2021 has been a big year for cryptocurrency. But what’s next?
We’ve seen Bitcoin hit a new all-time high price in April and October, regulatory talks with potential to have big impact on the industry, and more institutional buy-in from major companies. All the while, people’s interest in crypto has skyrocketed this year: it’s a hot topic not only among investors but in popular culture too, thanks to everyone from long-standing investors like Elon Musk to that kid from your high school on Facebook.
In many ways, 2021 has been a “breakthrough,” says Dave Abner, head of global development at Gemini, a popular cryptocurrency exchange. “There’s tremendous focus and attention being paid to [the crypto industry].”
But the industry is only in its infancy and constantly evolving. It’s difficult to predict where things are headed long-term, but in the coming months, experts are following themes from regulation to institutional adoption of crypto payments to try and get a better sense of the market.
While exact predictions are impossible, we asked five experts about what they’re paying attention to in the crypto space for the rest of 2021:
Expect continued conversations about cryptocurrency regulation. Lawmakers in Washington D.C. and across the world are trying to figure out how to establish laws and guidelines to make cryptocurrency safer for investors and less appealing to cybercriminals.
“Regulation is probably one of the biggest overhangs in the crypto industry globally,” says Jeffrey Wang, head of the Americas at Amber Group, a Canada-based crypto finance firm. “We would very much welcome clear regulation.”
China announced in September that all cryptocurrency transactions in the country are illegal, effectively putting the brakes on any crypto-related activities within Chinese borders. In the U.S., things are less clear. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said recently that he has “no intention” of banning cryptocurrency in the U.S while Security and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler has consistently commented on both his own agency’s and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s role in policing the industry.
Gensler recently went so far as to say investors are “likely to get hurt” if stricter regulation is not introduced. Plus, the IRS has an obvious interest in making sure investors know how to report virtual currency when they file their taxes.
Like most things with cryptocurrency, regulation comes with hurdles. “There are different agencies that may or may not have jurisdiction to oversee everything,” says Wang. “And it differs state by state.”
Clear regulation would mean the removal of a “significant roadblock for cryptocurrency,” says Wang, since U.S. firms and investors are operating without clear guidelines at the moment.
What new regulation could mean for investors
Recent proposed legislation could make it easier for the IRS to find cases of tax evasion when it comes to crypto, though investors should already keep records of any capital gains or losses on their crypto assets. But the new rules may also make it easier for investors to properly report crypto transactions.
“This is because if the bill passes, exchanges will have to issue 1099-B tax forms with cost basis information to investors,” Shehan Chandrasekera, CPA, head of tax strategy at CoinTracker.io, a crypto tax software company, recently told NextAdvisor. “This will significantly reduce the crypto tax filing burden.”
Regulatory announcements can also affect the price of cryptocurrency in already volatile markets. Market volatility is why investing experts recommend keeping any cryptocurrency investments to less than 5% of your total portfolio and never invest anything you’re not OK with losing.
Ultimately, many experts believe regulation is a good thing for the industry. “Sensible regulation is a win for everyone,” says Ben Weiss, CEO and cofounder of CoinFlip, a cryptocurrency buying platform and crypto ATM network. “It gives people more confidence in crypto, but I think it’s something we have to take our time on and we have to get it right.”