The US Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department are turning up the heat on cryptocurrency, signalling a crackdown could be coming after several days of volatility in the sector.
US Federal chair Jerome Powell said in a rare video message that cryptocurrencies, which have grown to have a market cap of nearly $US2 trillion ($A2.6 trillion), pose some risks to both individual investors and the broader financial system.
Mr Powell also noted that the Federal Reserve is exploring how and whether cryptocurrencies could improve the current US financial system.
He said the Federal Reserve has been exploring whether it should establish cryptocurrency of its own, called a central bank digital currency, or CBDC.
He said the central bank will publish a discussion paper this summer on the benefits and risks of establishing a CBDC, and will seek public comment.
“We think it is important that any potential CBDC could serve as a complement to, and not a replacement of, cash and current private-sector digital forms of the dollar, such as deposits at commercial banks,” Mr Powell added.
He also distinguished between volatile cryptocurrencies and so-called stablecoins, which are tied to the value of other currencies such as the US dollar.
“As stablecoins use increases, so must our attention to the appropriate regulatory and oversight framework,” Mr Powell said, noting that businesses that process crypto payments could be a point of more regulation.
The Treasury Department, meanwhile, said it’s taking steps now to regulate the crypto world. It announced it will require any transfer worth $US10,000 ($A13,000) or more to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
“Cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion,” the department said as part of a broader announcement on the President Joe Biden administration’s efforts to crack down on tax evasion.
“This is why the President’s proposal includes additional resources for the IRS to address the growth of cryptoassets,” it said.
The regulatory attention comes after weeks of speculation that the Biden administration was preparing action on the crypto market, which has ballooned in popularity and value in recent months.