it comes to US government crypto regulations, Kraken has made efforts to comply with the unstable scenario. For example, it employs the usual KYC and AML regulations.

However, Kraken's journey has not been that easy. While it seeks to provide its services to the majority of Americans, residents from New York and Washington state cannot use Kraken.

Besides, US traders cannot engage in on-chain staking and futures trading and there are several restrictions when it comes to margin trading, cash-to-cash trading, and earning features, too.

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Among the exchange options available in the United States, Bitstamp stands out as a reputable platform catering to US traders.

Founded in 2011, Bitstamp is among the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges in the industry. With its headquarters in Luxembourg, the platform has expanded its services to serve customers worldwide, including the United States.

It has always been committed to providing a secure and transparent environment for buying, selling, and trading various digital assets.

As you know, crypto exchanges that operate in the country must seek to comply with US crypto regulations to ensure the safety of users and prevent illicit activities. Bitstamp has gone the extra mile to meet these regulatory requirements, earning it a solid reputation among US traders.

US crypto regulations: Bitstamp.

Overall, it holds 50 licenses and registrations in key jurisdictions globally. Besides, it has an extensive team working with compliance, regulation, legal, risk management, security, and internal audits.

Moreover, Bitstamp has implemented various measures to protect user funds. The platform stores the majority of its users' cryptocurrencies in offline, cold storage wallets, safeguarded from potential hacking attempts. Also, it employs two-factor authentication and other advanced security features to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts.

As you can probably tell, Bitstamp has all the security and regulatory measures that other reputable exchanges have.

All in all, as this industry continues to evolve and US crypto regulations adapt to this digital landscape, exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitstamp play a vital role in bridging the gap between innovation and regulatory control. They offer a secure environment for US traders to participate in the exciting world of cryptocurrencies.


The complexities of US crypto regulations reflect the ongoing efforts to address the potential risks associated with this rapidly evolving technology. The country relies on various regulatory bodies, including the SEC, FinCEN, OCC, and IRS, that impose both compliance and reporting obligations on crypto platforms.

While some argue that excessive US government crypto regulation stifles innovation, it is crucial to recognize that a certain level of oversight is necessary to protect investors, prevent illicit activities, and ensure the stability of financial markets.

Luckily, exchanges like Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitstamp comply with all these regulations.

Ultimately, the future of US crypto regulations will depend on finding a middle ground that encourages entrepreneurial spirit while addressing concerns related to security, transparency, and investor confidence. It's an ongoing journey that will shape the path of crypto in the US and influence the global landscape of digital finance, too.

Scientific References

1. S. Azgad-Tromer: 'Crypto Securities: On the Risks of Investments in Blockchain-Based Assets and the Dilemmas of Securities Regulation';

2. C. R. Goforth: 'U.S. Law: Crypto is Money, Property, a Commodity, and a Security, all at the Same Time'.

About Article's Experts & Analysts

By Ain N.

Lead Content Researcher

Ain is the Lead Content Researcher. Her vast experience with crypto and blockchain tech-related content allows her to identify the key pieces of information that should be presented to the learner, and ensure the validity of the gathered data. Wit...
Ain N., Lead Content Researcher
Ain is the Lead Content Researcher. Her vast experience with crypto and blockchain tech-related content allows her to identify the key pieces of information that should be presented to the learner, and ensure the validity of the gathered data.
With a degree in New Media studies, she has developed an extensive list of techniques to educate people via new, research-proven study models based on deduction and long-term human memory.
Ain approaches everything with unequivocal attention to detail. Her main goals are to erase the ambiguity surrounding many Web3 concepts, and to guide content writers in presenting difficult crypto-related concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.
Even though content strategy is her main passion, Ain also enjoys reading high-fantasy books and watching superhero movies.

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Is there crypto lending regulation in the US?

No, there is currently no specific crypto lending regulation in the US. However, it's important to note that lending platforms dealing with cryptocurrencies may still fall under existing regulatory frameworks. For instance, if a lending platform is deemed to involve securities or operates as a money services business, it would need to comply with relevant securities laws or money transmission regulations. Due to all the uncertainty surrounding crypto lending regulation in the US, many reputable exchanges like Coinbase or Bitstamp are unable to offer it to US-based customers.

What institutions are responsible for US crypto regulations?

The regulation of cryptocurrencies in the United States involves multiple government agencies and a lot of gray areas. The primary regulatory bodies include the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). State-level regulators and policymakers also contribute to shaping the regulatory landscape. Being so complex, US crypto regulations ended up driving crypto exchanges away. Still, some top platforms - like Coinbase, Kraken, and Bitstamp - remain, but they need to change rules and policies constantly in order to adapt to the unstable regulatory landscape of the country.

How to pick the best crypto exchange for yourself?

Picking out the best crypto exchange for yourself, you should always focus on maintaining a balance between the essential features that all top crypto exchanges should have, and those that are important to you, personally. For example, all of the best exchanges should possess top-tier security features, but if you're looking to trade only the main cryptocurrencies, you probably don't really care too much about the variety of coins available on the exchange. It's all a case-by-case scenario!

Which cryptocurrency exchange is best for beginners?

Reading through various best crypto exchange reviews online, you're bound to notice that one of the things that most of these exchanges have in common is that they are very simple to use. While some are more straightforward and beginner-friendly than others, you shouldn't encounter any difficulties with either of the top-rated exchanges. That said, many users believe that KuCoin is one of the simpler exchanges on the current market.

What is the difference between a crypto exchange and a brokerage?

In layman's terms, a cryptocurrency exchange is a place where you meet and exchange cryptocurrencies with another person. The exchange platform (i.e. Binance) acts as a middleman - it connects you (your offer or request) with that other person (the seller or the buyer). With a brokerage, however, there is no “other person” - you come and exchange your crypto coins or fiat money with the platform in question, without the interference of any third party. When considering cryptocurrency exchange rankings, though, both of these types of businesses (exchanges and brokerages) are usually just thrown under the umbrella term - exchange. This is done for the sake of simplicity.

Are all the top cryptocurrency exchanges based in the United States?

No, definitely not! While some of the top cryptocurrency exchanges are, indeed, based in the United States (i.e. KuCoin or Kraken), there are other very well-known industry leaders that are located all over the world. For example, Binance is based in Tokyo, Japan, while Bittrex is located in Liechtenstein. While there are many reasons for why an exchange would prefer to be based in one location over another, most of them boil down to business intricacies, and usually have no effect on the user of the platform.



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