An extensive guide for cashing out bitcoin and cryptocurrencies into private banks - Bitcoins

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Sunday, 24 December 2017

An extensive guide for cashing out bitcoin and cryptocurrencies into private banks

An extensive guide for cashing out bitcoin and cryptocurrencies into private banks
/u/Swissprivatebanker

Hey guys.

Merry Xmas !

I am coming back to you with a follow up post, as I have helped many people cash out this year and I have streamlined the process. After my original post, I received many requests to be more specific and provide more details. I thought that after the amazing rally we have been attending over the last few months, and the volatility of the last few days, it would be interesting to revisit more extensively.

The attitude of banks around crypto is changing slowly, but it is still a tough stance. For the first partial cash out I operated around a year ago for a client, it took me months to find a bank. They wouldn't want to even consider the case and we had to knock at each and every door. Despite all my contacts it was very difficult back in the days. This has changed now, and banks have started to open their doors, but there is a process, a set of best practices and codes one has to follow.

I often get requests from crypto guys who are very privacy-oriented, and it takes me months to have them understand that I am bound by Swiss law on banking secrecy, and I am their ally in this onboarding process. It's funny how I have to convince people that banks are legit, while on the other side, banks ask me to show that crypto millionaires are legit. I have a solid background in both banking and in crypto so I manage to make the bridge, but yeah sometimes it is tough to reconcile the two worlds. I am a crypto enthusiast myself and I can say that after years of work in the banking industry I have grown disillusioned towards banks as well, like many of you. Still an account in a Private bank is convenient and powerful. So let's get started.

  • A. What is required to open an account in a Private bank when you made your fortune through crypto.

There are two different aspects to your onboarding in a Swiss Private bank, compliance-wise.

*The origin of your crypto wealth

*Your background (residence, citizenship and probity)

These two aspects must be documented in-depth.

How to document your crypto wealth. Each new crypto millionaire has a different story. I may detail a few fun stories later in this post, but at the end of the day, most of crypto rich I have met can be categorized within the following profiles: the miner, the early adopter, the trader, the corporate entity, the black market, the libertarian/OTC buyer. The real question is how you prove your wealth is legit.

1. Context around the original amount/investment Generally speaking, your first crypto purchase may not be documented. But the context around this acquisition can be. I have had many cases where the original amount was bought through Mtgox, and no proof of purchase could be provided, nor could be documented any Mtgox claim. That's perfectly fine. At some point Mtgox amounted 70% of the bitcoin transactions globally, and people who bought there and managed to withdraw and keep hold of their bitcoins do not have any Mtgox claim. This is absolutely fine.

What I am trying to document here is the following: I need context. If you made your first purchase by saving from summer jobs, show me a payroll. Even if it was USD 2k. If you acquired your first bitcoins from mining, show me the bills of your mining equipment from 2012 or if it was through a pool mine, give me your slushpool account ref for instance. If you were given bitcoin against a service you charged, show me an invoice.

2. Tracking your wealth until today and making sense of it. What I have been doing over the last few months was basically educating compliance officers. Thanks God, the blockchain is a global digital ledger! I have been telling my auditors and compliance officers they have the best tool at their disposal to lead a proper investigation. Whether you like it or not, your wealth can be tracked, from address to address. You may have thought all along this was a bad feature, but I am telling you, if you want to cash out, in the context of Private Banking onboarding, tracking your wealth through the block explorer is a boon. We can see the inflows, outflows. We can see the age behind an address. An early adopter who bought 1000 BTC in 2010, and let his bitcoin behind one address and held thus far is legit, whether or not he has a proof of purchase to show. That's just common sense. My job is to explain that to the banks in a language they understand.

Let's have a look at a few examples and how to document the few profiles I mentioned earlier.

The trader. I love traders. These are easy cases. I have a ton of respect for them. Being a trader myself in investment banks for a decade earlier in my career has taught me that controlling one's emotions and having the discipline to impose oneself some proper risk management system is really really hard. Further, being able to avoid the exchange bankruptcy and hacks throughout crypto history is outstanding. It shows real survival instinct, or just plain blissed ignorance. In any cases traders at exchange are easy cases to corroborate since their whole track record is potentially available. Some traders I have met have automated their trading and have shown me more than 500k trades done over the span of 4 years. Obviously in this kind of scenario I don't show everything to the bank to avoid information overload, and prefer to do some snacking here and there. My strategy is to show the early trades, the most profitable ones, explain the trading strategy and (partially expose) the situation as of now with id pages of the exchanges and current balance. Many traders have become insensitive to the risk of parking their crypto at exchange as they want to be able to trade or to grasp an occasion any minute, so they generally do not secure a substantial portion on the blockchain which tends to make me very nervous.

The early adopter. Provided that he has not mixed his coin, the early adopter or "hodler" is not a difficult case either. Who cares how you bought your first 10k btc if you bought them below 3$ ? Even if you do not have a purchase proof, I would generally manage to find ways. We just have to corroborate the original 30'000 USD investment in this case. I mainly focus on three things here:

*proof of early adoption
I have managed to educate some banks on a few evidences specifically related to crypto markets. For instance with me, an old bitcointalk account can serve as a proof of early adoption. Even an old reddit post from a few years ago where you say how much you despise this Ripple premined scam can prove to be a treasure readily available to show you were early.

*story telling.
Compliance officers like to know when, why and how. They are human being looking for simple answers to simple questions and they don't want like to be played fool. Telling the truth, even without a proof can do wonders, and even though bluffing might still work because banks don't fully understand bitcoin yet, it is a risky strategy that is less and less likely to pay off as they are getting more sophisticated by the day.

*micro transaction from an old address you control
This is the killer feature. Send a $20 worth transaction from an old address to my company wallet and to one of my partner bank's wallet and you are all set ! This is gold and considered a very solid piece of evidence.

*ICO millionaire
Some clients made there wealth participating in ETH crowdsale or IOTA ICO. They were very easy to deal with obviously and the account opening was very smooth since we could evidence the GENESIS TxHash flow.

The miner Not so easy to proof the wealth is legit in that case. Most early miners never took screenshot of the blocks on bitcoin core, nor did they note down the block number of each block they mined. Until the the Slashdot article from August 2010 anyone could mine on his laptop, let his computer run overnight and wake up to a freshly minted block containing 50 bitcoins back in the days. Not many people were structured enough to store and secure these coins, avoid malwares while syncing the blockchain continuously, let alone document the mined blocks in the process. What was 50 BTC worth really for the early miners ? dust of dollars, games and magic cards… Even miners post 2010 are generally difficult to deal with in terms of compliance onboarding. Many pool mining are long dead. Deepbit is down for instance and the founders are MIA. So my strategy to proof mining activity is as follow:

*Focusing on IT background whenever possible.
An IT background does help a lot to bring some substance to the fact you had the technical ability to operate a mining rig.

*Showing mining equipment receipts.
If you mined on your own you must have bought the hardware to do so. For instance mining equipment receipts from butterfly lab from 2012-2013 could help document your case. Similarly, high electricity bill from your household on a consistent basis back in the day could help. I have already unlocked a tricky case in the past with such documents when the bank was doubtful.

*Wallet.dat files with block mining transactions from 2011 thereafter
This obviously is a fantastic piece of evidence for both you and me if you have an old wallet and if you control an address that received original mined blocks, (even if the wallet is now empty). I will make sure compliance officers understand what it means, and as for the early adopter, you can prove your control over these wallet through a microtransaction. With these kind of addresses, I can show on the block explorer the mined block rewards hitting at regular time interval, and I can even spot when difficulty level increased or when halvening process happened.

*Poolmining account.
Here again I have educated my partner bank to understand that a slush account opened in 2013 or an OnionTip presence was enough to corroborate mining activity. The block explorer then helps me to do the bridge with your current wallet.

*Describing your set up and putting it in context
In the history of mining we had CPU, GPU, FPG and ASICs mining. I will describe your technical set up and explain why and how your set up was competitive at that time.

The corporate entity Remember 2012 when we were all convinced bitcoin would take over the world, and soon everyone would pay his coffee in bitcoin? How naïve we were to think transaction fees would remain low forever. I don't blame bitcoin cash supporters; I once shared this dream as well. Remember when we thought global adoption was right around the corner and some brick and mortar would soon accept bitcoin transaction as a common mean of payment? Well, some shop actually did accept payment and held. I had a few cases as such of shops holders, who made it to the multi million mark holding and had invoices or receipts to proof the transactions. If you are organized enough to keep a record for these trades and are willing to cooperate for the documentation, you are making your life easy. The digital advertising business is also a big market for the bitcoin industry, and affiliates partner compensated in btc are common. It is good to show an invoice, it is better to show a contract. If you do not have a contract (which is common since all advertising deals are about ticking a check box on the website to accept terms and conditions), there are ways around that. If you are in that case, pm me.

The black market Sorry guys, I can't do much for you officially. Not that I am judging you. I am a libertarian myself. It's just already very difficult to onboard legit btc adopters, so the black market is a market I cannot afford to consider. My company is regulated so KYC and compliance are key for me if I want to stay in business. Behind each case I push forward I am risking the credibility and reputation I have built over the years. So I am sorry guys I am not risking it to make an extra buck. Your best hope is that crypto will eventually take over the world and you won't need to cash out anyway. Or go find a Lithuanian bank that is light on compliance and cooperative.

The OTC buyer and the libertarian. Generally a very difficult case. If you bought your stack during your journey in Japan 5 years ago to a guy you never met again; or if you accumulated on http://ift.tt/PdA2lf and kept no record or lost your account, it is going to be difficult. Not impossible but difficult. We will try to build a case with everything else we have, and I may be able to onboard you. However I am risking a lot here so I need to be 100% confident you are legit, before I defend you. Come & see me in Geneva, and we will talk. If you mixed your coins all along your crypto history, and shredded your seeds because you were paranoid, or if you made your wealth mining professionally monero over the last 3 years but never opened an account at an exchange. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ I am not a magician and don't get me wrong, I love monero, it's not the point.

  • B. The tax issue I am not a tax specialist, but I can say that this year I have seen it all. Again I am not judging. You made $100m hodling, and still wouldn't pay your taxes ? Your decision.I personally advise everyone to pay their taxes, but also to be generous, to give to charities. I mean you eventually made it. Good for you. What about you contribute to make the world a better place now? I will stop patronizing you. It's just my 2cts, and it's your money.

For the record, I am not into the tax avoidance business, so people come to me with a set up and I see if I can make it work within the legal framework imposed to me.

First, stop thinking Switzerland is a "offshore heaven" Swiss banks have made deals with many governments for the exchange of fiscal information. If you are a French citizen, resident in France and want to open an account in a Private Bank in Switzerland to cash out your bitcoins, you will get slaughtered. There are ways around that, and I could refer you to good tax specialists for fiscal optimization, but I cannot organize it myself. It would be illegal for me.

For information, these are the kind of set up some of my clients came up with. It's all legal; obviously I do not onboard clients that are not tax compliant. Further disclaimer: I did not contribute myself to these set up. Do not ask me to organize it for you. I won't.

EU tricks

Swiss lump sum taxation Foreign nationals resident in Switzerland can be taxed on a lump-sum basis if they are not gainfully employed in our country. Under the lump-sum tax regime, foreign nationals taking residence in Switzerland may choose to pay an expense-based tax instead of ordinary income and wealth tax. Attractive cantons for the lump sum taxation are Zug, Vaud, Valais, Grisons, Lucerne and Berne. To make it short, you will be paying somewhere between 200 and 400k a year and all expenses will be deductible.

Switzerland has adopted a very friendly attitude towards crypto currency in general. There is a whole crypto valley in Zug now. 30% of ICOs are operated in Switzerland. The reason is that Switzerland has thrived for centuries on banking secrecy, and today with FATCA and exchange of fiscal info with EU, banking secrecy is dead. Regulators in Switzerland have understood that digital ledger technologies were a way to roll over this competitive advantage for the generations to come. Switzerland does not tax capital gains on crypto profits.

Italy new tax exemption. It's a brand new fiscal exemption. Go to Aoste and get residency and be tax free for 10y. Yes, really.

Portugal What's crazy in Europe is the lack of fiscal harmonization. Even if no one in Brussels dares admit it, every other country is doing fiscal dumping. Portugal is such a country and has proved very friendly fiscally speaking. I personally have a hard time trusting Europe. I have witnessed what happened in Greece over the last few years. Some of our ultra high net worth clients got stuck with capital controls. I mean no way you got out of crypto to have your funds confiscated at the next financial crisis! Anyway. FYI

Malta Generally speaking, if you get a residence somewhere you have to live there for a certain period of time. Being stuck in Italy is no big deal with Schengen Agreement, but in Malta it is a different story. In Malta, the ordinary residence scheme is more attractive than the HNWI residence scheme. Being an individual, you can hold a residence permit under this scheme and pay zero income tax in Malta in a completely legal way.

Monaco Not suitable for French citizens, but for other Ultra High Net worth individual, Monaco is worth considering. You need an account at a local bank as a proof of fortune, and this account generally has to be seeded with at least EUR500k. You also need a proof of residence. I do mean UHNI because if you don't cash out minimum 30m it's not interesting. Everything is expensive in Monaco. Real Estate is EUR 50k per square meter. A breakfast at Monte Carlo Bay hotel is 70 EUR. Monaco is sunny but sometimes it feels like a golden jail. Do you really want that for your kids?

Dubaï

  1. Set up a company in Dubaï, get your resident card.

  2. Spend one day every 6 month there

  3. ???

  4. Be tax free

US tricks Some Private banks in Geneva do have the license to manage the assets of US persons and U.S citizens. However, do not think it is a way to avoid paying taxes in the US. Opening an account at an authorized Swiss Private banks is literally the same tax-wise as opening an account at Fidelity or at Bank of America in the US. The only difference is that you will avoid all the horror stories. Horror stories are all real by the way. In Switzerland, if you build a decent case and answer all the questions and corroborate your case in depth, you will manage to convince compliance officers beforehand. When the money eventually hits your account, it is actually available and not frozen.

The IRS and FATCA require to file FBAR if an offshore account is open. However FBAR is a reporting requirement and does not have taxes related to holding an account outside the US. The taxes would be the same if the account was in the US. However penalties for non compliance with FBAR are very large. The tax liability management is actually performed through the management of the assets ( for exemple by maximizing long term capital gains and minimizing short term gains).

The case for Porto Rico. Full disclaimer here. I am not encouraging this. Have not collaborated on such tax avoidance schemes. if you are interested I strongly encourage you to seek a tax advisor and get a legal opinion. I am not responsible for anything written below. I am not going to say much because I am so afraid of uncle Sam that I prefer to humbly pass the hot potato to pwc From here all it takes is a good advisor and some creativity to be tax free on your crypto wealth if you are a US person apparently. Please, please please don't ask me more. And read the disclaimer again.

Trust tricks Generally speaking I do not accept fringe fiscal situation because it puts me in a difficult situation to the banks I work with, and it is already difficult enough to defend a legit crypto case. Trust might be a way to optimize your fiscal situation. Belize. Bahamas. Seychelles. Panama, You name it. At the end of the day, what matters for Swiss Banks are the beneficial owner and the settlor. Get a legal opinion, get it done, and when you eventually knock at a private bank's door, don't say it was for fiscal avoidance you stupid ! You will get the door smashed upon you. Be smarter. It will work. My advice is just to have it done by a great tax specialist lawyer, even if it costs you some money, as the entity itself needs to be structured in a professional way. Remember that with trust you are dispossessing yourself off your wealth. Not something to be taken lightly.

"Anonymous" cash out. Right. I think I am not going into this topic, neither expose the ways to get it done. Pm me for details. I already feel a bit uncomfortable with all the info I have provided. I am just going to mention many people fear that crypto exchange might become reporting entities soon, and rightly so. This might happen anyday. You have been warned.

  • C. The cash out itself So you have accumulated patiently a good amount of wealth. For some of us who have been involved in crypto since 2010, it took years. Remember when BTC was stuck at 200$ for months? I personally feel like it was yesterday. There is no way you screw up your wealth by cashing out in a hurry or with low security standards. Here is how the cash out takes should place.

Full cash out or partial cash out? People who have been sitting on crypto for long have grown an emotional and irrational link with their coins. They come to me and say, look, I have 50m in crypto but I would like to cash out 500k only. So first let me tell you that as a wealth manager my advice to you is to take some off the table. Doing a partial cash out is absolutely fine. The market is bullish. We are witnessing a redistribution of wealth at a global scale. Bitcoin is the real #occupywallstreet, and every one will discuss crypto at Xmas eve which will make the market even more supportive beginning 2018, especially with all hedge funds entering the scene. If you want to stay exposed to bitcoin and altcoins, and believe these techs will change the world, it's just natural you want to keep some coins. In the meantime, if you have lived off pizzas over the last years, and have the means to now buy yourself an nice house and have an account at a private bank, then f***ing do it mate ! Buy physical gold with this account, buy real estate, have some cash at hands. Even though US dollar is worthless to your eyes, it's good and convenient to have some. Also remember your wife deserves it ! And if you have no wife yet and you are socially awkward like the rest of us, then maybe cashing out partially will help your situation ;)

What the Private Banks expect. Joke aside, it is important you understand something. If you come around in Zurich to open a bank account and partially cash out, just don't expect Private Banks will make an exception for you if you are small. You can't ask them to facilitate your cash out, buy a 1m apartment with the proceeds of the sale, and not leave anything on your current account. It won't work. Sadly, under 5m you are considered small in private banking. The bank is ok to let you open an account, provided that your kyc and compliance file are validated, but they will also want you to become a client and leave some money there to invest. This might me despicable, but I am just explaining you their rules. If you want to cash out, you should sell enough to be comfortable and have some left. Also expect the account opening to last at least 3-4 week if everything goes well. You can't just open an account overnight.

The cash out logistics. Cashing out 1m USD a day in bitcoin or more is not so hard.

Let me just tell you this: Even if you get a Tier 4 account with Kraken and ask Alejandro there to raise your limit over $100k per day, Even if you have a bitfinex account and you are willing to expose your wealth there, Even if you have managed to pass all the crazy due diligence at Bitstamp, Even if you have eventually managed to get hold of Lucas at Cumberland,

The amount should be fractioned to avoid risking your full wealth on exchange and getting slaughtered on the price by trading big quantities. Cashing out involves significant risks at all time. There is a security risk of compromising your keys, a counterparty risk, a fat finger risk. Let it be done by professionals. It is worth every single penny.

Most importantly, there is a major difference between trading on an exchange and trading OTC. Even though it's not publicly disclosed some exchange like Kraken do have OTC desks. Trading on an exchange for a large amount will weight on the prices. Bitcoin is a thin market. In my opinion over 30% of the coins are lost in translation forever. Selling $10m on an exchange in a day can weight on the prices more than you'd think. And if you trade on a exchange, everything is shown on record, and you might wipe out the prices because on exchanges like bitstamp or kraken ultimately your counterparties are retail investors and the market depth is not huge. It is a bit better on Bitfinex. It is way better to trade OTC. Accessing the institutional OTC market is not easy, and that is also the reason why you should ask a regulated financial intermediary (like the company I set up) if we are talking about huge amounts.

Last point, always chose EUR as opposed to USD. EU correspondent banks won't generally block institutional amounts. However we had the cases of USD funds frozen or delayed by weeks.-

Your options: DIY or going through a regulated financial intermediary.

Execution trading is a job in itself. You have to be patient, be careful not to wipe out the order book and place limit orders, monitor the market intraday for spikes or opportunities. At big levels, for a large cash out that may take weeks, these kind of details will save you hundred thousands of dollars. I understand crypto holders are suspicious and may prefer to do it by themselves, but there are regulated entities who now offer the services. Besides, being a crypto millionaire is not a guarantee you will get institutional daily withdrawal limits at exchange. You might, but it will take you another round of KYC with them, and surprisingly this round might be even more aggressive that the ones at Private banks since exchange have gone under intense scrutiny by regulators lately.

The fees for cashing out through a regulated financial intermediary to help you with your cash out should be around 1-2% flat on the nominal, not more. And for this price you should get the full package: execution/monitoring of the package AND onboarding in a private bank. If you are asked more, you are being abused.

Of course, you also have the option to do it yourself. It is a way more tedious and risky process. Compliance with the exchange, compliance with the private bank, trading BTC/fiat, monitoring the transfers…You will save some money but it will take you some time and stress. Further, if you approach a private bank directly, it will trigger a series of red flag to the banks. As I said in my previous post, they call a direct approach a "walk-in". They will be more suspicious than if you were introduced by someone and won't hesitate to show you high fees and load your portfolio with in-house products that earn more money to the banks than to you. Remember also most banks still do not understand crypto so you will have a lot of explanations to provide and you will have start form scratch with them!

The paradox of crypto millionaires Most of my clients who made their wealth through crypto all took massive amount of risks to end up where they are. However, most of them want their bank account to be managed with a low volatility fixed income capital preservation risk profile. This is a paradox I have a hard time to explain and I think it is mainly due to the fact that most are distrustful towards banks and financial markets in general. Many clients who have sold their crypto also have a cash-out blues in the first few months. This is a classic situation. The emotions involved in hodling for so long, the relief that everything has eventually gone well, the life-changing dynamics, the difficulties to find a new motivation in life…All these elements may trigger a post cash-out depression. It is another paradox of the crypto rich who has every card in his hand to be happy, but often feel a bit sad and lonely. Sometimes, even though it's not my job, I had to do some psychological support. A lot of clients have also become my friends, because we have the same age and went through the same "ordeal". First world problem I know… Remember, cashing out is not the end. It's actually the beginning. Don't look back, don't regret. Cash out partially, because it does not make sense to cash out in full, regret it and want back in. relax.

The race to cash out crypto billionaire and the concept of late exiter. The Winklevoss brothers are obviously the first of a series. There will be crypto billionaires. Many of them. At a certain level you can have a whole family office working for you to manage your assets and take care of your needs . However, let me tell you it's is not because you made it so big that you should think you are a genius and know everything better than anyone. You should hire professionals to help you. Managing assets require some education around the investment vehicles and risk management strategies. Sorry guys but with all the respect I have for r/wallstreebet, AMD and YOLO stock picking, some discipline is necessary. The investors who have made money through crypto are generally early adopters. However I have started to see another profile popping up. They are not early adopters. They are late exiters. It is another way but just as efficient. Last week I met the first crypto millionaire I know who first bough bitcoin over 1000$. 55k invested at the beginning of this year. Late adopter & late exiter is a route that can lead to the million.

Last remarks. I know banks, bankers, and FIAT currencies are so last century. I know some of you despise them and would like to have them burn to the ground. With compliance officers taking over the business, I would like to start the fire myself sometimes. I hope this extensive guide has helped some of you. I am around if you need more details. I love my job despite all my frustration towards the banking industry because it makes me meet interesting people on a daily basis. I am a crypto enthusiast myself, and I do think this tech is here to stay and will change the world. Banks will have to adapt big time. Things have started to change already; they understand the threat is real. I can feel the generational gap in Geneva, with all these old bankers who don't get what's going on. They glaze at the bitcoin chart on CNBC in disbelief and they start to get it. This bitcoin thing is not a joke. Deep inside, as an early adopter who also intends to be a late exiter, as a libertarian myself, it makes me smile with satisfaction.

Cheers. @swisspb on telegram

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