IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Tax Collector Hires Blockchain Director in Florida County

With the state legislature looking to study blockchain, the tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., has hired a recent college graduate to lead his office's use of the technology and liaise with elected officials.

(TNS) — Seminole County, Fla., Tax Collector Joel Greenberg said he has hired a recent college graduate as his blockchain director as the state legislature moves forward with a bill that would create a working group to study the benefits of using the technology.

“Blockchain is a new and emerging technology that is really going to be taking off,” Greenberg said of his decision to hire Samuel Armes, 22, a recent graduate of the University of South Florida and executive director of the Florida Blockchain Business Association.

Armes also will serve as the office’s legislative affairs director.

According to the association’s website, Armes has done work for the U.S. Operations Command and the State Department on issues related to “illicit finance, counter terrorism, public policy and international trade deals.”

Greenberg said Armes will earn $30,000 a year. He will act as a blockchain advocate and liaison between Greenberg’s office and state officials as Florida joins a growing number of states — including New York, Illinois and New Jersey — that are looking into the benefits of using blockchain technologies for government transactions.

“He is really, really sharp,” Greenberg said. “He knows more than I do [about blockchain], and I’m pretty well-versed into it.”

Armes couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to a bill filed in January by state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, Florida would create a 19-member working group — appointed by the governor, cabinet members, legislators and local officials — to study and understand the complex blockchain technology and how it could be applied by state and local governments toward increasing efficiency, saving tax money and making more secure government transactions.

“Blockchain has the ability to improve processes, increase efficiency and promote transparency in government, in businesses and for consumers,” according to the bill. “It is in the public interest….and it is imperative that blockchain benefits and applications are studied so that its potential can be fully realized.”

The bill also states that “investments in blockchain companies and projects have skyrocketed from millions of dollars in 2015 to billions of dollars in 2018, with venture capital funds and other private investors investing $1.3 billion between January and May of 2018 in blockchain and blockchain-adjacent early stage companies.”

Gruters didn’t return calls for comment.

Blockchain is an online ledger, or record, of transactions spread across a large network of computers. Because it uses the processing power of many computers, each step of the transaction is permanent and resistant to modifications or fraud. It also eliminates financial fees because transactions wouldn’t have to travel across several banks or other financial institutions.

Greenberg said blockchain would benefit the Seminole Tax Collector’s office, as well as other local government offices, by being linked to other counties. Transactions would include drivers licenses, tax deeds and insurance information, he said.

“Right now, every county has their own little system,” he said.

With blockchain, “all the counties would be in a giant system. …This would allow for a better flow of communication and reduce redundancies.”

Greenberg added that because blockchain is a unique system using cryptography to verify and store records of digital transactions, it’s more secure and accurate.

Blockchain is more commonly known as being used to underlie or support virtual online currencies such as Bitcoin.

Last April, Greenberg’s office began accepting Bitcoin and Bitcoin cash as payment for new IDs, license plates and property taxes. The office has since handled about a dozen transactions in Bitcoin, Greenberg said.

“We like the fact that people can pay us without having to use cash or a bank,” he said.

The Tax Collector’s Office also set up a Bitcoin ATM at the Casselberry branch on Wilshire Boulevard that allows residents to transfer cash into Bitcoin.

Greenberg said the machine does about $15,000 and $20,000 a week in transactions.

©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.