Cryptocurrency is digital currency that uses cryptography to secure its transactions. It is difficult to make counterfeit crypto currency because of this security feature. A remarkable feature of any cryptocurrency, is the fact that it is not issued by any central bank or government authority, making it immune to any government manipulation.
There are over 17 million bitcoins in circulation as of May 2018, with a total market capitalization of over $140 billion. Bitcoin's success has given rise to a number of similar cryptocurrencies called altcoins: Namecoin, Litecoin, PPCoin, etc.
Cryptocurrencies make it possible to transfer funds between parties and these transfers are effected through the use of public and private keys as a means of security. These fund transfers are carried out with nominal or zero processing fees, allowing users to avoid the exorbitant fees charged by most banks and other financial intermediaries for the transfers.
Apart from the fact that prices of cryptocurrencies are based on supply and demand, it has been found that the exchange rates of cryptocurrency fluctuate widely due to a host of reasons.
The anonymous feature of cryptocurrency transactions renders them vulnerable to illegal transactions, such as money laundering, drug and weapons dealing, terror funding and tax evasion by criminals. However, anonymity of transactions has its own host of plus points. Cryptocurrencies are also considered by some economists to be a passing phenomenon or a speculative bubble that can burst any moment because of their virtual or digital nature. Bitcoin has indeed seen some exponential surges and sudden collapses in value.
Cryptocurrencies are also not totally secure from hacking. In Bitcoin's short life-span, the currency has been subject to over 40 hackings, including few that topped $1 million in value. Still, many see cryptocurrencies with hope as a medium of exchange that preserves value, facilitates easy exchange, is more liquid and portable than bullion, and is outside the purview of central banks and governments.
Through many of their unique properties, cryptocurrencies allow exciting applications that could not be provided by any traditional payment systems.
There is no physical cryptocurrency, but balances are secured with public and private keys. These balances are maintained on public ledgers, along with all transactions, that are verified by a huge amount of computing power.
In early 2014, the Inland Revenue Service of the US declared that all crypto-currencies, including Bitcoin, would be taxed as property rather than currency. It was stated that all gains or losses from such currencies held as capital will be treated as capital gains or losses, while those held as inventory will attract ordinary gains or losses.