WEST CHESTER TWP. — Even though only two companies have used Ohio's new system to pay taxes with cryptocurrency, new Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague said he would like to continue providing that option.
“I don’t think its an issue with the program. I just think it’s a very, very new program in a very new space that everybody – the private sector and the public sector – are trying to figure out,” he said.
Sprague, who was traveling in southwest Ohio last week, spoke with the Journal-News about the program started last November by his predecessor. The move made Ohio the first state in the country to accept cryptocurrency — albeit through a third-party vendor — for tax bills.
“I think there’s value in us being a leader,” he said.
In Ohio's cryptocurrency payment system, OhioCrypto.com, a company or individual makes a cryptocurrency payment through the state's online portal, and that digital currency is paid to a third-party vendor, Atlanta-based BitPay. The company then pays the Ohio Treasurer's Office the amount owed in U.S. dollars.
Cryptocurrency is a decentralized currency with no control by any government or bank. It is communicated digitally directly between one person or entity to another.
“What I don’t want to see happen (is) to give the public the wrong impression that we’re accepting cryptocurrency because crypto is a currency just like British pounds. We’re not accepting Mexican pesos into the Ohio treasury. You can’t pay your bills that way,” Sprague said.
Ohio was launched OhioCrypto.com in November 2018 by former treasurer Josh Mandel, who told the Wall Street Journal he sees Bitcoin "as a legitimate form of currency." More than one in 10 (13 percent) have used the digital currency to make an e-commerce purchase, according to a 2018 report from cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab.
Mandel told the Wall Street Journal he is “confident that this cryptocurrency initiative will continue” after he leaves office in January. Sprague, who took office in January, isn’t ready to move on from the Mandel program.
“Let’s see where it goes. We’re reviewing some of our risks … so those are under review,” he said. “We’ll continue to look at those.”
As Ohio is taking the lead on allowing businesses to pay taxes through a third-party, U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, has worked on introducing “regulatory clarity” with cryptocurrency.
In September 2018, he and other members of Congress held a round table discussion with industry experts about cryptocurrency. Davidson introduced a regulatory bill last December, and intends to reintroduce that bill in two to three weeks.
Davidson was also one of three original co-sponsors to study bill on the virtual currency market introduced last year, and re-introduced this year, by Congressman Darren Soto, D-Florida.
Soto re-introduced that same bill at the start of the Congress.