Crypto and Taxes
Crypto and Taxes

Crypto accounting: The top challenges tax professionals face

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Even though the crypto market is experiencing bearish adversity right now, here’s what’s clear: The impact that Bitcoin, blockchain technology, and smart contracts will have on business operations and taxes is here to stay.

David CanedoI recently interviewed David Canedo, head of Tax and Compliance Strategy for Accointing, a digital asset portfolio and tax optimizing platform made for cryptocurrency users. This Q&A conversation explores the challenges tax professionals face as businesses adopt this tech innovation into commerce and life.

Sonia Dumas: David, based on your experience with digital assets, what are the key ways Bitcoin, blockchain technology, and smart contracts are disrupting the accounting process?

David Canedo: When you think about what money is, it’s just ones and zeros. Blockchain technology is a digital ledger that tracks and verifies transactions. In the Bitcoin network for example, we can see all transactions ever made. This technology allows you to attest to the company’s financial performance, and verify that a company’s financials are accurate on the blockchain in real time.

One of the challenges we’re seeing with blockchain technology is that it comes with a new ecosystem of tools, such as hot wallets, cold wallets, and seed phrases. In the traditional finance world, we link everything to ERP and accounting information systems. The interesting challenge right now is how do we merge blockchain transactions with existing systems.

Regardless of whether you’re buying Bitcoin, Ethereum, or using digital assets as a part of business operations, they all have a real impact on company financials.

SD: What are some important issues the accounting profession is waiting for clarity on?

DC: I think that’s a very loaded question, because when you say it’s the SEC or the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC), there’s a tug of war between cryptocurrencies being identified as a commodity, security, or both.

Just think, how is this market going to be regulated if some coins are labeled as securities and others are commodities? What’s the overlap going to be between the CFTC and the SEC? Do we need a new regulatory agency?

Depending on the outcome of this decision, it’ll be clear how much due diligence companies will have to do before they can go to market and launch a coin, non-fungible token (NFT), or other digital asset with the purpose of raising capital.

On the accounting side, digital assets don’t fit well in the current framework. For example, if you’re a publicly reporting company and add digital assets such as Bitcoin to your balance sheet, you have to treat them as an indefinite-lived, intangible asset. That means that if the price drops, you have to write them down and you can’t write them back up.

That’s a challenge today, because few CFOs will want to take the hit on their P&L statement to write down the assets.

Let’s talk about the challenges tax professionals are facing.

The Infrastructure bill states that starting in 2023, broker dealers will have to send information reporting just as traditional finance currently does.

Part of the difficulty with doing that in the digital asset industry is a lot of people are not just trading in centralized exchanges. They are also trading on different global blockchains, each with its own decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem.

The question is how do you go about issuing tax forms when you don’t have 100% of the visibility of all the transactions occurring. A user can buy a coin on a centralized exchange and send it to a private wallet to trade, swap, lend, borrow, and yield farm a hundred different times before being sent back to a central exchange.

How are the centralized exchanges going to know what that user’s tax basis is for the hundreds of transactions that took place off their exchange?

Let’s add more complexity to the situation. How can tax forms be accurate when it’s not clear how staking is taxed?

I’ve talked with a lot of tax professionals and the views are pretty much split down the middle. Some believe it should be income when you receive it, while others believe it shouldn’t be taxed until you sell it.

These are questions we’re hoping to see answered in the months ahead.

SD: When businesses decide to add Bitcoin to their operations, what would you say are some of the high-priority questions accountants need to ask?

DC: If a business decides to add Bitcoin to their balance sheet or any digital assets, I hope they have fully done their due diligence. Help your clients by making sure they’ve done their research, understand the risks, and what they’re buying into.

Next, businesses need to look at their internal controls. Who keeps the keys to the wallets? How do you integrate this information to an ERP so it posts on the balance sheet and income statement? The activities companies do on the blockchain have value, so whether it’s for financial reporting or taxes, you have to get this on the financial statements.

SD: What would you say to accountants and tax advisors to at least stay in step with this technological shift?

DC: I think we have an amazing opportunity to learn, especially in this bear market.

This slowdown has given us more time to build, understand, and learn the right way to approach digital assets. Then, by the time we see mass adoption take flight, CPAs and financial advisors will be ready to help clients navigate the space. 

The best thing tax professionals can do right now is just get ready, learn as much as you can, and figure out your firm’s strategy.

Just look at all the VC funds flooding into this technology. The majority of Fortune 500 companies are exploring how to capitalize on this innovation. Solutions include a Treasury reserve strategy or investigating how to use the Ethereum network to streamline processes, from purchasing to payroll and user experience and supply chain management.

If you look at the trends, many of the smartest developers in the world are moving toward blockchain technology. There’s a reason for that. Follow the developers and you’ll know what the products of the future will be.

Editor’s note: The Intuit® Tax Pro Center has a library of cryptocurrency articles, some of which have been translated into Spanish.

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