Australian bitcoin bill payment processor Living Room of Satoshi (LRoS) has announced it is reopening for business, after closing in October citing the country’s sales tax rules.

Founder Daniel Alexiuc said that, while the Australian Tax Office’s imposition of the 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on customers acquiring bitcoin has not changed, “the resourceful bitcoin industry has”.

“There are now many more options for small Australian businesses like ours to buy and sell bitcoins internationally and locally in compliance with the tax ruling, which has allowed us to reopen for business.”

Speaking to CoinDesk, Alexiuc would not elaborate on exactly which services were offering the better deals, but recommended any of his fellow bitcoin businesspeople attend local meetups in their state/city to hear the latest information.

It is still not economically possible under the ATO’s rules for GST-registered businesses for LRoS to continue buying all its bitcoins on the local market, he continued.

“As a company, I am disappointed that we can’t support most Australian exchanges at the moment, because there are some very talented and professional outfits operating here. However, we are able to sell our coins overseas, and to Australian exchanges that comply with the GST ruling for business customers.”

The industry’s development, he said, means there are now more options to do this cheaply without needing to charge customers extra fees.

Free bitcoin bill payment service

Living Room of Satoshi is a non-profit company and Alexiuc has provided the service for free since its launch last April, citing bitcoin promotion and user adoption as his main motivating force.

Focused entirely on bill payments and with Alexiuc as its only full-time employee, LRoS was previously processing AUD$20-25,000 ($16-20,000) worth of bill payments per week.

Being able to make mundane payments like utility and commercial bills is vital to bitcoin adoption among the general public, Alexiuc said, along with making it easier for people to receive their salaries in digital currency.

LRoS works by integrating with the popular national electronic payments network BPAY, which allows Australians to pay utility and commercial bills directly from bank accounts via phone or web.

Australian bitcoin exchange igot also allows customers to pay with BPAY from their accounts, while CoinJar uses it as a means for users to fund their accounts.

Double taxing

The ATO’s sales tax ruling in August upset several stakeholders in the Australian bitcoin community, who say it unfairly “double-taxes” users: once to acquire the bitcoin and then again when purchasing everyday goods or services with it.

A campaign supported by local businesses is underway to petition the government to legislate on the matter, with some telling CoinDesk they are quietly confident the current Senate inquiry into digital currency will convince those in power to adopt a more favorable approach.

It is still infeasible for Australian businesses to use bitcoin as a day-to-day currency due to the ATO’s stance, Alexiuc continued, though adding it was “just an unfortunate side-effect of the existing legislation”.

“I don’t think the government is specifically interested in preventing bitcoin adoption in Australia. I was heartened by the questions asked during the recent Senate hearing, and impressed by the efforts of Ron Tucker and the ADCCA.”

The ATO’s view

The ATO, for its part, acknowledged the provisional nature of its ruling in its own submission to the Senate inquiry, describing it as a “preliminary view” and a “draft ruling”. The submission dated 26th November reads:

“The ATO’s views were developed by an impartial consideration of the existing law and without any pre-conceived preference to whether bitcoin should, or should not, be regarded as money for tax purposes.”

Whether bitcoin or other crypto-currencies should be treated as ‘money’ or ‘currency’ is a question of government policy, it said.

BPAY widely used

Nationwide, the BPAY network processed over A$260bn ($218.5bn) in regular dollar payments last year, with the average payment being around A$785 ($647).

Living Room of Satoshi users, meanwhile, pay with bitcoin through the service by entering their BPAY reference code and bill amount, for which the service generates a unique payment address with QR code.

Alexiuc said he has some assistance with development and marketing, but that LRoS is “always keen to explore partnerships or funding”.

Online bill paying image via Shutterstock

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