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US Senator Reports to Jail Pending Verdict in Cryptocurrency Fraud Case

Prosecutors allege Senator Michael Williams lied about the disappearance of crypto mining equipment worth $300,000.

A Georgia state senator has reported to jail over allegedly lying about the theft of cryptocurrency mining equipment worth $300,000, The Guardian reported Dec. 27.

Republican Michael Williams, who originally reported the alleged theft in May, made a false police report and gave a false statement, court documents claim.

Williams had said servers with a value of $300,000, which had been used to mine unnamed cryptocurrencies, had disappeared from his office premises, local daily news outlet Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Dec. 20.

Prosecutors are considering the possibility that the theft never took place, and last month Williams was indicted by grand jury on three counts and subsequently handed himself in to custody.

A full verdict has yet to surface, however, with the accused and his attorney waiting on prosecutors’ evidence.

“Right now, our position is Mr. Williams did not do this,” the attorney, A.J. Richman, said Dec. 26 quoted by another local outlet Gainesville Times. Richman added:

“We’re not really apprised of their evidence yet. They haven’t disclosed that. I’m sure they will soon, but at this point, we don’t know what it is they’re saying other than what the indictment says.”

Williams had previously co-sponsored a cryptocurrency payments bill for the Georgian Senate, while his campaigns were marked by a pronounced anti-immigrant policy featuring a “deportation bus” referring to Mexican immigrants that drew considerable condemnation.

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Germany’s BaFin Visits National Bank of Georgia to Discuss Crypto Regulations

One of the largest financial supervisors in Europe met with the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) and other members of the finance sector to discuss cryptocurrency regulation, according to a post on the NBG’s site May 18.

According to the post, a representative from Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) met with members of the NBG, the international financial institutions (IFI), private sector, commercial banks, brokers, audit, and legal companies to increase awareness of crypto in the country. At the meeting, the participants had a chance to receive detailed information on the crypto industry from the leading financial supervisory authority of Europe.

In December 2017, Georgia’s NBG took a sceptical stance towards cryptocurrencies, urging citizens to be cautious. The bank told the public that cryptocurrencies do not constitute a legal means of payment, any crypto-related activity is not regulated, and that the NBG bears no responsibility for the subject:

“National Bank of Georgia would like to warn citizens on this matter. Cryptocurrencies do not represent means of legal payment in Georgia. Any sort of activity conducted within this sector is not regulated by legislature and therefore is not a sphere of influence of NBG.”

Georgia is ranked second in the world after China in the number of known crypto mining facilities, according to Global Cryptocurrency Benchmarking Study issued by Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance in 2017.

In April 2016, the Georgian government and leading Bitcoin (BTC) mining hardware manufacturer BitFury launched a project to record land titles on blockchain. By April 2017, the parties had managed to register more than 100,000 titles.

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'Lack of Understanding' Derails Georgia's Bitcoin Tax Bill

A proposal to allow residents in the U.S. state of Georgia to pay their taxes in cryptocurrency has stalled – at least for now.

Put forward in February, Senate Bill 464 would, if passed, mandate that the state’s revenue office accept bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. Yet according to Senator Mike Williams, one of the bill’s sponsors, never got a committee hearing before the Georgia Senate adjourned for its recess on March 29.

As a result, he said, the bill will need to be reintroduced during the next legislative session, which starts next January.

Williams attributed the bill’s lack of progress to misconceptions about the technology among lawmakers, telling CoinDesk:

“There was a lack of understanding on what cryptocurrency is, and when I was talking to senators there was that old-school ‘isn’t that what was used to buy drugs?’ [Passing the bill is] going to take educating decision-makers and government regulators on what cryptocurrencies are.”

Williams suggested that holding hearings and other educational events could help lawmakers better understand cryptocurrencies, praising similar events that have taken place at both the state and federal level.

“The more we can talk to legislators and the general public, the more we can educate on the beneficial aspects of blockchain,” he said.

Williams – who is running for governor in Georgia, which holds its vote this November – similarly praised the “cautious” approach being taken by federal regulators, citing recent actions from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in particular.

“We do need regulation in the [initial coin offering] space but we don’t need too much. We don’t want the regulators to come in and clamp down on the innovation, but at the same time we do need to protect the public from the bad apples,” said Williams. “From what I’ve seen so far, I think they’re taking a very cautious approach [and] I think they’re doing well.”

Michael Williams image via Wikimedia Commons

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Cryptocurrency Accepted as Tax Payments – Georgia Next

Following up Arizona, Georgia is the next state in the row to possibly accept digital currencies as a form of state tax-payments, based on a bill that was introduced on Feb 21.

Joshua McKoon and Michael Williams – Republican state senators, introduced the Senate Bill 464 which proposes that:

“the commissioner shall accept as valid payment for taxes and license fees any cryptocurrency, including but not limited to Bitcoin, that uses an electronic peer-to-peer  system.”

The introduced bill specifies that the moment when the payments will come in, the commissioner would be converting the digital currencies to US Dollars within no more than a day – 24 hours.

The move is very similar to that of the Senate of Arizona which did just run a bill which would validate cryptocurrencies to be used as a tax-paying method with 13 votes against, 16 in and on abstaining:

“A taxpayer may pay their income tax liability using a payment gateway such as bitcoin, litecoin or any other cryptocurrency recognized by the department, using electronic peer to peer systems,” the bill says before further adding:

“The department shall convert cryptocurrency payments to United States dollars at the prevailing rate after receipt and shall credit the taxpayer’s account with the converted dollar amount actually received less any fees or costs incurred by the department for conversion.”

If all goes well [meaning that the final round – The House accepts the bill to become law] Arizona will be the first to declare such legislation in the western side of the globe.

Despite the fact that the announcement might sound at first as a positive development, according to Robert Wood – tax law expert, paying taxes the cryptocurrencies might lead the way to paying more of mentioned above, as the increases in cryptos used for tax payments could themselves be subject to capital gains tax and investment income tax.

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Georgia Becomes Latest State to Consider Bitcoin for Tax Payments

Two state senators in Georgia have proposed a bill that would allow citizens to pay their tax obligations in bitcoin, marking the second such legislative effort of its kind to emerge this year.

Public records show that the measure submitted on Feb. 21 by senators Michael Williams and Joshua McKoon would tweak the rules governing the state’s Department of Revenue, letting it accept both bitcoin and other as-yet-to-be-defined cryptocurrencies.

“The commissioner shall accept as valid payment for taxes and license fees any cryptocurrency, including but not limited to bitcoin, that uses an electronic peer-to-peer system,” the bill states.

The proposed law largely tracks with one that is currently moving through the Arizona legislature. That measure, filed in January, has thus far attracted support by lawmakers in the state, setting up the possibility that Arizona could become the first U.S. state to accept bitcoin for tax payments.

Like Arizona’s bill, the one submitted in Georgia also mandates that tax officials convert those payments into U.S. dollars within a day of receiving them.

“The commissioner shall convert payments made in cryptocurrency to United States dollars at the prevailing rate within 24 hours of his or her receipt of such a payment and shall credit the payor’s account with such converted dollar amount,” it explains.

Despite the encouraging signs out of Arizona, there’s no guarantee that the measure in Georgia will succeed given past opposition to such proposals in other states. As CoinDesk previously reported, a New Hampshire lawmaker advanced a bill that would allow cryptocurrency payments, but the state’s House of Representatives ultimately shot it down in a January 2016 vote.

Bitcoin and dollars image via Shutterstock

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