Italian Parliament member Sergio Boccadutri took to Twitter yesterday to reveal an amendment to a proposed law that would define bitcoin and initiate a process to recognise and regulate the cryptocurrency.
The amendment, an addendum to a larger budget proposal called Destination Italy, would seek to trace bitcoin transactions exceeding €1,000 by requiring the identification of the sender in such exchanges. The move would also bring bitcoin transactions in compliance with the nation’s anti-money laundering laws, and calls for the Bank of Italy to propose a method of enacting the measure within six months, sources say.
While this may sound like an excessive restriction, such a change could be seen as boon for bitcoin, as it would put the currency on the same legal footing as cash in Italy. Italy has enacted a law that places a €1,000 ceiling on cash payments. The decision was part of effort to curb the €120bn in estimated unfiled tax returns the nation was losing annually, and came amid outcry over the country’s debt.
Boccadutri’s proposal precedes a forthcoming meeting to take place in Italy’s House of Representatives on 30th January called “Objective ePayment,” which will be hosted by the lawmaker and Cashless Way, an association started in 2010 to promote digital payment awareness.
Boccadutri says he is advocating for “a proactive path on Bitcoin,” adding that he believes the sector cannot be left without observation and regulation.
Who is Sergio Boccadutri?
The Palermo native is far from a central player in Italian politics, having served as the Treasurer of the Left Ecology Freedom party, and as a member of the Communist party. However, Boccadutri has been active on financial issues, including issues related to party financing.
Past blog posts on Boccadutri’s official website address topics such as his 2008 commission of inquiry into the sale of Alitalia, as well as the “historical revisionism” threatening Italian monuments. Boccadutri has more recently blogged about Italy’s reliance on cash, suggesting that fees on debit card and credit card use be reduced to 0.2% and 0.3% respectively.
“The use of electronic money would be so very beneficial for traders and consumers,” an English translation of a 9th December blog post reads.
Boccadutri continued to field questions from the community following the tweet, clarifying that his amendment does not intend to tax bitcoin transactions, and stating his belief that even the early misunderstandings of the law and its intent will help further positive discussions in Italy.
Early Feedback on the Proposal
Members of Italy’s bitcoin community expressed skepticism for the proposal to CoinDesk, stressing that the amendment is part of a larger bill on wider economic matters that is still being debated. As of press time, the full text of the proposal is not yet available online.
Franco Cimatti, an Italian bitcoin entrepreneur and miner, suggested the community has so far adopted two opposing viewpoints, with some strongly opposed to the law and others thinking the exposure will be beneficial to the community, potentially leading to more constructive discussions, even if it is unclear how such a regulation would be enacted.
Italian bitcoin merchant and a co-founder of the Clipperz password manager Marco Barulli falls into the former category, as he was openly critical of Boccadutri and the proposal.
“He claims to support digital money, but he fails to grasp that credit cards are not digital money,” Barulli told CoinDesk.
Barulli further went on to label Cashless Way a lobbying group supported by major banks and credit cards, and said that the amendment as written was confused and misleading in respect to how it referred to digital currency. He suggested the amendment may not even end up being admitted for formal discussion.
Are Italians predisposed to bitcoin?
Italians have a demonstrated love of cash, in part because an estimated 7.5 million Italians have never had a bank account, prohibiting access to more complex financial instruments.
In accordance with this, it’s perhaps not surprising that Italy ranks 12th in terms of official downloads of the bitcoin client and wallet, behind the Netherlands but ahead of Australia and Brazil.
However, additional research suggests there may be a technology gap that impedes further bitcoin adoption. Reports from the US Commercial Service indicate that Italy has lagged behind other European countries when it comes to mobile payment usage.
The 2012 report indicated that mobile payments were inhibited by a lack of consumer trust, a shortage of mobile-equipped points of sale and the lack of NFC-equipped devices in the country.
Montecitorio Palace Image via Shutterstock