Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) is introducing a bill that would allow New York City to accept the digital currency Bitcoin as payment for fines and fees, including parking tickets and court fees.

Levine expressed several justifications for the bill, citing its popularity among young, tech-savvy individuals. “Today you can buy almost anything with Bitcoin . . . For young, internet-savvy people, it’s become the currency of choice.” Levine stated that this bill would put New York City on the “cutting edge” of technology, hopefully attracting new tech jobs and companies.

But it’s not all about the cool factor. Levine also understands that accepting Bitcoin could save the Department of Finance millions of dollars in processing fees. Such fees are higher for credit cards than for Bitcoin.

Levine is not naive concerning Bitcoin’s volatility as currency. The value of a single Bitcoin can change drastically in a short period of time. According to Investopedia, “Bitcoin is capable of volatility in the form of 10x changes in price versus the U.S. dollar, in a relatively short period of time.” So why would New York City accept $100 in Bitcoins when it might be worth nothing in a matter of days? Because, as Gizmodo explains, NYC wouldn’t actually hold on to stores of Bitcoins. The proposed bill would actually allow the city to “enter into agreements” with financing agencies that accept Bitcoin. In other words, you pay your fine with Bitcoin, and NYC turns around and cashes in with these agencies, for a fee of course. These fees are passed on, as the bill allows NYC to collect “reasonable and uniform fees” for accepting Bitcoin.

If the bill passes, it would make New York City the first major municipality to accept Bitcoin, though officials in Pittsburgh and New Hampshire have tossed the idea around, according to The Hill. Levine hopes NYC will begin accepting Bitcoins within the year.

Chris Martucci

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One Response to New York City Councilman Mark Levine Proposes Accepting Bitcoin for Fines and Fees

  1. Anthony Jackson says:

    Accepting Bitcoin for fines is an interesting idea, and I understand that exchanging them immediately limits the city’s risk of losing value. However, government is rarely a nimble entity, and I don’t understand how they could determine the amount of Bitcoin necessary to cover any given fine, which has a set dollar value.

    If that issue can be handled in a clear, fair and equitable way, I think this proposal has legs, and serves as in interesting expansion of the legitimacy of Bitcoin.