By David Deputy, Chairman, ABC

Today the accounting industry is evolving – some might call it a seismic upheaval – with the introduction of distributed ledgers and blockchains.  Deployment and use of these new technologies have left policy and enforcement efforts trailing far behind and playing catchup.  But that’s okay. These types of early-stage environments – like the one we are experiencing now —  are fertile ground for exploration, innovation and best practices documentation.  And I find it exciting that ABC is in the middle of this change and has a chance to help shape the future of the accounting industry.

(Left-right) Daniel Morris, senior partner, Morris + D’Angelo CPAs and ABC Charter Member with David Deputy, chairman, ABC at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development earlier this year in Paris.

In the last few months I’ve represented the Accounting Blockchain Coalition (ABC) and presented at The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; The Collegiate Blockchain Conference sponsored by Florida State University and IBM; The University of Florida Blockchain Conference; The FDIC Accounting and Auditing Conference; The American Accounting Association and the World Customs Organization. From my conversations at these events and listening to other presenters I believe that the general consensus is that we are currently experiencing a slightly chaotic time in the industry.  New policies, enforcements and skillsets are in the process of being developed and change is always disruptive.

The one real concern discussed at these conferences, in the short-term, is a perception of a lack of coherence to policy that comes with any industry upheaval.  For example, when two regulations or two regulators come up with divergent approaches, maybe the Commodity Futures Trading Commission says “These digital assets are forward contracts. We have jurisdiction and here is how this should be treated.” On the other hand, the Security Exchange Commission says “Hold on. These are securities. We have jurisdiction.” Then the Internal Revenue Service jumps in and says “Wait a minute. This is property. This is how it should be taxed.”

As is the reality today we have three different regulators at the US national level coming up with different proposed treatments and each of them is enforcing their view. So we have enforcement coming at us from three different angles. There’s no way you can comply with all three.

What do you do?

This is the exact spot where ABC is poised to make a real difference for accounting and tax professionals.

ABC’s role is to stay engaged in the broader industry and policy dialogue so that it can rapidly disseminate the positions, answers and policies that are decided –  providing thought leadership and best practices that the industry professionals within our membership can act upon. Right now, the answers coming out of policy discussions are in their formulation stages and are not coordinated or, in policy terms, “coherent.” This lack of coherence in policy means the various policies being discussed currently don’t make sense with each other – yet.

ABC and its four working groups have a significant role to play in this tumultuous environment.  As policies are sorted out and established, ABC is the platform to rapidly disseminate information and develop industry-driven best practices for accountants, CFOs and tax professionals.  To be clear:  ABC is not a policy maker and we don’t advocate for positions.  ABC is the accounting industry’s knowledge platform to document the positions taken and disseminate the best practices and frameworks as soon as they are established.

ABC will evolve with the changing industry landscape to help keep its members up-to-date, informed and their professional skills relevant.  For more information on how to navigate accounting’s changing landscape visit the ABC website.  To join ABC and contribute please contact ABC membership.