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Bitcoin should not be seen as a way to evade tax: Unocoin founder

Sunny Ray said Unocoin will cooperate with Indian authorities when required and Bitcoin is not a harbour from capital gains taxation.

business Updated: Jan 07, 2018 18:07 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
bitcoin,cryptocurrency,unocoin
Unocoin founder Sunny Ray(Courtesy: Unocoin)

Bitcoin may be in for a “correction” in terms of its price in the first or second quarter of 2018 but will end the year selling at a higher rate, according to the Indo-Canadian co-founder of Indian Bitcoin company Unocoin.

Sunny Ray, the president of Unocoin, is bullish on the cryptocurrency’s prospects despite recent volatility and a flurry of criticism about its value proposition or sustainability.

“If you look at the history of Bitcoin the last six, seven years, the 30% drops are something that’s happened not once, twice, but I can say 15-20 times,” Ray told Hindustan Times in an interview at the Toronto satellite office of the Bangalore-based company. “Earlier on, it would be 60%, 70%. Then it subsided to 50%; and now it’s 30%. The actual percentage of volatility over the arc of time has subsided.”

While income tax authorities have started examining Bitcoin ventures in India, Ray asserted this isn’t a safe harbour from paying taxes on capital gains. “If people think they can use Bitcoin to get away from the government, that’s not the case...We are going to work with the government to make sure things are done right.”

Ray hoped the government itself would provide more regulatory clarity in the near future. “We were the first company in India to put a self-regulatory framework in place. That does speak to the culture of our company,” he said.

Unocoin is willing to cooperate with authorities, Ray added. “If somebody does something illegal on our platform and law enforcement has a warrant, has exactly what they need to request information from our platform, we are like a bank; we work with law enforcement, we’re not going to hide from the government.”

Unocoin is focused on India where it sees opportunity, but may also establish its platform for the Canadian market by the end of this year, potentially as a testing ground for launching in the US.

The company has yet to make a formal announcement in that regard but may soon have an exchange offering the ability to trade between half a dozen cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, possibly by the end of January.

Ray, 38, was working for a Canadian robotics company when he was posted to India to help expand its presence there. He thereafter entered the Bitcoin space. “Everyone thought India is a big market. In a place like Canada, you can already buy Bitcoin online, but in India there was no solution at the time. So, we thought it was a great opportunity.”

The interest among Indians for gold appeared to be one factor favouring Bitcoins in India, Ray said.

“Bitcoin is often referred to as digital gold. India is the largest gold market in the world. It also has the most numbers of programmers, IT professionals, internet users, mobile phone users. So if you couple the digital movement in India with the love for gold, it’s kind of obvious that India’s going to be big place for something like Bitcoin.”

Ray said Unocoin was about to “hit one million customers” on its platform, and while it took the first three years of its existence to reach 100,000 users, it is adding that number of users “every two weeks.”

He said he sees that trend as people are realising that Bitcoin is “a mechanism to save your wealth and see your net worth go up” and, therefore, there will be much upside to this Gold.2.

First Published: Jan 07, 2018 17:54 IST