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Overstock, First to Pay Tax in Ohio Using Bitcoin

Overstock, First to Pay Tax in Ohio Using Bitcoin

As the tax season approaches, popular US-based online retailer Overstock has said in a press release on 3 January that it will be the first US company to pay some of its Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) to the Ohio State in Bitcoin.

According to the press release, the payment will be done through the “state’s new cryptocurrency taxpayer platform, OhioCrypto.com,” following an announcement made by the State of Ohio last year that it will begin accepting tax payments in Bitcoin.

Overstock CEO and founder Patrick M. Byrne takes a positive stance with the government in ushering the era of smart technologies like the blockchain along with trust package. He said: “We have long thought that thoughtful governmental adoption of emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies (when accompanied by non-restrictive legislation over these technologies) is the best way to ensure the US does not lose our place at the forefront of the ever-advancing global economy.”

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel commended the efforts of the retail giant to adapt quickly to the emerging markets being created by cryptocurrencies, saying that “their embrace of blockchain technology was ahead of its time.”

The State of Ohio is the first in the US to consider Bitcoin for tax payment. The OhioCrypto platform was launched in November last year. The office of the Ohio Treasurer will receive the US dollar equivalent of the Bitcoin through cryptocurrency gateway BitPay.

OhioCrypto offers businesses the opportunity to pay their taxes in cryptocurrency at a relatively cheaper transaction fee when compared with credit card transaction fee of 2.5 percent.

The history of Overstock is filled with consolidated efforts towards blockchain and cryptocurrency dominance, with partnership and publicly trading stocks issued through the blockchain in the wake of its blockchain adoption in 2014. At the time when it was just Bitcoin, a few Bitcoin alternatives, and initiator of smart contracts Ethereum. It began accepting Bitcoin as a payment option alongside MasterCard and PayPal.

While the Overstock company is scheduled to be sold next month, the blockchain-based business subsidiary Medici Ventures will remain active. More so, its security trading platform tZERO was regarded as one of the overachieving cryptocurrency projects last year after Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital showed interest in the project.

Ohio sits on the crypto-friendly list with its blockchain hub and enthusiasts pooling resources to fund startups. Now with the OhioCrypto tax payment platform, it stands on par with many other jurisdictions seeking worldwide Bitcoin adoption.

 

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US Crypto Tax Liability Confusion Prompts Specialized Software Use

tax, income tax

Cryptocurrency users are beginning to realize that no matter which part of the world they call home, the taxman has woken up to the fact that there is government revenue to be harvested from these digital assets.

Many countries are beginning to revise tax laws to incorporate cryptocurrency profits into end-of-year declarations. This is a time of confusion for many in the US as a lot of crypto dabblers and more serious investors are still not clear on how to go about filing tax returns which include cryptocurrency assets.

Local regulations may well differ, and for some making these calculations is best left to professionals. Node 40 is a company that has now moved to offer this support after seeing a gap in the market. Described as a QuickBooks for blockchain tokens, Perry Woodin’s and Sean Ryan’s company quickly realized that Node 40 was capable of filling what still amounts to an education gap in most people’s understanding of cryptocurrencies; how does one pay tax on them, and does one really need to? Although there might be confusion, regrettably there is no escape.

Node 40 software allows users to integrate their wallets and cryptocurrency exchanges used by them over the course of the tax year to calculate what needs to be reported.  Woodin and Ryan argue it is worth knowing what is declarable to avoid strife further down the track, caused by a simple lack of the basic facts.

“If people are transacting in digital currency, it’s important that anyone understands that there’s a tax obligation on their part. Whether they’re paying their taxes or whether they’re day traders trying to make it big in the crypto world – it doesn’t matter. Any time you’re interacting with digital currency, it’s important that people understand there is a tax liability.”

Converting Bitcoin to goods or services or exchanging BTC to other cryptocurrencies could incur a tax.  This is useful information with the IRS on the warpath, having warned of a coup this year. The main problem in filing a 2018 1099-K form according to Woodin and Ryan is for those that have made significant losses due to fall in cryptocurrency prices, they will need to balance declaring such losses to write off a tax liability with the risk of drawing annual scrutiny by the IRS, “…giving the tax authorities much better visibility of people’s crypto involvement.”

The state of Ohio’s announcement that it will now accept Bitcoin as well as fiat for payment of taxes has its own problems, according to Ryan, as it creates a federally taxable event for the user, who then has to consider whether they are saving enough in fees paying in Bitcoin to offset the obligations that might be created federally.

Woodin and Ryan maintain the IRS will get sharper as they adapt emerging technologies requiring their own discrete measures, but people would be a lot happier paying these taxes if they had an easier means to do so, one that cuts through all those complicated numbers, and saves all that confusion.

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University in Ohio Announces Blockchain Hub

University in Ohio Announces Blockchain Hub

A top-ranked private research university based in Cleveland, Ohio, has announced the establishment of the “Cleveland Blockchain and Digital Futures Hub”.

Beginnings

First reported by local media outlet Cleveland.com, Case Western Reserve University (CRWU) President Barbara Snyder announced the hub at the inaugural Blockland Solutions conference, a Northeast Ohio blockchain event and community that endeavors to turn the region into a center for blockchain technology.

Reportedly, the hub will also be examining other cutting-edge technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as virtual reality. It will also be looking to “develop research and build applications” with enterprises, academic institutions, tech accelerators, and the government.

While presently bearing no physical headquarters, central administration and is also yet to be funded, there have been three meetings so far on the CWRU campus, which according to organizers does not indicate that it will be calling the university home.

One of the earliest recruits to Blockland and President of Colorado State University (CSU), Harlan Sands, said:

“Other blockchain educational initiatives usually involve a single company or a lone university… In contrast, Cleveland is poised to leverage the whole continuum of interests: the strength of the community college, the city’s public research institute institution and the regions only AAU (Association of American Universities) research institution.”

Come together

Much like blockchain associations, there have been numerous “Blockchain Hubs” popping up all over the world; from Nigeria to Slovenia, these microcosms of expertise and advocacy tend to sprout when blockchain related activities hit a certain point of adoption and discourse in a given jurisdiction.

For Ohio, it was a case of “when” as opposed to “if” one would be set up. The Midwestern state has become the first in the United States to accept bitcoin for tax payments, and most recently, several funds within the bullish state are banding together and have pledged to pool hundreds of millions of dollars into startups developing blockchain solutions for government and business purposes.

The establishment of the hub is rather timely considering the state’s most recent blockchain initiative launch. According to the managing director of the Canadian Blockchain Research Institute, for it to succeed, it will require Cleveland to gather around 1,000 software developers and a dozen or so startups. That said, local blockchain advocate and serial-entrepreneur, Bernie Monero, believes the infrastructure is in place to incubate the startups.

Additionally, Sands noted that CSU and Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in northeast Ohio are pressing to implement blockchain into technology-related degrees, something of which other academic institutions in the United States are clamoring for.

 

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Ohio Blockchain Backers Pooling $100 Million to Fund Startups

Ohio Blockchain Backers Pooling 0 Million to Fund Startups

Several funders in the Midwestern US state of Ohio are to be backing early-stage blockchain startups to the tune of USD 100 million.

Great strides

As reported by local news outlet Cleveland.com, several investment fund firms based in Ohio, including local accelerator and venture fund JumpStart, are to be pooling their resources and investing USD 100 million into blockchain startups that give focus to utilizing the tech for business or government purposes.

According to JumpStart CEO Ray Leach, who made the announcement on Sunday, 2 December, there is to be an additional USD 200 million poured in over the next three years by the funding teams. Ohio is home to “Opportunity Zones”, areas with tax incentives for investors to encourage economic growth in underdeveloped and poorer neighborhoods, something of which the fund hopes to leverage over this course. In order to receive funding, a company must take advantage of one of these zones.

Another local venture firm named FlashStart also announced a pre-seed fund of USD 6 million for blockchain startups.

On the chain

Currently, Ohio’s desires to become a leader in blockchain technology within the United States is off to a winning start. Recently, the state became the first to accept Bitcoin for tax payments, which can be done via OhioCrypto.com and there are plans to add more crypto payment options in the future.

Around the same time, Cleveland city launched a blockchain initiative for the promotion of the local industry. Home to a number of blockchain projects including blockchain voting application startup Votem, the affectionately named Blockland Cleveland conference will further bolster the presence of blockchain technology in Ohio.

In early November, Ohio bore its bullish horns against the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) when the state congressman, Warren Davidson, pressed against the crypto-skeptical regulatory body with a bipartisan bill designed to challenge the SEC’s laws in relation to cryptocurrencies issued via initial coin offerings (ICOs). The bill would reclassify digital assets as “products” instead of the current classification for ICO issued tokens, which are presently deemed as securities.

In addition to this, Ohio state proposed another bill (Bill 300) that would legally legitimize smart contracts and the storage of records on a blockchain.

Ohio, much like many other jurisdictions who are seeking to tap blockchain, is building the necessary infrastructure to seed a healthy local blockchain ecosystem similar to that of Seoul in South Korea or certain parts of China. These incremental steps that test the ambivalent waters of this nascent industry are becoming lighthouses for others also seeking to join the race.

 

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Bitcoin Adoption Milestone as Ohio Accepts Bitcoin for Tax Bills

In a milestone for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency adoption, the state of Ohio has officially begun to accept Bitcoin for tax payments via OhioCrypto.com, and will be adding more cryptocurrencies in the future. This effort has been spearheaded by the Treasurer of Ohio, Josh Mandel, and is the first time in United States history that a state government has accepted Bitcoin for taxes.

OhioCrypto.com touts Bitcoin payments for taxes as beneficial because the process will be quick and easy, transparent, secure, have real-time tracking, the fees charged by the Bitcoin network are minimal, and payments can be done on mobile phones or tablets. It is particularly aimed at businesses, from mom and pop shops to major corporations, and is not a portal for individual tax payers.

In the FAQ, it says OhioCrypto.com was created because “Treasurer Mandel believes in leveraging cutting-edge technology to provide Ohioans more options and ease while interfacing with state government. The Treasurer’s office is also working to help make Ohio a national leader in blockchain technology… Treasurer Mandel has a proven record of leveraging technology to change how citizens interact with government”.

In total, 23 types of taxes can be paid with Bitcoin, including 911 wireless, cigarettes and tobacco products, commercial activity (CAT), consumer’s use, direct pay permit, financial institution (FIT), interest on lawyers trust accounts (IOLTA), international fuel tax agreement (IFTA), kilowatt hour, motor vehicle fuel (MVFT), natural gas distribution (Mcf), non-resident motor vehicles sales tax, pass-thru entity tax (PTE), petroleum activity (PAT), premium insurance tax, public utilities tax, sales tax, seller’s use tax, severance tax, streamlined sales tax (SST), and withholding tax. This is essentially the full spectrum of taxes that Ohio businesses have to pay.

All payments will be converted to fiat via BitPay to avoid market volatility and the Treasurer of Ohio will not be holding any Bitcoin. Most typical Bitcoin wallets are compatible with OhioCrypto.com, such as Bitcoin Core or Blockchain.com, and users will either scan a QR code or copy and paste a Bitcoin address to complete payment.

In the United States, Bitcoin has been regulated as property by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a security by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and a commodity by the Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). However, now at least the Ohio Treasurer’s office is implicitly recognizing Bitcoin as a currency with the launching of OhioCrypto.com. Mandel explicitly says it too: “I do see [bitcoin] as a legitimate form of currency.”

 

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London Bar Launches Crypto Giveaway, FTSE 100 Beer

It is not what you’d expect to find in your local pub, but a new cashless bar in London has been giving away crypto.

Regrettably for locals, it was a one-off, as British brewery BrewDog opened its 10th London bar and celebrated its new “Hop Exchange” concept of FTSE-linked beer.

The bar can be found in London’s financial district of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs, an area due for a massive redevelopment including 1,500 homes, sporting facilities, a new community hub and creche, as well as a health center and a 1,200-space secondary school.

The new pub is the latest addition to the area and unique in the sense its Hop Exchange drafts are linked to the movement of the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 Index (FTSE 100). Up goes the market and so does the price of a pint. BrewDog says that its new branch is really matching its surroundings, being in the heart of London’s trading center, commenting:

“With that in mind, we are embracing the fluctuating fortunes of the city traders (both historic and financial) with a very special beer tap.”

The “beer tap” is now accessible using both Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. To celebrate the launch of both the pub and its Hop Exchange, Brew Dog recently gave away wallets preloaded with a random amount of Bitcoin Cash to delighted customers, worth USD 15-128 (GBP 12-100).  BrewDog explains the concept of the new range of beers:

“Whichever of our beers is on the Hop Exchange will vary in price depending on how the markets are doing. As the FTSE falls, the Hop Exchange beer will become cheaper by the same percentage difference and vice versa.”

BrewDog Canary Wharf joins another branch in the chain, another London pub, BrewDog Clerkenwell, in offering a cashless service, but is the first in the chain to offer crypto payments. The company has plans for expanding the chain even further despite already having 70 bars worldwide. The beer is brewed in Ellon, Scotland and for the US market, in Columbus, Ohio.

 

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Ohio Joins US State Level Blockchain Goldrush

The US state of Ohio is following other states in showing interest in blockchain technology and how it can be applied to the economy in that state.

At a press conference on August 23, Speaker of the Ohio House Ryan Smith assembled members of the House leadership and Ohio’s general assembly along with representations from the law, business, and academic sectors to discuss possible implementation.

The state is not new to the concept, having passed an amendment to the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act earlier this year adding, “a record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be in an electronic form and to be an electronic record,” thus providing a safe harbour for the emerging technology.

Ohio is certainly not the first US state to take this route as Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Vermont, along with Maine, Hawaii, Illinois, and North Dakota are some of the many US states notably either in the process of presenting bills, enacting legislation or actively utilizing blockchain in state legislation.

Speaker Smith suggested that DLT would have numerous applications in the state and cited common storage requirements such as securing birth certificates and marriage licenses as a simple case in point. His aim is to work with universities so that students are encouraged to become involved in the new technology early on, thus helping them secure work for the future and bring their expertise to the State.

Smith is not the first though, to suggest his or her state as a possible blockchain hub. New York earlier this year set its sights on the same target when the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced several initiatives that pursue ambitions of becoming a blockchain technology hub. The state has rather set out its stall for the title given that the NYCED holds the annual New York Blockchain Week there with crypto events all over the city attracting big names in the industry as guest speakers.

However, Smith is optimistic, suggesting, “Because this is so new and this is just beginning to take shape, we can position Ohio out front.”

Time will tell, but the state rush to become a leader in blockchain adoption is very much on.

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Congressman Invites Crypto CEOs to Capitol Hill for SEC Legislation Talks

A US congressman has invited 32 prominent representatives of the cryptocurrency industry to Washington in order to discuss future ICO legislation.

Warren Davidson, the Republican representative for Ohio is to discuss measures to be introduced by the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) this coming autumn after discussions between the Commission and Davidson’s office.

Davidson sits on The United States House Committee on Financial Services, which is responsible for overseeing the entire financial services industry, including the securities, insurance, banking, and housing industries.

Those representatives of the industry invited to Capitol Hill for the September forum are listed as Andreessen Horowitz, Circle, CME Group, Coin Center, CoinList, Harbor, Intercontinental Exchange, Kraken, Nasdaq, Ripple, Union Square Ventures and some others.

Congressman Davidson describes the meeting as design to offer a “light touch” to current ICO regulation before the new bill goes to US Congress later this year. He commented:

“I intend to lead legislation for initial coin offerings to clarify the role of regulators, protect consumers, address national security concerns, and facilitate a pro-growth environment for businesses to raise capital.”

The forum is an interesting development, in the sense that until now there has been little direct interaction between the SEC and leaders from within the cryptocurrency industry. Although Davidson is not actually a member of the governments’ regulatory body, his subcommittee on the United States House Committee on Financial Services does oversee SEC work and has significant influence.

The congressman is thought to be discussing existing issues within the industry in the forum, such as unsuccessful ICOs and the difficulties of some to go public, along with the formulation of clearer rules to cover the diversity of tech companies entering the market.

Another factor which is sure to be raised by the industry representatives gathered on September 25th is SEC requirements and rules, as they apply to the cryptocurrency industry as a whole.

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Blockchain Gains US Momentum as Ohio Examines New Bill

The US state of Ohio is currently proposing a change to state law through a bill which will legally recognize smart contracts and storage of records on a blockchain, according to Coindesk.

There are several states in the US that have adopted blockchain-associated laws. Vermont, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, and Tennessee are among these states. Indiana, Iowa, and Texas have taken a somewhat negative approach against cryptocurrencies or flagged them as potentially risky.

Some states have examined the governmental use of blockchain, either as isolated applications in specific or integrated government functions. Vermont, for example, recognizes data stored on a blockchain as admissible in the court system, according to Brookings.

Washington and New Hampshire have succeeded in passing some legislation and Arizona has introduced or passed regulations ranging from making signatures, transactions, and contracts on a blockchain legally valid, to allowing residents to pay their income tax in cryptocurrencies.

If Ohio becomes another blockchain state and the ‘Revise Electronic Transactions Act/blockchain/smart contracts’ bill signs into law, it will significantly pass ownership rights to those needing to store electronic information on the blockchain. Bill 300 states:

“Notwithstanding any other law, a person that, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, uses blockchain technology to secure information that the person owns or has the right to use retains the same rights of ownership or use with respect to that information as before the person secured the information using blockchain technology.”

Changes to the existing bill have notable inclusions in the amendment relating specifically to blockchain, making it clear that smart contracts will legally usable for legal documents.

Brookings research shows that in the past two years, a wave of states has started to shift attention to blockchain technology and explore the potential roles of the technology in public and private services.

Recently, Arizona passed a bill that allows residents of the state to use cryptocurrencies in making tax payments. Also, Wyoming passed its own bill through both legislatures early this year which exempts cryptocurrency from state property tax, potentially making it the friendliest state in the US to investors of crypto assets.

 

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North America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 6th to 13th April 2018

North America

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Unites States

JPMorgan accused of charging crypto-buying customers exorbitantly: Investors have accused commercial bank JPMorgan Chase and Co of charging high fees while purchasing cryptocurrencies through credit cards. The bank in January prohibited the buying of cryptocurrencies through its accounts and treated the purchases as cash advances instead.

The suit was filed by Idaho resident Brady Tucker who claims he was overcharged on two payments of USD 143 and USD 20.61 for cryptocurrency transactions. He is also claiming that the bank may have charged hundreds of thousands of other customers. He raised the issue with the bank’s customer service but the bank has so far refused to move the charges back.

Mary Jane Rodgers, a spokesperson for the bank, declined to comment on the lawsuit. JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon has previously called cryptocurrency a “fraud” and has said that he “would fire an employee stupid enough to trade in them”.

US cryptocurrency holders could owe USD 25 billion in taxes: JPMorgan’s chief equity strategist Tom Lee has recently claimed that cryptocurrency holders could owe the US Tax Office more than USD 25 billion in unpaid capital gain taxes. Lee also claimed that the cryptocurrency sell-off happened as the tax day deadline of 17 April approached, though Bitcoin rebounded 15% on 12 April. Historical estimates are each $1 of USD outflow is $20-$25 impact on crypto market value,” said Lee.

SEC declares not all ICOs are scams: The Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Jay Clayton said in a speech at the Princeton University said that ICOs may not be all scams and should be classified and regulated accordingly. The event was full of fascinating insights into the evolving views on how to approach the different facets of the decentralized economy and its possible regulation.

Previously, Clayton had said in a Senate hearing that he was “unhappy” with how ICOs were executed back in February.

Massachusetts suspends 5 ICOs: Massachusetts state securities division suspended five initial coin offerings because they were operating as unregistered securities. The state law requires these ICOs to be registered. Francis Galvin, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, was cited as the one responsible for shutting down ICOs in the state. The ICOs also received rescission letters to be sent to the investors and were asked to complete refunds within 45 days of the announcement.

Canada

Canada continues to scrutinize exchanges: Canada’s Ontario region is again in the news with the country’s “crypto-friendly” exchanges now subject to Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) laws because of increase in digital currencies in the market.

The number of exchanges in the country rose due to increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies but regulatory bodies have stepped up, asking them to register under the commission. OSC commissioner Kristen Rose said, “if an exchange is doing business in a jurisdiction in Canada, it must apply to that jurisdiction’s securities regulatory authority for recognition or an exemption of recognition”.

Currently, the trading in cryptocurrency was subject to same laws as commodities but that is set to change with this new development.

ATB Financial to service blockchain and crypto startups: Canada’s ATB Financial has established an office of innovation in Alberta to assist startups primarily in blockchain and cryptocurrency. Mike Brown, innovation director at ATB, was of the opinion that blockchain and decentralization could be used in diverse fields.

“ATB has built a proof-of-concept blockchain to streamline oil and gas royalty payments. We have validated the model with the industry and have recently engaged two large industry players in designing the next round of solution development and pilot testing”, he said.

 

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