Richmond Hill, Ont. residents will soon be able to pay property taxes in Bitcoin

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The City of Richmond Hill is negotiating with the digital currency platform Coinberry to provide a payment processing solution for residents and businesses who wish to pay their property taxes in Bitcoin.

On July 10, Richmond Hill city council voted in favour of entering into an agreement with Coinberry, the same company that partnered with the Town of Innisfil a couple months back for a similar purpose.

“Any Richmond Hill resident who wants to pay with cryptocurrency will go through a mediating company, and those people will convert the cryptocurrency into Canadian currency and pay us with Canadian currency,” Carmine Perrelli, Richmond Hill’s deputy mayor and regional and local councillor, told Global News.

“We want to give our citizens and our residents every opportunity to pay with whatever currency they have.”

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According to Perrelli, the demand for the service by residents wasn’t overwhelming, but there were some people that were curious about it.

“The underlying considerations for the City of Richmond Hill is, was there any risk to us and was there any cost to us?” Perrelli said. “From our perspective, there’s no risk, there’s no cost, and all we’re doing is providing an extra level of service.”

While the cryptocurrency market may fluctuate, Perrelli said that isn’t Richmond Hill’s concern.

“Whatever the currency is, we’re not concerned about how it fluctuates. That’s a negotiation that’s between the taxpayer and the mediator in between.”

Meanwhile, in Innisfil, local mayor Lynn Dollin said there’s already been a couple of people who have paid their property taxes in Bitcoin so far.

“I’m thinking two [people],” Dollin told Global News. “That’s what we anticipated. Quite frankly, I was surprised we had any, but it’s about being future ready, and it’s about just providing that other option.”

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According to Dollin, when a resident pays for property taxes with Bitcoin, it’s transferred through Coinberry into Canadian currency and put into the Town of Innisfil’s bank accounts.

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“The process mirrors the way we accept credit cards, so it’s very convenient,” Dollin said. “The town doesn’t actually hold any Bitcoin.”

Andreas Park is an associate professor of finance at the University of Toronto. He said the government should accept a currency that is equivalent to the Canadian dollar, as opposed to a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

“It could be a cryptocurrency, but it would be…a stable coin,” Park said. “A stable coin means essentially it is something which is the same thing as the Canadian dollar, except that it lives on the blockchain.”

According to Dollin, it takes a little less than an hour for the cryptocurrency payment to transfer into Canadian currency.

“If there’s fluctuation within that time period, the onus would be on the payer,” Dollin said. “If it went up in that hour, then we’d show a credit. If it went down in that hour, then they’d owe the difference.”

But Park said he still doesn’t think municipalities should be participating in this type of business.

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“Why can’t the people who have the Bitcoin, why can’t they convert it into Canadian currency and then send them the Canadian currency?” Park said. “Why are we spending resources even thinking about this?”

Richmond Hill municipal staff will report back on the feasibility of implementing Coinberry’s technology for additional payments of other city fees and charges by Sept. 30.

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— With files from Hannah Jackson

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