So Far, Only Two Businesses in Ohio Have Used Bitcoin to Pay Taxes

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According to a recent statement made by Ohio’s state treasurer, so far, only two businesses have filed their taxes in crypto using the state’s crypto tax payment scheme.

Speaking at a forum organized by the Ohio State Associated Press on February 19, 2019,Robert Sprague fielded questions about the department’s experiences with the newly launched bitcoin payment option for taxes, which was set up by his predecessor Josh Mandel in December 2018. Sprague, who assumed his position a little over a month ago, states that the country has received only two tax payments so far on the state’s official crypto payment platform, OhioCrypto.com

In addition, he said, “We’re reviewing how [the program] might be either curtailed or might be expanded, and what our counter-party risk is with that vendor.”

However, a spokesperson declined to offer specific details concerning the exact value the state has received in bitcoin-paid taxes, claiming that such tax-related information is covered by financial confidentiality.

Still, the slow rate of usage won’t deter the state, whose lawmakers are hoping to become a major hub for the blockchain industry.

As stated earlier, the new tax payment system was established by Josh Mandel, who viewed cryptocurrencies as a legitimate form of money.

At the time, Mendel said:

“Our biggest motive here was to give taxpayers more options in paying their taxes,” going further to tell Bloomberg that the state was “proud to do our small part and take this small step to make Ohio the first state in America to enable taxpayers to be able to pay via cryptocurrency.”

According to reports, the filing process for making these payments includes three steps.

The first step is registration. Businesses have to register with the Office of the Ohio Treasurer and set up their accounts on the state’s tax payment platform. From there, they would enter their tax details (including tax period and the payment amount) on the platform, after which time they can pay their taxes with bitcoin from a “compatible” wallet (these include the BRD, Mycelium and the Bitcoin Core client, as well as others “compatible with the Bitcoin Payment Protocol”).

Once made, the payments are processed by BitPay, the Atlanta-based bitcoin payment processing firm. From BitPay, the digital assets are converted into dollars and sent back to the state treasurer’s office as the final step of the process.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Coinbase Snaps Up Blockchain Intelligence Startup Neutrino

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U.S.-based digital asset platform Coinbase has acquired blockchain intelligence startup Neutrino. The company made the news known earlier today, February 19, 2019, but the cost of the acquisition was not disclosed.

The announcement reads:

“Neutrino’s technology is the best we’ve encountered in this space, and it will play an important role in legitimizing crypto, making it safer and more accessible for people all over the world.”

The blockchain startup will analyze data on public blockchains and help prevent theft of funds on Coinbase, investigate ransomware attacks when they come up and identify the culprits using its suite of tools.

Neutrino offers similar services to New York-based Chainalysis, designing and developing tools for monitoring data on the blockchain. Per its website, Neutrino creates custom solutions for “monitoring, analyzing and tracking cryptocurrency flows across multiple blockchains, providing actionable insight on the whole cryptocurrency ecosystem.”

With its analytical capabilities, Neutrino will help Coinbase add new features and tokens to the platform, while ensuring “compliance with local laws and regulations.”

Beyond analytics, Neutrino claims to have some firepower under its sleeves. The startup has a solution specifically developed for law enforcement agencies dubbed the XFlow nSpect, which allows for total tracking of cryptocurrency movements across multiple blockchains. Per details on its website, Neutrino claims the XFlow can be used to track stolen funds, monitoring their flow from one exchange to another, mixers and other services in real time.

Coinbase says Neutrino will not go through any rebranding efforts. Instead it will continue to operate as an independent entity out of Coinbase’s London office. The exchange sees the acquisition as a step in the right direction for creating an “open financial system.” \

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitmain Unveils Its Latest Energy-Efficient Mining Chip for Bitcoin

Bitmain Unveils Its Latest Energy-Efficient Mining Chip for Bitcoin

China-based mining giant Bitmain has announced a new mining rig that uses less power. The hardware mining manufacturer has launched a 7nm application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) processor dubbed the BM1397.

Beyond energy efficiency, the new mining processor promises to achieve faster performance for mining cryptocurrencies that use the SHA256 algorithm for their proof of work (PoW), including Bitcoin and its hard forks.

Like the BM1391 chip that came before it, the BM1397 will be powered by the advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology called the 7nm FinFET process, integrating more than a billion transistors and “optimized for maximum efficiency.”

A statement from Bitmain on its blog reads:

“The new BM1397 chip requires lower power and can offer an energy consumption to computing ratio as low as 30J/TH. This is a 28.6 percent improvement in power efficiency in comparison with Bitmain’s previous 7nm chip, the BM1391.”

Since the market crashed last year, cryptocurrency miners have been shutting down operations across the world as it has become less profitable to mine bitcoin with falling prices and fixed energy costs. Bitmain, which has had operational issues of its own, touts its BM1397 as a solution for miners who want to improve the performance of their mining operations. The new 7nm bitcoin mining processor will feature in Bitmain’s soon-to-be-released Antminer mining rigs — the S1f7 and T17.

Bitmain also unveiled a mining rig for the Equihash algorithm used by privacy-centered crypto Zcash and an Ethereum-focused ASIC miner last year.

At the time, the development of ASIC miners prompted Ethereum’s core developers to agree to implement a new ASIC-blocking algorithm, programmatic proof of work (ProgPoW), which restricts the mining hardware on the network.

Security lead of the Ethereum Foundation, Martin Holst Swende, had noted at the time that implementing the code change would hasten the network’s eventual transition to a proof-of-stake algorithm, where ether is mined by staking coins, not by burning energy.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Report: Crypto Exchanges Saw Trading Volumes Plummet in January

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The crypto winter that started toward the end of last year doesn’t appear to be showing signs of slowing down. Digital assets like bitcoin lost more than 80 percent of their value while the overall crypto market cap shrunk from over $600 billion in January 2018 to less than $138 billion in December 2018.

Now, blockchain and cryptocurrency research firm Diar has released a report that reveals a sizeable drop in crypto trade volumes in January 2019 for popular crypto exchanges Binance, Gemini, OKEx and Coinbase.

Popular Exchanges Affected

The report from Diar notes that the plunge in trading volumes affected most crypto exchanges irrespective of their scale.

Malta-based Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange by 24-hour trading volume, endured one of its worst periods in January 2019, where its popular BTC/USD market saw trading volumes fall by over 40 percent in January compared to December where it traded above $5 billion.

U.S.-based Coinbase, which has been on a downtrend since the beginning of last year for its BTC/USD market, saw trading volumes rally above $2 billion in November. However, while December saw figures recede by a small margin, the trading volumes on the exchange fell even further and sat firmly on the $1 billion mark in January.

It is worth noting that January’s trading volume levels for Coinbase are the lowest that the exchange has recorded since May 2017.

Hong Kong-based OKEx had seen its volumes for the BTC/USD market growing from October all through December before plummeting 30 percent from around $5.5 billion to below $4 billion.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ Gemini exchange also had an underwhelming year with trade volumes falling below $500 million.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao made an effort to calm fears in November, telling CNBC Africa that business was going well despite the crypto winter. According to Zhao, the exchange was trading one-tenth of the volumes it did in January 2018, but it was still way above what it was trading “two or three years ago.”

Despite the low trading volumes registered on popular crypto exchanges, the number of crypto ATMs installed continued on its ascent despite the market crash. Per data from Coin ATM Radar, there were 149 new Bitcoin ATMs installed across the world in January 2019. The U.S. had a whopping 107 new Bitcoin ATMs installed, while Canada and Spain came in second and third.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Chainalysis Raises $30 Million in Series B Funding From Accel Ventures

Chainalysis Raises $30 Million in Series B Funding From Accel Ventures

Blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis has completed a $30 million Series B round led by American VC firm Accel and Benchmark, who led the startup’s Series A funding in April 2018. Accel partner Philippe Botteri will also join the firm’s board of directors.

The fund injection will be used to expand the startup’s operations including its Chainalysis Know-Your-Transaction (KYT) tool which allows more than 100 crypto exchanges and financial institutions to vet their clients.

The analytics firm known for investigating the Mt. Gox case will open a new office in London, its second office in Europe, which will serve as a base devoted to research and development.

Chainalysis provides bitcoin transaction analysis to crypto exchanges, law enforcement agencies and other private clients to help them identify illicit transactions on the blockchain. Per a Diar report, Chainalysis was singled out as the preferred blockchain forensics contractor for the U.S. government, receiving $5.3 million from government agencies.

The New York-based startup was founded in 2014, and it has now raised $47.6 million, suggesting that investors are still investing in crypto businesses despite the slump in prices.

Speaking with Fortune, Chainalysis CEO Michael Gronager said the company’s target audience had seen a gradual shift from what it was a year ago. According to Gronager, the company made the bulk of its money from law enforcement agencies — approximately 90 percent of its revenue — which has fallen to 40 percent. Corporate clients now make up the lion’s share of its revenue streams.

One reason for this is the rise of stablecoins which has continued to prop up an industry that has been hit by the longest bear market in its history. Chainalysis has been benefiting from the fast-rising stablecoin sector, whose adoption grew based on the increasing number of on-chain transactions.

“Born out of the ashes of this was the stablecoin as another way to easily and safely create tokens. This ability to trade U.S. dollars against crypto is very powerful,” Gronager noted in the interview.

According to Gronager, the firm hasn’t turned in a profit, but it has grown three times since its Series A.

While Chainalysis is quite visible in the crypto analysis sector, Elementus is a competitor that is gradually making a name for itself. The analytics firm was pivotal in reporting the actual figures stolen in the Cryptopia hack.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

UnionBank Launches Two-Way Bitcoin ATM in the Philippines

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The UnionBank of the Philippines, one of the leading financial institutions in the country, has launched a two-way bitcoin automated teller machine (ATM), according to a story in local media outlet Philstar.

This is the country’s second crypto ATM that provides users with the ability to sell and purchase digital assets like bitcoin for pesos, the country’s official currency. The country’s first bitcoin machine was installed in Manila by BitCoiniacs in 2015.

The UnionBank has reportedly collaborated with the Filipino Central Bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

UnionBank, the country’s seventh largest bank told Philstar, “In the bank’s continued quest to cater to the evolving needs and tastes of customers, including clients who use virtual currency, the ATM will provide these clients an alternative channel to convert their pesos to virtual currency and vice versa.”

So far, the bank hasn’t mentioned its intention to deploy more ATMs in the future, but it will be monitoring the usage and performance of the ATM, which could impact what it does next.

Bitcoin in the Philippines

In a country where about 77 percent of the population doesn’t have a bank account, crypto bridges the gap and creates inclusion for financial services.

Coins.ph, a leading crypto exchange in the country, celebrated the onboarding of 5 million Filipinos on its platform in May 2018.

Another reason why crypto is so prevalent in the Philippines is remittances, which make up 10 percent of its GDP. The country is the third largest remittance receiving country in the world. For Filipinos overseas, cryptocurrencies offer a cheaper way of sending money to relatives at home.

For a country that is proactive with crypto regulations and was among the first nations to recognize it as an asset class, the deployment of regulated crypto ATMs could foster mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies, build investor confidence and help develop the local cryptocurrency sector.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Abra Users Can Now Buy Stocks and ETFs Using Bitcoin

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“Investing in stocks can be a daunting, complex and decidedly exclusionary activity,” says Bill Barhydt, Abra’s CEO. To that end, his company’s mobile cryptocurrency wallet app has announced a new feature which will allow investors to purchase traditional stocks using bitcoin. The new feature is built into the existing Abra app that enables users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

Crypto investors in the 155 countries where Abra has its presence will be able to invest in traditional stocks, such as Apple or Amazon, as well as in exchange traded funds (ETFs), using both cryptocurrencies and fiat directly from their mobile app.

According to Barhydt, everyone should have access to capital markets, regardless of where they live in the world or the amount of capital they have at their disposal. This is where Bitcoin comes in.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency has shown its capacity to serve as a democratic form of money by creating an open financial system, and he believes his company’s app could change how smaller investors access publicly traded companies and other securities.

“We are building Bitcoin-backed investing products because, for the first time, we can truly democratize access to investment opportunities at global scale. It shouldn’t matter where you live or how much you earn to be able to make investments and participate in capital markets. We’re excited to allow anyone to start investing in global equity products and take control over their savings.”

Cryptocurrency exchanges have been offering features that allow traders to do more than buy and sell crypto of late. Last year, social trading platform eToro launched a mobile trading app that will enable investors to invest in fiat currencies, stocks and cryptocurrencies.

“Abra is different by offering this on a global scale,” Barhydt pointed out, in correspondence with Bitcoin Magazine. He said that the Abra app makes it easy for investors to make fractional investments in stocks, commodities, ETFs and indexes.

“These are not tokenized securities,” he added. “We are not creating an ERC 20 chain. All investments in stocks, ETFs, indexes, etc., are collateralized by bitcoin.”

Crypto Collateralized Contracts

The new feature will leverage Abra’s Crypto Collateralized Contracts (C3s), a model that allows an investor to convert their bitcoin into different investment options, without having to move money from one wallet to another. The C3s act rather like a stablecoin whose value can be pegged with a reliable price feed to the value of bitcoin.

For every security purchased on Abra, the investor enters into an investment contract, a multi-sig smart contract based on P2SH scripts on the Bitcoin blockchain, which automatically determines whether or not an investor has made money based on the price of the asset. For instance, if an investor wants to purchase $200 worth of Amazon shares, he will place $200 worth of bitcoin into a contract and the movement of the stock’s price will determine the addition or subtraction of bitcoin from the contract.

According to Barhydt, Abra takes all the risk here, which it hedges in the open market, the instant a user creates the investment.

Barhydt also touts the broad crypto and fiat offerings on Abra as a unique selling point, as well as its non-custodial nature — so users hold the fate of their funds in their hands.

“Abra does not collect, store, or have access to its users’ funds. So individual users hold their private keys in the Abra app on their smartphone,” Barhydt said.

For investors who register for the early access program, Abra is offering zero trading fees, with a $5 minimum investment.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.

Bitfury Partners With R&D Firm to Launch Crypto Mining Center in Paraguay

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Blockchain firm Bitfury will develop a bitcoin mining center in Paraguay. The new mining operation is in partnership with Seoul-based research and development firm Commons Foundation.

The collaboration is backed by the government of Paraguay, whose goal is to make the South American country a cryptocurrency mining hub.

The new center, which is a part of Commons Foundation’s “Golden Goose” project, will help to facilitate the innovation of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies across Spanish-speaking countries. Bitfury will provide product and technical support for the project.

The facilities used for the implementation of the mining center will sit on about 200,000 square meters of real estate, and it will be powered by two hydroelectric power plants — Itaipu, one of the largest power plants in South America, and the Yacyreta power plant. Paraguay is known for its supply of cheap and available electricity. At one point, the country generated so much hydropower its factories could barely absorb them, forcing the state to sell the surplus units to neighboring countries at below-market rates.

The Golden Goose project is backed by both the government and tax authorities of Paraguay. The mining operations being developed will also benefit from tax relief, an incentive added to encouraging bitcoin mining operations in the country.

The site will also be powered by BlackBox AC, a mobile data center owned by Bitfury. The data center provides an amalgamation of efficient design and low cost, which is expected to provide for more effective and affordable bitcoin mining.

John Mercurio, chief communications officer at Bitfury, told Bitcoin Magazine that Bitfury’s mobile data centers have the capacity needed to operate a bitcoin mining center at scale.

“Bitfury’s BlockBox AC mobile data centers have the capabilities of a full-size bitcoin mining datacenter, making this the ideal solution for mining bitcoin on a large scale with ease. The efficient design and low operating cost of the BlockBox AC datacenter make bitcoin mining more productive and affordable, and allow for the easy expansion of bitcoin datacenter sites.”

The project was also lauded by Sandra Vera, a Paraguay-based attorney who acts as legal counsel to the Commons Foundation. According to Vera, the exploration of emerging digital technologies is a priority of the government of Paraguay, and an alliance with innovative and technologically progressive companies is sure to provide a wide array of economic benefits for the country as well.

The total number of mining centers to be opened under this project will be determined by Commons, as the firm is expected to provide further details as time goes on.

“We are looking forward to our project in Paraguay with the Commons Foundation, and we believe that this site, powered by Bitfury’s innovative hardware, will help decentralize and further secure the Bitcoin Blockchain for its users,” Mercurio added.

This article originally appeared on Bitcoin Magazine.