India’s daunting cryptocurrency taxation policies and seemingly complex treatment of digital assets are pushing local exchanges to Dubai and Singapore.
The nation recently announced a 1% tax deducted at source (TDS) — meaning crypto users must pay 1% tax on any transaction — on top of a controversial 30% tax on investment profits.
India’s 30% tax law, which came into effect on April 1, triggered trade volumes at four regional crypto exchanges — WazirX, ZebPay, CoinDCK and BitBns — to immediately crash as much as 72%.
Moves like these have led to India’s central bank being labeled “hostile” to the cryptocurrency sector. Its governor Shaktikanta Das has cautioned against cryptocurrencies and claimed they hold no underlying value.
Nischal Shetty and Siddharth Menon, co-founders of WazirX, have now reportedly shifted operations to Dubai, although they still plan on doing business out of Mumbai.
The Binance Labs-backed exchange told Business Today it is a remote-first organization with employees in over 70 locations. Sameer Mhatre, the third co-founder, continues to head the exchange in India.
Coinbase Ventures-backed Vauld, which recently cut its workforce by 30%, shifted its headquarters to Singapore in 2018 alongside ZebPay. CoinDCX is also registered there under the legal name Primestack Pte. Ltd.
“India has battled brain drain for decades. This is a generational opportunity to reset the odds in our favor,” Ashish Singhal, co-founder and CEO of Bangalore-based CoinSwitch, told Blockworks.
CoinSwitch itself isn’t being enticed to move operations away from the country. “We want to play an active role in shaping the Web3 ecosystem in India,” he said.
“Examples from the US and other matured economies show institutional investors are ready to put capital in crypto markets if there is more regulatory clarity.”
While the new taxation in India appears restrictive and discouraging to investors, Dubai has a full exemption on cryptocurrency taxes — similar to its treatment of personal income.
The emirate’s crypto regulator, the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority, began handing out crypto exchange licenses in March, and two months later Dubai announced its first law regulating digital assets.
“There’s a unified regulator workflow, which synthesizes the regulations and creates a beacon for the UAE to become a leader in the digital asset space,” Pranav Sharma, founding partner of Woodstock Fund, told Blockworks. “Taxation rules are also on the individual side.”
Global companies look to Dubai and Singapore
It’s not just India’s crypto exchanges making the move — a raft of global companies are now preparing to launch in Dubai, including Binance, FTX Europe, Crypto.com and Bybit.
Although, Dubai-based crypto exchanges can only offer a limited number of products and services to pre-qualified investors and professional finance service providers throughout the first phase of its “test, adapt, and scale” framework.
“Dubai is set to become the largest blockchain hub globally,” Domenik Maier, CEO of Dubai-based crypto market maker iBLOXX, told Blockworks. “A favorable tax regime, supportive legislation, access to capital and a wealth of talent makes Dubai the Web3 hotspot of the future.”
Today, we approved the virtual assets law and established the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority. A step that establishes the UAE’s position in this sector. The Authority will cooperate with all related entities to ensure maximum transparency and security for investors. pic.twitter.com/LuNtuIW8FM
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) March 9, 2022
Singapore’s laws too are permissive for cryptocurrencies, where the purchase of digital assets isn’t considered taxable, and so capital gains aren’t taxable.
Despite this, Eric Barbier, founder and CEO of TripleA a company that allows businesses to pay and get paid in crypto says Singapore is “an efficient place to run a global business from.”
“I have been building companies in Singapore since the early 2000s because of its strong [intellectual property] laws, pro-business environment and international connectivity,” Barbier told Blockworks.
TripleA recently became one of the first crypto companies to be licensed by Singapore’s Central Bank, a process that took 18 months. Barbier believes that his company was able to receive regulatory approval as it ran by a business-to-business model, which made it “easier to enforce stringent regulatory and compliance standards.”
“Conducting a comprehensive verification process on a business is much easier than on a consumer or on an individual,” Barbier said.
Despite being headquartered in Singapore, Barbier says he has not completely ruled out the possibility of moving to Dubai.
“We are definitely not closing the doors to this possibility. At the moment, though, we are running a global business from Singapore and Europe,” he said. “It is imperative to have in place proper regulatory frameworks and good systems, which will ensure that we are not used as a vehicle for Anti-Money Laundering or Terrorism Financing in any way.”