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Bitcoin-friendly Bills Unveiled in Utah, New Hampshire, New York City

Op-ed - Bitcoin-friendly Bills Unveiled in Utah

Pay your taxes in bitcoin? Maybe, if you live in one of three states now considering bills in support of that option.

In January, Utah Republican state representative Mark K. Roberts introduced a bill, H.C.R. 6, to create a Council on Payment Options for State Services that will study how Utah could accept Bitcoin as a valid form of payment. The bill includes the possibility for Utah residents to pay state taxes using Bitcoin.

In February, eight New Hampshire state representatives introduced a bipartisan bill, NH HB552, to propose that New Hampshire should officially accept Bitcoin for taxes and fees. The bill calls for the development of a detailed implementation plan, followed by operational acceptance of Bitcoin by the state before July 1, 2017.

It seems almost surreal that Bitcoin, often portrayed by the popular press as a means to avoid taxes and hide cash and illicit activities from the government, could find one of its first official applications in tax payments.

The short and pragmatic text of the New Hampshire bill only mentions the financial implications of collecting tax payments in Bitcoin. Republican Representative Eric Schleien believes that the adoption of Bitcoin for tax payment purposes would be a boon for the state, and argues that Bitcoin transactions are cheaper and more secure than those made with credit cards, so that the law would offer both state and taxpayers a more reliable payment option at a reduced cost.

The Utah bill is more visionary. It mentions the important benefits that an official adoption of Bitcoin could bring to the state’s technological leadership and economy:

“Technology industries, including emerging technologies, play a growing role in [economy] and culture. The state must also remain open to new technologies and ideas to continue attracting talented and educated entrepreneurs. [Bitcoin] provides merchants with an attractive alternative mechanism for accepting payments, because transaction fees for Bitcoin are generally much lower than those imposed by other payment processors. “

Reading between the lines, a key passage here is “attracting talented and educated entrepreneurs.” Rep. Roberts seems fully aware that new, disruptive technologies can create fast growth and “iPhone moments” that boost entire industries. He appears to be persuaded that Utah could become a Silicon Valley for cryptocurrency business. Perhaps someday visitors to Utah will be greeted by a “Bitcoin Rockies” sign.

Utah is also the home state of Overstock, a large online retailer that allows customers worldwide to pay in bitcoin. Overstock is also behind one of the most interesting and potentially disruptive developments in the Bitcoin space: their Medici crypto-stock exchange project aims to create an open alternative to traditional stock exchanges such as NYSE and NASDAQ, based on blockchain technology and accepting Bitcoin payments.

The Free State Project, a hardcore Libertarian group based in New Hampshire, greeted the New Hampshire bill with a blog post titled “Bitcoin for Taxes and Fees? Only in NH.”

“New Hampshire is known as a libertarian hot spot, and the Bitcoin community here is strong. Read about the rich connections between Bitcoin and the Free State Project here.”

Meanwhile, last week, Democratic member of the New York City Council Mark Levine introduced a bill that would allow residents to pay for any fines and fees they owe the city using Bitcoin. In an interview with CoinDesk, Levine said:

”It started with realizing how much money the city of New York is losing on transaction fees on credit cards, ultimately it’s several million a year because of all sorts of fees and fines. [I] think that being the first major city in the U.S. to make this move sends a clear signal that we’re innovators here.”

Levine’s arguments are similar to those used to promote the New Hampshire and Utah bills: accepting Bitcoin payments would save the city a lot of money, and a vibrant Bitcoin economy would attract top tech talent to the city.

The passages quoted represent two often conflicting aspects of the developing Bitcoin economy: the business-oriented vision of a regulated Bitcoin economy that informs the Utah and New York City bills, and the free-wheeling Libertarian spirit reflected in the Free State Project comments to the New Hampshire bill. As often happens, future Bitcoin developments are likely to be influenced by both.