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There are a lot of tokens that burn 1-2% on every Transfer. The coins burned are part of the transaction, i.e. if I were to send 100 coins, you would only get 99 because the smart contract burned 1% of the coins in the transaction by sending them to dead address.

Is there a way to make the contract burn 1% of tokens every month or year, rather than per transaction?

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To change the blockchain status (in this case the current balances of the holders of the ERC20 token, that is a contract, i.e. to write in this contract's storage) someone must submit a valid transaction and it has to be added to a block. This means that you have two possibilities:

  1. a program that automatically sends transactions with a fixed cadence, this may be really expensive depending on how the tokens are to be burned, it would probably take too much gas and a single transaction would not be enough. In my opinion it can only make sense if the users themselves can send these transactions, perhaps getting a part of the tokens burned as reward.

  2. the burning policy must be implemented incrementally at every token transfer as you said, remember that nobody forbids to put a condition during the transfer that trigger a burn only if the timestamp of the current block is great enough.

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