Is Staking Legal in the US? Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Guidelines

Crypto assets have become a hotspot in attracting new-age investors with their lucrative profitable opportunities. One term that has been gaining significant attention is “staking”. This innovative process, which involves the holding of digital currencies in a crypto wallet to support the operations of a blockchain network, has become a popular method for crypto enthusiasts to earn rewards. But as with anything that involves potential financial gain, a crucial question arises: Is cryptocurrency staking legal in the United States?

Staking is a fascinating aspect of the cryptocurrency world. It’s a process that allows you to earn passive income simply by holding onto your digital assets. It provides you with a place where your money is not just sitting idle but is actively working for you, helping to secure a network and validate transactions, all while earning you additional income. This is the promise of staking in the sector of cryptocurrencies.

However, as intriguing as staking might sound, it’s essential to understand the legal implications before diving in. The crypto space is still relatively new, and the regulatory landscape can often feel like an obstacle. In the United States, the question of legality becomes even more pertinent, given the country’s significant influence on the global financial landscape and its stringent regulatory environment.

As the SEC ramps up its regulation on crypto trading and trading with Gray Gensler leading the force, investors might often feel a hurdle to dive into this space. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and other regulatory bodies are continually working to provide clearer guidelines and regulations for cryptocurrencies, including staking activities.

But before we dive deeper into the legal aspects, let’s first understand what staking truly entails and why it’s such a vital part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, and is it actually illegal to stake crypto in the United States.

What Is Staking?

Staking is the process where you commit or “lock in” your cryptocurrency assets for a specified duration to aid in the functioning of a blockchain network. As a reward for this commitment, you receive additional cryptocurrency.

Many blockchain networks operate on a consensus mechanism known as proof of stake. In this system, those who wish to contribute to the network by validating new transactions and incorporating new blocks are required to “stake” a predetermined amount of cryptocurrency.

Staking plays a crucial role in ensuring the integrity of the data and transactions added to a blockchain. Participants who wish to have the opportunity to validate new transactions pledge a certain amount of cryptocurrency in staking as a form of collateral.

If these participants incorrectly validate fraudulent or flawed data, they stand to lose a portion or all of their staked amount as a penalty. However, if they successfully validate legitimate transactions and data, they are rewarded with additional cryptocurrency.

Notable staked tokens like Solana (SOL) and Ethereum (ETH) incorporate staking as a key component of their consensus mechanisms.

Proof-of-Stake (PoS) Validation 

Staking is the mechanism that fuels the operation of proof-of-stake cryptocurrencies, creating a vibrant and functional ecosystem within their networks. Generally, the larger the stake, the higher the probability for validators to be chosen to add new blocks and receive rewards.

As validators accumulate more stake delegations from various holders, it serves as a testament to the network that the validator’s consensus votes are reliable. Consequently, their votes carry a weight that is proportional to the amount of stake they have garnered.

Moreover, a stake doesn’t necessarily have to be composed solely of one individual’s tokens. For instance, a holder can join a staking pool, where the staking pool operators handle the complex task of validating transactions on the blockchain.

Each blockchain network has its unique set of rules for validators. Take Ethereum, for example, which mandates each validator to possess at least 32 ETH. A staking pool provides an opportunity for collaboration, allowing you to stake with less than this substantial amount. However, it’s important to remember that these pools are usually established through third-party solutions.

Proof-Of-Stake vs. Proof-Of-Work

Proof-of-Stake (PoS) and Proof-of-Work (PoW) are two different consensus mechanisms employed by blockchain networks to authenticate new transaction blocks. PoS operates on the principle that coin owners in the network can utilize their holdings as ‘stakes’, demonstrating their dedication to the network and earning rewards for transaction validation. This method eliminates the need for stakers to invest in costly hardware or use substantial electricity to mine new blocks.

Conversely, PoW necessitates miners to employ specialized hardware and expend significant electricity to solve a cryptographic challenge, thereby generating a new block. Upon the creation of the block, the miner is compensated with newly created coins, transaction fees, and an extra reward known as a block reward.

Each of these consensus mechanisms has its advantages and disadvantages. PoS is more energy-efficient than PoW, as it doesn’t demand substantial electricity usage. PoS also mitigates the threat of a 51% attack, as it necessitates the possession of a large number of coins to seize control of the network. However, PoS introduces its own set of challenges, such as the potential for centralization due to coin accumulation and a comparative lack of security relative to PoW.

DeFi Staking

DeFi staking represents a solid approach for users to generate passive income by supplying liquidity to decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols. Users can stake their tokens and earn rewards by depositing their digital assets into a smart contract, thereby contributing to the network’s stability and integrity. The rewards are determined by the duration of the stake and the prevailing market conditions.

Furthermore, users may avail themselves of extra yield farming prospects as well as governance rights linked to the protocol. DeFi staking enables users to diversify their portfolios effortlessly and enhance their returns without the need for active trading or fund management.

How Does Staking Work?

If you possess a cryptocurrency that operates on a proof of stake blockchain, you qualify to stake your tokens. Staking involves securing your assets to participate and aid in maintaining the safety of that network’s blockchain. As a return for securing your assets and participating in network validation, validators are granted rewards in that cryptocurrency, commonly referred to as staking rewards. Additionally, you can establish a cryptocurrency wallet that facilitates staking.

If your tokens are stored in one of these wallets, you can designate the portion of your portfolio you wish to stake. You can select from various staking pools to identify a validator. These validators amalgamate your tokens with others to enhance your chances of producing blocks and earning rewards.

SEC Vs. Staking: Is Staking Illegal?

The regulation of cryptocurrency staking in the U.S. is intricate and multifaceted. Initially, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted the view that the majority of digital tokens are securities. This approach aims to safeguard investors and ensure adherence to existing laws. Therefore, in the context of cryptocurrency staking, SEC regulations mandate that registered broker-dealers comply with certain rules prior to participating in staking activities. Moreover, organizations providing staking services must register with the SEC and abide by their regulations.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a U.S. regulatory body tasked with enforcing federal securities laws and overseeing the securities industry. As previously stated, the SEC classifies cryptocurrency as a security. Consequently, the SEC has been vigilantly observing the application of staking in the cryptocurrency sector and has even established regulatory guidelines for staking activities.

The staking of Ether is a significant boon for the Ethereum network, though its future in the United States is still unclear. Ethereum staking has become complex for numerous U.S.-based validators as staking service providers, especially centralized exchanges, are embroiled in a regulatory dispute with the SEC.

In February, the crypto exchange Kraken reached a $30 million settlement with the SEC and discontinued its staking services for U.S. clients. The SEC argued that the service constituted a security and that Kraken was required to secure the appropriate license to operate.

SEC’s Action On Kraken 

Kraken pulled its validator nodes for U.S. clients just a day prior to the Shapella upgrade in order to comply with SEC directives. This shutdown sparked an industry-wide discussion about the future of staking services in the United States. Coinbase, one of the many other crypto exchanges to go public in the U.S., also offers staking services and is pushing the SEC to respond to a petition it submitted concerning cryptocurrency guidance.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has argued that the SEC’s attempts to restrict staking service providers could effectively ban retail staking in the United States. This could potentially compel many cryptocurrency platforms and staking service providers to relocate to offshore locations. Given the SEC’s proactive enforcement actions against crypto-staking services, the future of ETH staking in the United States appears uncertain.

Stephenie Lord Eisert, senior director of law enforcement at crypto intelligence firm Merkel Science said, “The proposed ban on crypto staking will not protect investors from fraud or scams. Instead, it will create a regulatory void that will be exploited by bad actors. Rather than banning centralized staking providers, regulators should focus on addressing the lack of guidance around both centralized and decentralized staking options.”

What Might A Crackdown On Staking Crypto Mean?

The regulatory clampdown is specifically targeted at staking-as-a-service providers catering to U.S. consumers. Given that blockchains are usually secured by validators globally, they will persist in functioning, provided that regulators in other countries adopt a more relaxed stance towards their services. 

This could further accentuate the divide between stringent regulation in the U.S. and the less regulated environments in certain other parts of the world.

There are queries about whether the tightening of regulations around staking will affect so-called decentralized staking providers. These providers purport to be exempt from such regulations as they are not operated by a specific company or located in a particular place; theoretically, these providers are merely assemblies of software that automatically execute transactions. 

However, many of these decentralized finance (DeFi) services are, in fact, managed by a central group of individuals who regulators could potentially still hold accountable for noncompliance.

Taxes On Staking Cryptocurrency

The central issue in this legal dispute revolves around the taxation of cryptocurrency staking by the IRS. The existing guidelines do not explicitly address staking rewards. However, the IRS has clearly stated that rewards from mining are taxable as income based on their fair market value on the day they are received. Furthermore, these mining rewards are also liable for Capital Gains Tax when they are subsequently sold, traded, or spent.

The IRS’s approach to cryptocurrency taxation has been marked by inconsistencies, especially in relation to crypto staking. Despite not recognizing cryptocurrency as a fiat currency, the existing guidelines imply that staking rewards, similar to mining rewards, might be subject to Income Tax. Moreover, any subsequent sale, trade, or expenditure of these staking rewards would incur Capital Gains Tax. 

This position has been criticized as unjust by numerous cryptocurrency investors and regulatory experts. This led Tezos stakers Josh and Jessica Jarrett to challenge the IRS in court in an attempt to definitively resolve the issue. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the case and its potential implications for the taxation of your future crypto-staking activities.


Cryptocurrency staking is indeed legal in the United States, but its regulatory landscape is complex and evolving. As U.S. regulators tighten their grip on staking services, advocates of cryptocurrency are striving to distinguish between the high-yield lending interests offered by centralized entities and staking rewards on blockchains like Ethereum.

Staking on Ethereum contributes to the verification of daily transactions, setting it apart from lending rewards offered by platforms such as BlockFi and Celsius. However, the SEC is considering categorizing all staking services uniformly, according to Konstantin Boyko-Romanovsky, CEO of staking service provider Allnodes.

Boyko-Romanovsky suggests that banning centralized exchanges from providing staking services could promote decentralization. However, he also warns that this approach could hinder adoption since many crypto newcomers in the U.S. depend on centralized platforms like Coinbase for staking services.

He predicts that staking pools may gain popularity among retail stakers as they democratize access to staking opportunities and rewards. However, the extent of this potential increase is uncertain and will depend on factors such as mainstream acceptance, regulatory policies, scalability, and ongoing innovation.

Boyko-Romanovsky believes that those interested in staking will likely find alternative means and emphasizes that regulatory bodies should focus on creating precise definitions for new concepts like staking rather than trying to force crypto instruments into existing fiat currency frameworks.

The challenges faced by centralized staking services could potentially benefit decentralized staking services and staking pools. For instance, after Kraken withdrew its U.S-based validator nodes, most of these validators migrated to Lido Finance, a decentralized staking pool service provider.

While the SEC’s stance on crypto staking may promote decentralization, it could pose difficulties for U.S.-based service providers. It remains to be seen whether companies like Coinbase will relocate overseas, forfeit a significant market share domestically, or try to comply with SEC guidance and U.S. securities laws.


How are staking pools taxed?

Earning rewards from a staking pool is considered income when received, as long as you can withdraw them. However, depositing and withdrawing cryptocurrency from a staking pool is likely not a taxable event, similar to other wallet-to-wallet transfers.

Is it legal to stake crypto in the United States?

At present, there is no enacted law or legislation in the United States that forbids the practice of staking coins. Consequently, staking is entirely permissible under current legal frameworks. However, it is important to note that staking may potentially constitute a taxable event. The rewards accrued from staking activities could be subject to taxation.

Can U.S. citizens participate in staking pools located outside the U.S.?

Yes, U.S. citizens can generally participate in staking pools located outside the U.S. However, it's important to research the specific staking pool and understand the potential risks, including regulatory risks, associated with staking in a foreign jurisdiction.

Are there any legal considerations for running a staking pool in the U.S.?

Running a staking pool in the U.S. may have legal implications, particularly around securities laws. Depending on how the pool is structured, it could potentially be considered a security, which would require compliance with securities regulations. It's recommended to seek legal advice before setting up a staking pool.

If I stake my cryptocurrency, does it affect my legal rights to the digital asset in the U.S.?

No, staking your cryptocurrency does not typically affect your legal ownership or rights to the digital asset. When you stake your coins, you are essentially locking them up in a network to support operations like block validation. While these coins are staked, you still retain ownership.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making investment decisions.

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Shayan Chowdhury

Shayan is a professional crypto journalist with over 4 years of experience, specializing in cryptographic modules and blockchain development. He delivers easy-to-understand crypto content through in-depth research and technical insights.

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