Bitcoin appears in the headlines on a regular basis, but few of us actually know what it is. (This video is a great primer if you have 15 minutes to spare.)
In fact, even the people who purport to understand Bitcoin are at odds over some pretty basic qualities of the so-called digital currency. Perhaps most notably, they can’t agree on whether or not it is in fact…money.
This is one of the central questions being debated in a Florida money laundering case involving Bitcoin—because if Bitcoin is not money, well, it can’t be used for money laundering.
The case involves a man charged with illegally selling $1,500 worth of Bitcoin to undercover police, who told him they would use the currency to buy stolen credit card data, according to the Miami Herald.
But in the eyes of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Mary Pooler, Bitcoin fails the standard of what “money” is, having no “tangible wealth,” making it just a case of one guy selling stuff to another guy.
Other parts of the government would like the IRS to see Bitcoin and other virtual currencies as property that can be bartered, not as currency, and Pooler’s court