Around the world, the potential for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to change business practices has increasingly become more of a reality. Numerous countries have tackled the subject of bitcoin in the last few months, including Spain and France.
Recently, the French Senate published a report calling for at least some level of regulation while also warning that any continued focus on bitcoin risks could detract from the currency's benefits, including security and low transaction fees. The report reflects the changes in attitudes among the French regarding digital currencies and indicates that bitcoin could finally be on its way to becoming mainstream in France.
Currently, France ranks fourth in the world in terms of the number of bitcoin nodes. While the number of brick-and-mortar shops that accept bitcoin remain low throughout France, bitcoin meetups are held frequently in such cities as Toulouse, Bordeaux and Lille. Numerous miner communities are located throughout France. The first physical Bitcoin Center also opened in France just a few months ago. La Maison du Bitcoin, which translates as the House of Bitcoin, has helped to solidify the presence of bitcoin initiatives in the country. 1
While France is certainly making strides in advancing bitcoin, it is not the only country in Europe to do so. Spain, which is home to the fourth largest economy in Europe, is also taking steps to make bitcoin more widely accepted. The Spanish national treasury has elected to define the cryptocurrency as a convertible virtual currency, meaning that it can be exchange between users as well as converted into both fiat and crypto currencies. The treasury has also provided bitcoin with a VAT exemption. While the treasury has come just short of endorsing the virtual currency as money, it has treated bitcoin as money in virtually all other manners.
Spain has also recently tackled the subject of online bitcoin gambling, by issuing a ruling that bitcoin casino operators in Spain are required to obtain a license as an online casino. Spanish regulators further indicated that bitcoin casinos should be treated as any other type of real-money site. In practical terms, the Spanish government has identified the virtual currency as an electronic payment system, following an inquiry from Coinffeine, a bitcoin startup based in Spain.
As bitcoin continues to make headway in Spain, two major banks have also made overtures toward accepting bitcoin. Among them is Bankinter, which has indicated plans to invest in Coinffeine. The primary goal of Coinffeine is to develop a peer-to-peer FIAT-bitcoin exchange platform. Meanwhile, bitcoin is becoming increasingly available to the public at largely, due to the assistance of Iberobit, a Spanish based company. As part of that initiative, an ATM machines has been positioned at a bar-restaurant in Alcala de Henares, near Madrid. It is hoped that by placing the terminal in a university town, the extensive community of young and open-minded residents living nearby will help to advance the virtual currency.
As Spain adopts a positive approach to bitcoin, the country joins Finland, the UK, and Poland in a pro-bitcoin opinion. This leaves Germany, while the largest economy in Europe, appearing somewhat isolated as the country continues to push toward adding a tax to bitcoin transactions. The current tax proposal in Germany could significantly impact the use of the digital currency, as it would result in retailers who accept bitcoin being taxed not once but twice. Not only would merchants be taxes on the sale of goods, but they would also be taxed if they attempt to sell the bitcoin that they accept as payment for purchases. As countries such as France and Spain move toward increasingly accepting views of bitcoin, such taxation proposals leave Germany looking rather archaic.
1) Coindesk. Sink or Swim: Bitcoin's Progress in France