Municipalities who use the e-government suite of tools from E-Gov Link can now accept Bitcoin as payment for numerous city services including permits, utilities, class or event registration, shelter reservations, or even parking tickets. According to E-Gov already 60% of the states have cities that use their technology to offer connection to the public (the website lists 36 cities across 20 states as examples.) If you’re interested, you can read the announcement on their website.
E-Gov Link gives municipalities a content management system to upgrade their web pages, software to track and manage recreation programs (including registration, events, etc.) and a permits client system that allows the tracking of fees, schedules, reviews, inspections, and more. Many of these interactions with the public involve some sort of payment, fee, or exchange of money to help the municipality remain running and that’s where Bitcoin can step in.
“Credit card purchases tend to carry high transaction costs due to the middle-man and due to the high costs of fraudulent online purchases,” said Bill Nadler, president of E-Gov Link. “Fraudulent purchases typically aren’t a major issue for municipal services, and so having a payment option that doesn’t carry that heavy transactional cost is definitely a plus. It’s one more option that progressive municipalities will offer their citizens.”
For Bitcoin this sort of integration could be a huge benefit: it means that several classes of people interested in using bitcoins can use them in lieu of cash or credit cards. And, for business owners who accept Bitcoin, it could also give them the advantage of being able to pay for recurring permits with the currency rather than exchanging it for fiat currency before paying for city services rendered.
Bitcoin popular acceptance is becoming a thing
Right now, the Bitcoin market is in flux as it becomes more popular and gains further traction for Internet retail, services, and such. It’s also possible to exchange in person and there are some vendors who have brick-and-mortar shops who will accept BTC as payment; but largely it’s still a currency that’s traded more often over the wires than in person.
Government process, especially in the US, are an extremely common exchange for citizens. In a community the processes and costs that it takes to keep it running are inescapable; and for people who enjoy using Bitcoin, being able to pay for things such as park permits or even (goodness forfend) parking tickets could provide an everyday backdrop for the cryptocurrency.
While much of the market outside of Bitcoin is wary of the currency due to its fluctuating value; payment processors such as BitPay help to ease that by allowing sellers to make exchanges at the current exchange rate (and skip needing to hold BTC themselves.) Add in something similar to this for governments, enable them to take it as payment, and it will further normalize the use of Bitcoin in everyday transactions.
“We know the Bitcoin community is passionate about using Bitcoin for payments, and will be demanding it of their local governments,” said Nadler. “We’re happy to be here to answer the call, as municipalities scramble to find partners to help them with Bitcoin.”
According to E-Gov Link, their move came after the US Department of the Treasury (FinCEN) issued guidelines mid March on how to use virtual currencies–meaning that Bitcoin was put solidly on the table for municipalities to accept. The guidelines even mention “de-centralized virtual currencies,” a category which cryptocurrency Bitcoin is.
Even in a year when the US government is looking at potential regulation for Bitcoin under anti-money laundering rules, putting it front-and-center as a functional currency to pay for government services will also probably ease regulatory paranoia. The Bitcoin market isn’t insular, it’s not without practical applications, and services like E-Gov Link adding it to their repertoire will only open up more options for people who live in the municipalities who use it.