Voice of the Industry

IRS includes Lithuania in approved KYC country list – what does it mean for the fintech hub?

Friday 17 March 2023 09:00 CET | Editor: Oana Ifrim | Voice of the industry

Lithuania joins the US IRS list of KYC-approved jurisdictions, allowing its fintechs to register as QIs, saving time and effort. The move also boosts the country's fintech sector.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a list of jurisdictions with approved know your customer (KYC) rules. This list is essential for financial institutions to identify countries that have adequate anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks.

The IRS regularly updates the list of countries that comply with KYC rules. Financial institutions, including banks and other financial intermediaries, use the list to determine if a country's KYC framework is robust enough to warrant further engagement. The list includes countries that have demonstrated a commitment to fighting money laundering, terrorism financing, and other financial crimes.

The list is also significant for businesses and individuals conducting international transactions. It helps to identify whether a foreign financial institution has an adequate KYC framework in place. In addition, the list provides guidance to taxpayers and tax preparers on the reporting requirements for transactions with foreign financial institutions in these jurisdictions.

Being on the approved list means that the country has demonstrated a commitment to implementing effective measures to mitigate th risks of money laundering a financing risks, but no location is deemed entirely free from these risks.  

Overall, the IRS's list of jurisdictions with approved KYC rules is an essential tool for financial institutions and individuals to ensure compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations.

A significant milestone for Lithuania

Lithuania has been accepted to join the US Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) list of jurisdictions with approved KYC rules. As the European Union's largest fintech hub in terms of the number of licensed companies, Lithuania will now benefit from a more secure and efficient exchange of financial information with the US. This is a significant milestone for Lithuania's fintech strategy. With this recent approval, what changes could we expect to see in Lithuania's fintech landscape?

Benefits for fintech

Following this acceptance, Lithuania’s financial services companies now have the opportunity to be registered as Qualified Intermediaries (QI) with the IRS. This makes it easier to do business with US counterparts, says Rolandas Juteika, Head of Wealth and Trading (EEA) at Revolut:

'Having a country on the IRS KYC-approved country list significantly simplifies tax reporting on US-sourced investment income. This is beneficial for Lithuanian financial institutions offering clients trading on US financial instruments.'

As a QI, a fintech can handle the necessary paperwork and communicate with the IRS on behalf of clients, which saves them time and effort. Additionally, the QI regime simplifies customer documentation, allowing KYC documentation to be accepted in lieu of US tax forms. It also permits customer information to be pool reported to the IRS, which preserves the anonymity of non-US investors.

Moreover, being added to the IRS KYC list means that financial institutions and other companies operating in the US are able to rely on the KYC information provided by financial institutions in Lithuania when conducting their own KYC due diligence. 

A boost for development

Lithuania's fintech sector experienced impressive growth in 2022 with an 80% surge in aggregate banking income and a 19% increase in fintech employment. Lithuania’s inclusion in the IRS KYC-approved country list is expected to boost the sector's development further. 

'The IRS approval is a stimulus for the development of financial products, especially in terms of intermediation for investors,' says Andrius Merkelis, Board Member and Head of AML at Fintech Hub LT. 'It will undoubtedly encourage Lithuanian fintechs to develop investment services, and likely attract new fintech companies and investors to the country as the presence of Lithuania in any 'white' lists of the largest tax administrators is a sign that it is safe to invest in Lithuania.'

According to the Bank of Lithuania, in 2022 Lithuania’s electronic money and payment sector provided payment services to more than 25 million customers throughout the EU. While payments has become the established base of the local sector, the country’s aim is to accelerate the development of Wealthtech services.

'Vilnius is now one of the most important European fintech hubs, but we are not looking to stop there,' says Simonas Krėpšta, Member of the Board at the Bank of Lithuania. 'In 2023, we will take yet another step forward with the help of new long-term sector guidelines, closer institutional cooperation and increased dialogue with market participants. This vision is shared by all main stakeholders – the government, the banking sector, fintechs, and the startup ecosystem facilitators.'

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Keywords: fintech, AML, KYC
Categories: Banking & Fintech
Companies: Invest Lithuania
Countries: Lithuania
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