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City of Zermatt Switzerland Now Accepts Tax Payments in Bitcoin


The municipality of Zermatt, Switzerland — home to the iconic Matterhorn — is now the second location in Switzerland where taxpayers are officially allowed to pay their taxes in Bitcoin (BTC).

In order to unlock the new tax payment option, the authorities of the Zermatt have partnered with Switzerland’s major crypto financial services company Bitcoin Suisse.

Bitcoin Suisse to convert Bitcoin into Swiss francs 

According to an announcement by Bitcoin Suisse, Zermatt started accepting Bitcoin as a means of payment for local taxes and transactions on Jan. 28, 2020.

By partnering with Bitcoin Suisse, the authorities of Zermatt are now able to convert taxpayers’ Bitcoin into Swiss francs through Bitcoin Suisse which then transfers the amount in fiat currency to the municipality’s bank account.

Taxpayers are able to pay online or via Bitcoin Suisse’s point-of-sale device

Specifically, local taxpayers will be able to pay their taxes in Bitcoin via a point-of-sale tool installed in the Zermatt town hall or an online payment portal. However, in order to pay taxes with Bitcoin online, the taxpayers will have to apply directly to the Zermatt Tax Office for a crypto payment solution, the announcement notes.

Romy Biner-Hauser, the mayor of Zermatt, outlined that the new tax payment option aims to meet increased demand for Bitcoin-based tax payments:

“An innovative, pioneering spirit is one of the trademarks of Zermatt, which is why we are happy to support residents in providing them with the solutions they require.”

The city of Zug became the first in Switzerland to accept Bitcoin payments in 2016, Bitcoin Suisse said. As reported by Cointelegraph, the capital of Switzerland’s “Crypto Valley” began accepting Bitcoin payments for certain city services such as public utilities in May 2016. The payment was reportedly capped at 200 francs worth of Bitcoin.

While Switzerland continues to expand its crypto-financial services industry in terms of Bitcoin-powered tax payments, some global authorities have recently deemed such an option too risky due to Bitcoin’s high volatility. 

On Jan. 8, lawmakers in the United States’ New Hampshire state legislature retracted a bill that would have allowed state agencies to accept crypto as payment for taxes. According to lawmakers the initiative was “inexpedient to legislate” as Bitcoin’s price is not stable.





Cointelegraph News

Booking.com-Partnered Travala Now Accepts Tether’s Controversial USDT


Crypto-friendly hotel booking giant Travala now accepts payment from a controversial cryptocurrency leader.   

On Jan. 10, Travala announced that Tether (USDT) is now a valid form of payment at its two million linked properties. Travala CEO Matt Luczynski said:

“Part of our mission is to provide our users with a wide choice of the most well known and used cryptocurrencies so it made perfect sense for us to integrate USDT as a payment option on Travala.com.”

In addition to Tether, Travala also accepts payments of Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin, Binance Coin, Bitcoin Cash, Stellar, and Cardano, as well as its own coin, AVA. 

Tether’s position in the crypto market

Tether entered the crypto market in 2017. The stablecoin promised to avoid price fluctuations with its one-to-one ratio with fiat currency. Merchants showed eagerness for the Hong Kong-based coin. 

“Merchants used to accept Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and convert it into Tether in order to hedge against the volatility,” said Sean Mackay, operations lead at PaymentsSource, a financial services resource. “Now we are seeing the payments just being done directly in Tether.”

Stablecoin faces legal woes

Last April, New York Attorney General Letitia James charged Tether’s parent company, Tether Limited, of colluding with parent company, iFinex, and using Tether’s reserve funds to cover the loss of more than $850 million in client and corporate funds from crypto exchange Bitfinex, thus undermining USDT’s claims to stability based on USD reserves. 

Despite iFinex’s legal difficulties, and despite having the fifth-highest market capitalization, Tether continues to see the highest daily and monthly trading volume. As of writing, Tether boasts a 24-hour trading volume of nearly $26.5 billion — exceeding Bitcoin’s $22.5 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.





Source Cointelegraph

Card Accepts Crypto Top-Ups, Can Be Used in ATMs and Stores Worldwide


A payment platform is offering a new prepaid card that can be used at ATMs, stores and websites worldwide — and topped up via bank transfers or cryptocurrency.

Embily is the brainchild of Singaporean company Blockchain International Group. Co-branded with Mastercard and UnionPay, card owners can top up using a plethora of digital currencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin. Crypto is automatically converted into cash, giving the user freedom to make withdrawals at cash machines and make purchases at any point of sale terminal. The company adds it is focused on supplying business-to-business solutions to customers worldwide.

The team says extensive tests have been performed to ensure that its infrastructure is working correctly. One recent experiment saw 1 BTC (worth about $8,500 at the time of writing) loaded onto the card. Footage posted on YouTube appeared to show that the funds had successfully arrived and were available to spend in Singapore dollars. Other videos have shown the card working successfully in fast-food restaurants, and being used to purchase mobile phone data online.

Why Embily?

Embily’s founder, Alexander Bychkov, has said that one of his main motivations is ensuring that digital currencies such as Bitcoin can be used easily in everyday life. Some payment processing providers do allow merchants to accept crypto at the checkout, but this can be inconvenient for consumers who have to do plenty of research to track down these places. By offering instantaneous conversions and integrating into existing payment infrastructure, Bychkov hopes to remove this friction.

The company also argues that far fewer people are using Bitcoin to buy goods and services than most crypto enthusiasts believe. Despite the fact that there are more than 7.7 billion people living on Earth according to the most current estimates, a recent study by the analytics firm Chainalysis found that just 1.3% of transactions came from merchants between January and April 2019.

Embily hopes to help build these circulation figures higher — emboldening crypto enthusiasts to buy dinner, pay for their parking and purchase in-game extras with ease. Its infrastructure is being offered on a white-label basis, meaning that the underlying technology can be used by crypto businesses that want to expand their reach and make life more convenient for their user base. Wallets and exchanges are listed among the types of platforms who could benefit.

Over time, this could help cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin make the transition from being regarded as a store of value to a means of exchange. It could also help demystify coins and tokens in the eyes of the public, who often regard digital currencies as complicated and high-risk. If the process of topping up and spending crypto is as simple as making a deposit in a bank, it could remove a barrier to entry that has been holding millions of people back — and even help regulators, including those who believe that BTC and ETH aren’t real currencies, begin to appreciate their value and place in society.

Available for everyone, worldwide

Embily began life in Dubai back in June 2017, and another office in Bangkok was opened three months later. From late 2018 the company open its headquarters in Singapore and now operates there. The team includes finance professionals, experienced digital marketers and veteran developers. With staff from around the world and a diverse range of backgrounds, the company says it is international in outlook and determined to give clients the best service possible.

Bychkov has recently shared his insights into Embily at a number of conferences, including Crypto Expo Singapore back in October and BlockShow Asia in November.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.





Source Cointelegraph

Tor Project Now Accepts Bitcoin Over Lightning Network


The Tor Project, the nonprofit organization behind the anonymous network Tor, announced that it now accepts Bitcoin (BTC) donations via the Lightning Network.

The organization announced on Nov. 19 that it will accept Lightning Network donations as part of Bitcoin Tuesday, a fundraising initiative led by the crypto-for-charity organization The Giving Block.

Tor recommended the BottlePay wallet for donations, which allows users to search for The Tor Project inside it and send crypto without copying and pasting addresses.

The Lightning Network is a layer-2 payment protocol for the Bitcoin network that aims to expedite payments and address the network’s scalability problem. 

Fiat currencies also supported

Alternatively, the service also allows public donations through a tweet. The wallet also enables its users to donate Bitcoin directly, or automatically convert United States dollars, euros, pound sterlings, Australian dollars, Brazilian reals, Canadian dollars, Swiss francs and 15 more fiat currencies.

The development of the Tor network is mostly financed by U.S. government agencies after its parent technology, onion routing, was first funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research in 1995. 

Despite financial support from official organizations, the technology has been widely applied on the dark web for illicit sites and services like the Silk Road.

On the other hand, the network is also used by political dissidents living under oppressive regimes and by whistleblowers looking for a way to anonymously expose official wrongdoing to WikiLeaks and similar services.

Since the Tor network is used as a way to ensure privacy both in communications and transactions by the use of cryptocurrency — often by people who rely on its efficacy for their safety — its users are frequently targeted by hackers. 

As Cointelegraph reported in mid-October, major antivirus software supplier ESET discovered a trojanized Tor Browser designed to steal Bitcoin from buyers in the darknet.





Cointelegraph News

UAE Accepts Crypto Regulation, Blockchain Projects Stand to Benefit


The Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) in the United Arab Emirates has drafted a resolution on regulating crypto assets, providing greater clarity for crypto-related projects in the Middle East nation.

With the focus usually on China, Japan or the United States, the Middle East is an area that doesn’t often get the attention it deserves when it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. However, barring a few highly restrictive countries, such as Iraq and Kuwait, the region generally exhibits a very progressive and supportive stance when it comes to the blockchain industry.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Sukhi Jutla, a blockchain author as well as a Financial Times and Google Top 100 European Digital Champion, commented that by drafting this resolution, the UAE is sending a positive sign to the world, adding that:

“They are signalling that they are open to exploring this area and by creating guidelines they are giving more reassurance, confidence and stability to businesses owners who may want to enter this field.”

This move by the UAE could potentially lead to other nations moving in a similar direction, which would help remove a lot of the obstacles that the industry currently faces. She went on, saying:

“The UAE has been smart enough to understand that this innovation will grow in years to come and they don’t want to miss it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the UAE becomes the leading nation in this space just as they did with the oil and property space.”

Related: From Qatar to Palestine: How Cryptocurrencies Are Regulated in the Middle East

While countries like Turkey, Iran and Israel are in the process of investigating the advantages of blockchain technology, the UAE, along with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, is leading the charge when it comes to positive crypto and blockchain legislation. The UAE, in particular, already hosts several blockchain initiatives that stand to benefit significantly from the new regulations. 

The Digital Silk Road

As reported at the start of October, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce announced a partnership with one of the UAE’s largest state-owned banks, Emirates NBD. The agreement aims to help drive progress of the Dubai 10X initiative, which hopes to digitize the trade process in what has become known as the “Digital Silk Road.” Developed in collaboration with Dubai Customs and the cargo handling service DP World-UAE, the project is scheduled to go live in 2020.

The Digital Silk Road is not the first blockchain-based trade finance project to be developed in the UAE. In April 2019, local blockchain startup Perlin partnered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to form the ICC Blockchain/DLT Alliance. The Paris-based ICC is now the world’s largest business organization, boasting 45 million members. The partnership with Perlin reportedly represents the single largest exposure of blockchain technology to global business, reaching companies in 130 countries around the world. The Dubai Chamber of Commerce officially joined the project in June this year.

The Bank Trust Network

The Dubai telecommunications service provider Du has partnered with Avanza Innovations to develop the country’s first financial document exchange platform based on blockchain technology. The platform is built on Du’s proprietary “Blockchain Platform as a Service,” a shared environment that was created last year to host blockchain-based proof-of-concepts put forward by companies hoping to adopt the technology.

The document exchange platform, dubbed the “Bank Trust Network,” will serve as a means for banks and other financial institutions to safely and securely share digital paperwork. Historically, it’s been challenging to share sensitive financial information over telecommunications networks due to the high potential for fraud or interception. 

The nature of a blockchain-based system provides a network that is intrinsically resistant to corruption, theft or alteration. Going paperless also helps Dubai to stick to its environmental commitments and sustainability goals.

The first customer to join the Bank Trust Network was the independent investment and financial services firm Finance House. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi and with offices in Dubai, the company is recognized as one of the first independent financial firms to be established in the United Arab Emirates.

National Bank of Fujairah joins Marco Polo

In September 2019, Dubai’s National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) joined the international blockchain-based trade finance network Marco Polo. Launched in 2017, the network brings together some of the leading financial institutions and technology giants in the world, including Mastercard, Natwest, Microsoft, Oracle and Bank of America.

Created as a collaborative effort between blockchain development firm R3 and open finance platform TradeIX, the Marco Polo network has proven to be an impressively fast-growing trade and capital finance network. Developed on the popular and highly successful R3 Corda enterprise blockchain technology, the network is focused mainly toward large corporate clients but can support small- and medium-sized businesses too. The central part of its application software, the Marco Polo Platform, is built and licensed through TradeIX’s open framework, making it more easily accessible and customizable for clients.

NBF’s head of global transactions services, Subramanian Krishnamurthy, noted how the partnership complements the bank’s desire to explore emerging technologies such as blockchain:

“We are thrilled to join the Marco Polo Network and support the collaborative effort to create and advance these new technologies in the trade finance ecosystem. As a dedicated financial partner, we will continue to leverage forward-thinking platforms that respond to our clients’ needs, enhance their customer experience and add value to their businesses.”

The platform is a powerhouse of distributed technology for both trade and supply chain finance, offering products to support receivable discounting, factoring and payment commitment. The open model means any member can develop and improve upon the system, with the benefits of distributed ledger technology creating a real-time flow of data connectivity that reduces typical failure points.

As a member of the Marco Polo network, the National Bank of Fujairah has access to the Universal Trade Network, an international initiative created by Marco Polo with an aim to develop blockchain trade finance standards. The network hopes to improve interoperability between global blockchain networks from around the world.

Etisalat and First Abu Dhabi Bank

In July 2019, the Abu Dhabi-based telecommunications giant Etisalat Digital partnered with First Abu Dhabi Bank and Avanza Innovations to develop a blockchain-based trade finance platform called UAE Trade Connect. Developers hope to leverage the immutability of blockchain technology to fight invoice fraud and eliminate the problem of double financing. 

The Middle East and North Africa region reportedly has the second-highest rejection rate for trade finance applications. While still in its early development stages, the UAE Trade Connect platform hopes to eventually develop solutions to these issues with the additional integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

So far, the project has managed to sign up several major Middle Eastern banks, including Emirates NBD, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Mashreq, Rakbank and Commercial Bank International.

Digital marketplace for secondary trade market

Trade Assets is a Dubai-based blockchain marketplace launched in February 2019 as part of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, a “free zone” company initiative. The DMCC was formulated in 2002 by the government of Dubai to provide financial infrastructure and stimulate interest in the global commodities trade.

Since its inception, the Trade Assets platform has been adopted by RAK Bank in Dubai, Yes Bank in India, Banque Misr in Egypt and 22 Bangladeshi banks including Mercantile Bank, Dutch Bangla, Prime Bank and Dhaka Bank.

Related: Middle East Blockchain Development Primed to Lead the Global Industry

The marketplace aims to provide a platform through which banks can capitalize on the $1 trillion secondary trade market that exists due to the limited amount of trade finance banks are willing to carry on their books, as less-desirable portfolios are often sold to make space for newer clients. While this can be a profitable exercise for both sellers and buyers, it is also a disorganized and time-consuming process.

The Trade Assets platform aims to reform the slow and antiquated system that currently supports the secondary trade market with a blockchain-based digital marketplace. The solution offers a fast, highly secure and transparent system that is accessible to all and easy to integrate into any existing framework.

Co-founder and chief marketing officer Sumit Roy, an ex-Deutsche Bank exec, is optimistic about the company’s future. He believes it has a good chance of attracting a wealth of initial clients and will achieve recovery of investment by the end of its third year of operation.

According to a press release on the launch, he said: “Trade Assets will offer exceptional economies of scale and ROI and will acquire over 100 clients in 2 years, aiming to reach $1 billion in transaction volumes.” 

The Silsal shipping and logistics blockchain

Abu Dhabi Ports subsidiary Maqta Gateway launched its Silsal blockchain project in October 2018 with the intention to provide greater security, transparency and efficiency. The project was tested in collaboration with major shipping and logistics company Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to evaluate its capabilities. 

The Belgian Port of Antwerp was one of the first international ports to partner with Maqta Gateway and MSC to test the Silsal blockchain.

With the creation of the project, Maqta Gateway envisioned a system that can support the seamless exchange of shipping documentation between multiple international ports securely and autonomously. In addition to documentation exchange, the Silsal blockchain gives port authorities the ability to record transaction details on a digital ledger that is transparent and accessible across the trade industry.

Just a tip of an iceberg

While the above represents a large section of the UAE’s blockchain enterprises, it is in no way a comprehensive list. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, UAE-based blockchain startups raised $210 million, making the country the largest beneficiary of blockchain investment in the world. 

Top-10 countries by crypto token sales amount raised

Now, with favorable crypto legislation, are we are likely to see the UAE emerge as a leading blockchain nation in 2020? Miles Paschini, founder and director of crypto investment app B21, commented to Cointelegraph that:

“Clear regulation will enable this jurisdiction to be in a good position to become a regional leader. With this said, the devil is in the details, regulations can’t stifle innovation. This will be a delicate balance of allowing innovation to occur while protecting consumer and sovereign interests.”





Source Cointelegraph

UK Real Estate Firm Accepts Bitcoin for Sale of 150-Year-Old Church


A 150-year-old English church is being sold for $1.5 million with the vendor accepting payment in Bitcoin (BTC).

Vendor is willing to receive payment in Bitcoin

According to a listing on Rightmove, a major British online real estate portal and property website, a vendor put an 18th-century church converted into a seven-bedroom character property up for sale and is willing to accept Bitcoin as payment.

While the property unit is priced at 1.2 million British pounds ($1.5 million), the final price in Bitcoin is to be agreed and confirmed with the vendor and will depend on the market price of Bitcoin at the time of sale, the listing notes. At press time, the sale price is worth 182.34 Bitcoins.

Built in 1871, the converted residential property is the former St. Laurence’s Church in County Durham. 

Earlier this year, Cointelegraph reported that major Bitcoin-oriented real estate project Aston Plaza was pausing its operations, while previous reports claimed that the construction of the $325 million venture was stopped in January 2018. According to the Aston Plaza website, the venture still offers studios as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments that can be bought with Bitcoin.

U.K. and payments in crypto

The U.K. has been friendly to crypto-powered payments, according to recent reports. Last week, major local crypto wallet and debit card service firm Cryptopay announced the launch of transfers with the British pound through the Faster Payments Scheme, which purportedly eliminated euro conversion charges.

In April 2019, the U.K.’s largest travel management company, Corporate Traveller, announced that it started accepting Bitcoin for payments, noting that the firm is not concerned with Bitcoin’s price volatility, as received crypto is converted directly into British pounds.





Cointelegraph News

27-Year-Old Pelosi Challenger Accepts Cryptocurrency Campaign Donations


A candidate for the United States House of Representatives in 2020 is accepting cryptocurrency donations to run against Representative and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Supporting economic freedom with crypto

Agatha Bacelar, a Stanford engineer and designer who served with Emerson Collective and Democracy Earth argues that the existing political establishment wants to hold back a future “where economic freedom is afforded to all,” according to the campaign’s website.

The challenger is accepting donations in five cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC) and USD Coin (USDC) through Coinbase, one of the most popular U.S.-based crypto exchanges and wallet services.

Bacelar aims to gain the nomination for the Democratic candidate in California’s 12th Congressional district in the primary election on March 3, 2020. So far, her campaign has raised $5,000 out of a $1 million target. Bacelar claims that the $1 million goal is equal to the value of Pelosi’s stock in Facebook. 

The engineer’s campaign will face significant challenges, as Rep. Pelosi has represented San Francisco in Congress for 31 years. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi wields significant influence over the American political process and has recently defended an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump.

Picture

The crypto industry has been dimming in the U.S.

Bacelar criticized the level of tech awareness in the House, arguing that only 3% of representatives have some background in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Bacelar, a 27-year-old Brazilian immigrant and San Franciscan, said that the crypto industry in the U.S. has been dimming recently, stating that federal intervention has pushed innovators out of San Francisco, which is the country’s de facto headquarters for the crypto industry. She wrote:

“Blockchain startups no longer incorporate in the U.S., while regulatory inaction and policies favoring big tech companies have allowed monopolies to block out competition that the next web would bring.”

Crypto in politics

Cryptocurrencies have increasingly made their way into various aspects of the political process in the United States. Candidates for various levels of political office in the country have accepted digital assets to fund their campaigns.

The crypto industry has also formed mechanisms for representation in Washington D.C. In late August, BitPAC, the first-ever Bitcoin-based political action committee announced that it will expand its candidate supporting program with a utility token dubbed Politicoin.





Cointelegraph News