Is it legal to pay people with Cryptocurrencies, Stablecoins, and Tokenized Digital Assets in India?

April 25, 2024

Is it legal to pay people with Cryptocurrencies and Digital Assets in India?

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Legal Status of Cryptocurrencies and Digital Assets in India

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have been a subject of debate in India for several years. Indian ministries trying to provide regulatory guidance in regards to cryptocurrencies have released some conflicting pronouncements about them, which has created confusion in regards to the legal status of holding and remitting cryptocurrencies to others. 

For example, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India's central bank, initially issued a circular in April 2018, effectively prohibiting banks and financial institutions from providing services related to cryptocurrencies. This circular was met with legal challenges and led to a period of uncertainty in the crypto space in India.

However, in March 2020, the Supreme Court of India lifted the RBI's ban, deeming it unconstitutional. Since then, there has been no specific law that bans the possession or use of cryptocurrencies in India. Therefore, it is generally legal for individuals and businesses to hold, buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum as well as stablecoins and other digital assets, with further considerations for the latter two below.

Regulatory Framework for Stablecoins

Stablecoins, which are cryptocurrencies pegged to the value of a traditional currency like the Indian Rupee, are a relatively new development. As of January 2024, there is no specific regulation in India that directly addresses stablecoins, leaving them in a somewhat undefined space legally.

Digital Assets and Tokenization

While there is no explicit ban on the creation or trading of digital assets like Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) in India, the legal framework governing them remains vague. The legal status of digital assets may vary depending on the specific use case and whether they represent securities or financial instruments, which could bring them under the purview of securities and other financial instrument regulations.

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer/Business (KYC/KYB) Laws

In India, entities dealing with cryptocurrencies are required to comply with AML regulations, primarily governed by the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), which require reporting of suspicious transactions, customer due diligence, and record keeping of transactions. Source of funds details for any crypto remittances in India are particularly important to document in addition to doing due diligence on recipients.

Taxation of Cryptocurrencies

While cryptocurrencies are not illegal, they are subject to taxation in India. The Income Tax Department of India has classified cryptocurrencies as assets, and they are subject to capital gains tax. Individuals and businesses are required to report their cryptocurrency holdings and transactions in their income tax returns. This means that when paying someone with cryptocurrencies, both parties should be aware of their tax obligations.


As of the writing of this article, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are not banned in India, but they are subject to taxation. Stablecoins and digital assets, on the other hand, exist in a legal gray area with no specific regulations in place, but are not prohibited either.

It is essential for individuals and businesses involved in cryptocurrency transactions to stay informed about the evolving regulatory landscape. Consulting with legal experts and tax professionals is advisable to ensure compliance with current laws and regulations. Additionally, keeping abreast of any new developments in the Indian government's approach to digital assets is crucial to navigate this dynamic environment responsibly and legally.