Is the Ethereum system a legal subject?

There are some hints that abstract systems like Ethereum should legally be treated like their own entities. The latest such hints comes from the context of value-added tax (VAT or MWST in German), where the taxation of transaction fees is practically impossible when trying to find a taxable relationship between miners and users. If the government ever wants to charge VAT on IT-services rendered by abstract systems such as Ethereum, it cannot get around recognizing these abstract systems as legal subjects. In the context of VAT, they could treat them like foreign firms, thereby enabling tax authorities to demand VAT (Bezugsteuer) when firms "import" IT services from such systems. However, such a change would require the law to be adjusted, which is not worth doing at the current adoption rate of blockchain-based services (we estimate that the ESTV misses out on about 50'000 CHF in taxes by not being able to levy VAT on services rendered by systems such as Ethereum).

So for now, all these services should remain untaxed as everything else would cause completely disproportionate costs to everyone involved. That is at least the position we have taken in our comment to the latest draft of the Swiss federal tax authority (ESTV) on how to treat crypto currencies from a VAT-perspective. The important part is to have a perspective on how it could potentially be done in case the economic significance of transaction fees from blockchain-based services grows by a few orders of magnitude.