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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Bitcoin At All-Time High, IRS Targets Bitcoin, Subway Sandwich Shop Accepts Bitcoin, Hollywood Studios See Cost-Saving Benefits of Bitcoin

Bitcoin At All-Time High, IRS Targets Bitcoin, Subway Sandwich Shop Accepts Bitcoin, Hollywood Studios See Cost-Saving Benefits of Bitcoin

IRS Targets Bitcoin

Those trading in digital currency in the US will soon be given more guidance on their tax reporting requirements.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has agreed to provide more information on this topic following a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which highlighted current confusion surrounding digital currencies and tax.

The GAO put the report to the IRS and recommended it find relatively low-cost ways to provide information to taxpayers on the basic tax reporting requirements for virtual currencies.

In a response letter to the GAO, Stephen Miller, deputy commissioner for services and enforcement at the IRS, said: “The Service is aware of the potential tax compliance risks posed by off-shore and anonymous electronic payment systems and we are working to address these risks.

“We agree that providing taxpayers with information on the basic tax reporting requirements for transactions involving virtual currencies could further aid our efforts.”

Robert Wood, who practices tax law nationwide with Wood LLP, said: “I believe the concern is that some are intentionally evading taxes, and that a larger number of people just haven’t thought about it.”

He went on to say that, in his experience, this is true with many barter transactions, too.

“Many people seem to be surprised when they learn that there could be tax implications,” added Wood, who is also a writer for Forbes.

He said the big issue centers around how the government will go about identifying and taking action against those avoiding paying tax on digital currency transactions.

“I think the assumption by many is that these are 100 percent anonymous and that no one can track them. But it seems likely that the IRS will start imposing Form 1099-type obligations, if they already do not apply,” Wood concluded.

Meanwhile, in the UK, a spokesperson for Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said the department is “closely monitoring the development” of the digital currency market.

He went on to say, however, that the tax system already deals with transactions in currencies other than sterling.

If a digital currency, such as bitcoin, is used in the payment of someone who is offering goods or services, that person is classed as a trader, so the profits are taxable.

The spokesperson added that traders would need to convert their profits into sterling before entering them into their UK tax returns.

Also, those who are VAT-registered must remember to charge VAT on any goods and services they supply within the UK.

Both the UK and the US governments are keen to get the word out there that they are aware alternatives to the state currency are being used and are on the rise. The question is, when will tax regulations be altered to give specific mention to digital currency?

Another Subway Sandwich Shop Is Now Accepting Payment By Bitcoin

The shop, in Allentown, Pennslyvania in the US, is the second bitcoin-accepting Subway to come to light after an outlet in Moscow was found to be offering a 10% discount to bitcoiners.

Hints that the shop accepted bitcoin first emerged in a photo of a shop window bitcoin advert for the shop on 8th November.

Sceptical Redditors questioned whether the photo was legit: “Anyone could have taped the sign to the window,” wrote one.

Two days later, on 10th November, video proof was posted by redditor xzclusiv3, showing a purchase being made with bitcoin at the store.

The purchase wasn’t entirely seamless, with commenters on the video noting that the video begins in the daytime and ends after dark, suggesting that the purchase took longer than your average credit card payment.

“The guy [at the register] wasn’t the owner and never did this before. That and we didn’t know what exchange to base the price off of [sic],” wrote xclusive3, explaining the difficulties with the payment.

Few have so far taken up the opportunity to pay with bitcoin at the Subway in question. The bitcoin address in the shop window advert had received a total of 0.018 BTC, or around $6, at the time of writing. The payment made in the video is therefore likely the first and only so far.

Subway sandwich shops are run as franchises, like many other fast-food businesses, meaning that the decision to accept bitcoin payments will have been made by the local owner, rather than the Subway corporation itself.

Photos of a bitcoin-accepting Subway in Moscow surfaced online as early as August, suggesting the Allentown franchise is not the first Subway to accept the digital currency.

As more and more business owners become aware of digital currency, corporations that run a franchise model may have eventually have to address the question of whether to embrace bitcoin payments.

Until then, Allentown and Moscow are two unlikely bitcoin sister cities.

Hollywood Studio Sees Cost-Saving Benefits of Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s sordid stories may soon be coming to the silver screen, but if one savvy media company has its way, the currency will be taking a starring role behind the scenes as well.

Film and TV production and post-production studio Kaufmann Media Group (KMG) recently announced plans to implement bitcoin acceptance as part of a wider initiative, one that will help it clip costs on upcoming projects such as the Melissa McCarthy comedy vehicle Tammy and the sequel to 2011′s medieval action flick Ironclad.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Jodi Levy, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles- and North Carolina-based coloring, mixing and editing company, discussed how bitcoin is uniquely suited to the world of TV and film, where shoots happen worldwide.

Also, directors, producers, actors and their families travel to destinations without easy access to banks, plus, production staff are consistently burdened by the costs of currency exchange. Levy explained:

“One hundred departments, times three installments, times the price of a wire transfer, sending and receiving – leads to considerable savings. Not to mention other transfers to pay for incidentals, supplies and overages … Productions have so many layers involving fund transfer, exchange of currency, etc, which might be amazingly streamlined by bitcoin.”

Due to bitcoin’s ability to solve these problems, KMG hopes the digital currency will soon become its preferred method of payment.

This may sound like an ambitious plan, but it could be viewed as par for the course for KMG’s founder and owner, Sam Kaufmann, who quickly took to the Hollywood lifestyle in the early ’90s, composing music alongside the legendary Michael Jackson shortly after graduating from Boston’s famed Berklee College of Music.

With a job that requires him to be on the cutting edge – Kaufmann’s worked with Charlie Sheen, William Shatner and Roland Emmerich – and hobbies that include metal collecting, it’s perhaps unsurprising that bitcoin quickly drew Kaufmann’s attention. But what’s unique about Kaufmann is his ability to see the big picture benefits bitcoin can bestow to business, when others at the company were prone to mixed thoughts.

“He understands the potential challenges, however, Sam is confident that bitcoin can prevail as a beneficial option to the USD,” Levy said.

Kaufmann believes that someday, bitcoin will “become as commonplace as writing a check” in Hollywood due to its obvious accounting advantages.

But, for now, KMG is focused on the smaller steps. Levy indicated that its production music library, Vault768.com, will benefit from the ability of paying artists without the hassles of exchange rates and currency fluctuation, and that it hopes to convince more artists to accept bitcoin for payment.

So far, however, KMG can only speculate on the savings bitcoin will bring. As of yet, it says it has not tested bitcoin payments on a specific project.

Winklevoss Twins: Bitcoin Could Hit Market Cap of $400bn

The Winklevoss brothers are incredibly bullish on bitcoin, saying recently that its market cap could reach 100 times higher than it is right now.

The twins, who are major investors in bitcoin after becoming wealthy from an early partnership with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, told CNBC at the Dealbook conference in New York that a $400bn market cap for BTC would be a “small bull case scenario”.

Bitcoin’s market cap is calculated by taking the current price and multiplying it by the number of bitcoins outstanding. With 11,942,775 bitcoins in circulation, according to Blockchain.info, and the current CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) value of $343.10 per BTC, the market cap is right now above $4bn.

By some calculations, bitcoin may be worth more than the money in circulation in some countries, although that doesn’t take into account other economic factors such as GDP.

Also, countries regulate their currencies. With bitcoin, however, there are no guarantees since it is not backed by any state authority. This has made the virtual currency relatively risky, as scams and fraud have been prevalent. Nevertheless, the Winklevoss twins still believe that there will be favorable regulation regarding it.

“I think everyone recognizes the innovation and doesn’t want to stifle it. They just want to make sure there’s healthy regulations so it’s used in a safe and productive manner,” said Cameron Winklevoss.

The Winklevoss twins have a vested interest in bitcoin’s growing popularity, as is obvious by their reported investment of somewhere in the neighborhood of 108,000 BTC, according to Business Insider. That would be worth around $37M at a recent CoinDesk BPI valuation.

But they also want to bring bitcoin to the masses through an exchange-traded fund. The Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust filed for a $20m IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in July. No date for the offering has been set.

The twins believe that even though bitcoin can be used for criminal activity, such as for black marketplaces like Silk Road, there is a lot of very legitimate demand for it as well.

“Prices are double what they were before Silk Road was shut down. So the demand to use bitcoin for illicit activity was clearly almost zero,” said Tyler Winklevoss.

The twins believe that bitcoin has some similar values to gold, an asset that many investors buy because they lack faith in the US dollar.

“Some people definitely view it as Gold 2.0,” Tyler Winklevoss told CNBC.

Bitcoin Exchange BTC China Experiences All-Time Price High

Chinese bitcoin exchange BTC China hit its all-time high at the weekend, trading bitcoin at ¥1,978 each.

The record surpasses the previous Chinese high of ¥1,944 back in April this year, which, although Western media generally quotes the Mt. Gox high of $265, was actually equivalent to approximately $308.

It seems the Chinese are willing to pay premium prices for their bitcoins, as exemplified by this recent breakout, with reports that much of the recent surge in the value of bitcoin can be attributed to the enthusiasm of Chinese traders.

The Thirst of Chinese Traders

BTC China CEO Bobby Lee reports that his company is breaking records on a daily basis, crossing over into 90,000 in trade volume in one day, with their current spot price ¥2,942, 10% higher than the price on Bitstamp and 5% over Mt. Gox, which Lee says demonstrates how the thirst of Chinese traders is leading the market.

“With Bitcoin hard-coded to be limited, it’s like a collectible.”

“This is similar to what happened in April, where we saw trading well above $265 for over 12 hours. This time, it seems to be lasting longer. We hope that, this time, there won’t be such a severe price correction as in April,” he said.

Lee recently told Forbes that BTC China’s recent elimination of trading fees helped to boost interest in bitcoin. “It was a strategic move to increase trading in China and draw people to our site,” he said, and it appears to have worked.

When asked about why people in China are suddenly so interested in bitcoin, he responded: “China has been known as a nation of savers, who are always saving for a rainy day. Bitcoin is a digital asset, like real estate, gold, or stock. It is just one more option now. With Bitcoin hard-coded to be limited, it’s like a collectible.”

Bitcoin For Real Estate

Another factor in the story of bitcoin’s rise to prominence in China is the revelation that real estate is moving into the bitcoin space too, with Finextra reporting that Chinese IT giant Shanda’s real estate development arm is offering its new apartments in exchange for bitcoin as part of a new promotion in Zhangjiang Hi-Tech park in Shanghai.

Some 300 apartments in soon-to-be-built buildings ranging from 42-81sqm were made available to buy at around 800 to 1,000 BTC each, at a fixed exchange rate of ¥1,000 per bitcoin. They all sold out in only a few minutes.

This is an example of how bitcoins can be applied to any industry, but Lee is quick to point out there aren’t many businesses in China that accept bitcoin yet, and it is still largely a vehicle of investment and speculation. He said that, while bitcoin is still legally a grey area in China, “the government and banks are less afraid of grey area businesses than those in the US are”.

“The law has not caught up with technology. I want China to re-evaluate its laws so we can classify bitcoin and the government can regulate it,” Lee concluded.

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