Bitcoin in South Florida: From Shady Cash Deals to Bitcoin Accounting Firms; Conference This Weekend
In Miami, Latin House Grill accepts bitcoin, as does Planet Linux Caffe in Coral Gables. Vanity Cosmetic Surgery in Hialeah is getting a ton of buzz -- it will sell fake boobs for bitcoins! Barker Animation at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale sells artwork in exchange for bitcoin, and you can buy flowers in bitcoin at Wellington Florist. Miami Beach-based Advantaged Yacht claims to be working on the first boat ever bought with bitcoin right now. A Southwest Florida-based app called CoinScout helps users locate bitcoin-friendly retailers.
"Most of the transactions that I'm aware of are either speculators or people who are using bitcoin to send money to family in Latin America," Evans says. The currency is growing especially in Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil.
His wife, Angelina, has started a business, Bitcountant, that focuses on bitcoin accounting and compliance, "because there's a lot of regulation with bitcoin," Evans says. So far, her clientele is mostly from California and Nevada.
"If I pay you with bitcoin, I have to pay taxes. We have to look at tax obligations, and most people are unaware of 'the rules of barter,'" he explained.
Anyone looking to buy bitcoin need not meet clandestinely in coffee shops, Evans says; they can go to an online outlet like CoinBase, a San Francisco-based seller. "Bitcoin sells for $820 at the moment for a whole unit," Evans says.
Bitcoin has gained more traction than other prior attempts to create electronic currencies because, Evans explains, there is "basically a huge spreadsheet out there that's transparent called the blockchain [online at blockchain.info]. Everybody has access to every transaction that happens. This is what keeps it honest, and this is what keeps its power: its transparency, and it is secured with military-grade encryption."
Also, because there is a finite number of bitcoin, its value goes up as demand puts pressure on supply. "It's scarce because there are only so many," Evans says. Ever since the U.S. went off the gold standard, the U.S. Treasury manages the number of dollars in circulation by printing more money or taking it out of circulation. But with bitcoins, "there's a fixed quantity. Going back three years or so, the early adopters sat around and decided what it was worth -- and they bought and sold it, and the market discovered its price. The price is based on what one is willing to accept," Evans explains.
"The best way to think of this metaphorically -- 'What is this?' -- is to imagine I had a box full of poker chips, and you and I were convinced that you cannot counterfeit the poker chips, and it turns out I can spend these things from my smartphone from anywhere around the world. And the transaction record is available for everybody to see, so I can't cook the books," he says. "And this industry is creating new jobs."
He's not surprised that sunglass-clad men are meeting up to deal bitcoin because "where there's money, there are colorful characters." Even when transactions are sold under the table, he explains, when the electronic transfer occurs, the blockchain notes that coin is being moved from one virtual wallet to another, even if the users' real names are anonymous. The government has ways to track bitcoin users, he says -- that's how Silk Road got busted.
"It's not as secretive as people think."
-- Andrea Richard