Should accountants care about blockchain?

Date01 April 2020
Published date01 April 2020
AuthorAriel Markelevich,Stephen H. Fuller
Should accountants care about blockchain?
Stephen H. Fuller | Ariel Markelevich
Accounting Department, Sawyer Business
School, Suffolk University, Boston,
Ariel Markelevich, Suffolk University,
120 Tremont Street, Office 5341, Boston,
MA 02108.
The use of blockchain technology has increased tremendously over the last
decade. Blockchain continues to evolve and new features and capabilities are
developed continuously. Although the use of the technology started in crypto-
currency (specifically, Bitcoin), it has expanded to other areas that can benefit
from a shared, secure, ledger. This article investigates the potential impact of
blockchain technology on the accounting profession. This article analyzes data
security and privacy considerations, technology, adoption, and implementation
considerations, and some considerations that relate specifically to accounting
and auditing. We find that the unique needs of an accounting information sys-
tem may not be a good match for blockchain as it currently exists. While we
explain that blockchain may deliver many benefits, particularly in the areas of
data reliability and the financial statement audit, we identify several factors,
which raise significant questions about whether blockchain will ever be signifi-
cantly integrated in the accounting function. Chief among those concerns is
the scalability of the technology at an acceptable cost. While significant invest-
ment has and will be made for further development of blockchain business
applications, it is our assessment that proponents of blockchain integration in
accounting have not yet made the economic case for it. We also have signifi-
cant concerns about whether blockchain technology can adequately address
risks associated with data security and privacy. Addressing all these issues will
be a minimum requirement for gaining widespread acceptance by firms and
their accountants.
accounting information systems, blockchain, distributed ledger, information technology
Blockchain technology has grown virally over the last
decade due to the emergence and sensational growth in
cryptocurrencies starting with Bitcoin. In more recent
years, the focus on blockchain has expanded well beyond
cryptocurrencies to a wide variety of potential business
processes for which blockchain may be an effective
solution. Worldwide spending on blockchain technology
is projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 73%
through 2022 when it is expected to total almost $12 bil-
lion, with the growth spread across both geography and
industries (IDC, 2018). It is fair to say that, initially, many
parties conflated the concepts of blockchain and Bitcoin
and did not understand the unique technology character-
istics of blockchain. In a recent international poll
Received: 14 June 2019 Revised: 16 September 2019 Accepted: 19 October 2019
DOI: 10.1002/jcaf.22424
34 © 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Corp Acct Fin. 2020;

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