Switzerland ramped up its bid to become a global hub for financial technology (fintech) and cryptocurrency start-ups with the decision by a town on the Italian border to accept tax payments in bitcoin.
Chiasso announced that it would take bitcoin to settle up to CHF250 ($265) of tax bills from the start of next year. The decision was taken after consulting with cryptocurrency and blockchain companies that have recently set up in the region.
“Chiasso is recognised internationally as an epicentre of a growing technological and economic growth for both the canton and in Switzerland,” Mayor Bruno Arrigoni said in a statement. In the last few months eight start-ups have established headquarters in the canton Ticino town.
Having lost tax revenues from the diminishing banking sector in the wake of the financial crisis, Chiasso has been looking for replacement industries, explained Umberto Balzaretti, head of the town's administration.
The authorities have hit upon the fast expanding fintech and cryptocurrency sphere as the solution. Chiasso's branding as CryptoPolis has pushed itself forward as an alternative start-up venue to Zug's Crypto Valley.
By showing that they both understand and embrace new technologies, many Swiss cantons hope to better attract the brightest international start-ups into their territories.
Last year, Zug announced it would accept payments of up to CHF200 in bitcoin for council services. Since July 1, 2016, more than 40 bitcoin payments have been received, which has exceeded the authorities' expectations.
Zug is establishing itself at the centre of a Crypto Valley hub that also attracts global start-ups such as Xapo, Breadwallet, Etherisc and Monetas.
Other cantons have also been keen to advertise their credentials in new digital technological advances, such as fintech, or the underlying technology, known as blockchain. Schaffhausen and Zug are introducing digital identity systems that will enable residents to register for, and use, local government services far more efficiently than under the current methods.
Earlier this month, Geneva announced a pilot blockchain project for the electronic processing and archiving of official documents.