As Bitcoin Transaction Volume Triples Since October, Europe Prepares To Regulate, Tax The Digital Currency

Tyler Durden's picture

Representing numbers that would put the adoption curve of Obamacare to shame, the Bitcoin equivalents of Paypal, BitPay, announced last week that it has now processed over $100 million in BTC transactions in 2013, has increased its merchant base to over 15,500 approved merchants in over 200 countries, but most importantly, has seen a surge in the number of merchants using its BTC payment pricing plan, by 50% since October while the volume of transactions has tripled. While the surge in the currency adoption has matched the explosive rise in the USD-value of the currency, the news should comfort any lingering doubts whether Bitcoin is a credible payment system.

From the BitPay press release:

BitPay Inc, the world leader in business solutions for virtual currencies, announces it has processed over $100 million in transactions this year, and has increased its merchant base to over 15,500 approved merchants in 200 countries. Since the announcement of the new All Inclusive Pricing Plan in October, along with the integration with Shopify in November, the number of new merchants has increased over 50% and the transaction volume has tripled.

 

"This year, the 2013 holiday season was Adafruit's biggest ever. We are delighted to offer bitcoin payments via BitPay to our community and customers. It was fast and easy, hundreds of orders and happy customers getting educational electronics, using bitcoin!" shared Limor Fried, Founder and Engineer with Adafruit.

 

Bitcoin has "clear potential for growth and could become a major means of payment for online transactions” a Bank of America analyst told CNBC. As the number of Bitcoin users continues to increase, merchants such as Adafruit, BTCTrip, Alliance Virtual Offices, and Clearly Canadian, see the value of working with BitPay to help expand their business.

Which explains why Europe, which over a year was the first entity to cry foul about Bitcoin (recall from November 2012: "The ECB Explains What A Ponzi Scheme Is; Awkward Silence Follows") when the USD-price of one BTC was still in the double digits, is doubling down in its fight against the fiat alternative, this time as the European Union's top banking regulator is preparing to actively supervise the virtual currency. From Bloomberg:

Trading Bitcoins could bleed you dry, the European Union’s top banking regulator said as it weighs whether to regulate virtual currencies. Thefts from digital wallets have exceeded $1 million in some cases and traders aren’t protected against losses if their virtual exchange collapses, the European Banking Authority said today in a report warning consumers about the risks of cybermoney.

 

Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin have come under increased scrutiny from regulators and prosecutors around the globe. China’s central bank barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin transactions last week and German police arrested two suspects in a fraud probe into illegally generated Bitcoins worth 700,000 euros ($963,000).

 

“The technology is still relatively immature and lacks the infrastructure, regulation and understanding of the risks that are taken for granted in conventional financial systems,” Matt Rees, assistant director at Ernst & Young LLP, said in an e-mail. “It is not surprising then that thefts, frauds and other deceptions are currently commonplace.”

 

Since Bitcoins exist as software, the virtual currency isn’t controlled by any government or central bank. The digital money emerged in 2008, designed by a programmer or group of programmers going under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity remains unknown.

 

The virtual currency gained credibility last month after law enforcement and securities agencies said in U.S. Senate hearings that it could be a legitimate means of exchange. The price of Bitcoins topped $1,000 as speculators anticipated broader use of digital money.

Because, you see, it is the possibility of theft that has regulators worried, not that alternative currencies could undermine the fiat system (especially in Europe where the artificially common currency is not exactly the world's most admired construct) the world is so hooked on.

So what does Europe propose? Simple: do more of what it truly excels at: tax stuff.

People holding virtual currencies may be subject to value-added or capital gains taxes, the EBA said.

 

The government of Norway, Scandinavia’s richest nation, said it would treat Bitcoins as an asset and levy capital gains tax on them.

 

“Bitcoins don’t fall under the usual definition of money or currency,” Hans Christian Holte, director general of taxation in Norway, said in an interview.

 

For virtual currencies to be regulated in the EU, the EBA would have to get approval from the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s executive arm.

 

We “support the EBA warning to consumers on the risks associated with virtual currencies,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services commissioner, said in an e-mail.

In other words, it is only a matter of time before Europe does all it can to make the use of Bitcoin even more prohibitive, which in a Europe that is flooded with bad debt, with a banking sector whose credibility is non-existent resulting in loan "creation" plunging at a record pace, and a banking union "resolution mechanism" that is as improbable now as it has ever been, means more deposit bail-ins in a form that "fall under the usual definition of money" are just a matter of time.