Accounting companies are beginning to wade into the use of blockchain era for audits, however with warning as the technology spreads past the cryptocurrency space in which it’s been used for virtual property like Bitcoin.
“I don’t recognise that blockchain goes to always make things simpler for auditors,” stated Amy Steele, an audit and assurance partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP and co-chair of the AICPA Digital Assets Working Group, and a member of the Center for Audit Quality Emerging Technologies Task Force. “I do assume it’s going to effect the audit career and exchange things. With the use instances inside an audit company, some of companies are looking at how blockchain may be used inside the firm to synthesize the records that we've got. I would say that’s nonetheless greater within the ideation phase in preference to the implementation phase.”
Some of Deloitte’s customers are investing more of their budget in blockchain technology, prompting the corporation to test with the generation. “Externally to the audit, whilst we reflect onconsideration on our customers which can be in unique blockchain use instances, we have surveyed a number of distinctive businesses,” stated Steele. “What we’re listening to is there are extra funding dollars going into blockchain technology. We’re seeing a number of use instances come out now that there's a broader popularity that blockchain is going beyond Bitcoin.
We’re seeing a motion to extra uses, from physical asset traceability to supply chain, pharma, all the manner thru to digitizing identity. But I would say most of those are nevertheless in that concept phase, and we’re operating to assume via what are the results if a corporation puts a supply chain blockchain into area. How does that now effect financial reporting and internal controls?”
There are risks with the usage of blockchain. Even even though it is based on allotted ledger generation that is supposed to make virtual assets less complicated to track, there have been high-profile stories within the news approximately Bitcoin and other virtual currencies being stolen with the aid of hackers or lost when an investor can’t preserve music of their encryption key or digital wallet.
“There is a actual hazard around security of those non-public keys, and from an audit point of view when we observe digital property on a corporation’s books, one of the most important risks is do they have got the rights to those property,” stated Steele. “In a virtual asset environment, typically the rights to that digital asset are driven by way of control of a private key, so if that secret is misplaced or stolen that asset might not belong to the entity. It’s very essential for auditors and management when they’re helping their books and information to have appropriate controls and strategies in location to validate that they do indeed personal and have manipulate of that personal key.”
Beyond auditing, blockchain is probably to have an impact on financial reporting and inner controls. “When we suppose how blockchain goes to impact financial reporting, you have got this shared surroundings with these shared participants, shared records and shared danger that in the long run are going to impact what each unique entity reviews on their financial statements,” said Steele. “It’s a big effect that it’s going to have on economic reporting. That dovetails into inner controls too due to the fact in today’s surroundings, we generally think of internal controls within an entity, or inside a provider organization.
So I either as an entity have my very own inner controls or I may use a charge processor to do payroll for me. I depend on their inner controls because it relates to my payroll, however it’s very tons held inside my controls. In a blockchain environment, the inner controls are going to be across companies. So I is probably in a blockchain with my customers, my suppliers, my competitors, and now I’m sharing inner controls with all of these events. It’s going to be a totally special surroundings with inner controls in the way you provide you with those inner controls, and how do you keep them and screen them. If there’s a deficiency, how do you mitigate that? It’s genuinely running across businesses from both a monetary reporting and inner controls perspective.”
Auditors will want to preserve their professional skepticism, despite the automation promised by using blockchain. “We’ve all visible the articles that say blockchain is going to replace the need for auditors, and I don’t assume that’s the case,” said Steele. “I assume in financial reporting and the capital markets, there are usually going to be estimates and judgments that need the human challenge. I assume that there are some particular audit risks and demanding situations that go past the blockchain. Even if you have a trusted environment, you’re nevertheless going to have some very specific challenges, and one is the existence of the particular digital asset. In today’s environment, for lifestyles you will appearance to contracts and invoices. In a blockchain surroundings, you’re going to look to the particular blockchain. But there are very fundamental questions as to whether or not you can rely on the precise blockchain, and each virtual asset has their very own blockchain. How do you get snug with that blockchain? If an entity is the usage of a custodian, there are questions around can I depend on that custodian because that custodian may also or won't have a provider auditor’s report. That custodian may not have the traditional protections that we’re used to within the conventional asset environment, so there are a few massive questions around lifestyles.”
The question of which entity has manage of a private key can be a thorny issue to solve. “How does an auditor get snug that they've control of that personal key?” stated Steele. “That’s in all likelihood one of the most important challenges for management and auditors in this area is proving out that manipulate of the key, and that they hold to have that key as of the point in time when we’re thinking about the economic statements.”
Valuations could also be tough for blockchain belongings, and auditors will want to be cautious of running afoul of the law, as Bitcoin has a reputation for getting used for activities such as money laundering, illicit drugs and human trafficking.
“This is a brand new asset class,” said Steele. “Not every virtual asset is traded as frequently as a Bitcoin digital asset. There are some digital property which might be much less frequently traded, so how do you value those? There are questions round the way you get cushty with market dangers round capacity manipulation if you don’t have the history of a digital asset. So there are a whole lot of questions around valuation and associated parties, and illegal acts are a huge area as laws and policies alternate and evolve in this area. How can we audit that control is in compliance with those?”
It might also be difficult for an auditor to determine whether or not the parties to a transaction are too carefully related. “In this surroundings you don’t necessarily understand who the counterparty to a transaction is,” said Steele. “You’ll have digits who say who the counterparty is, however you don’t have a name, so how do you recognize if that’s a associated party or not? There are some huge demanding situations as it pertains to counterparties there.”
She believes that corporations and their auditors will need to ensure they have got the appropriate inner controls in vicinity. “It’s extremely important that there are sturdy controls around the safety of those non-public keys, and genuinely balancing out how you protect those, having suitable individuals inside the agency that would access those in the occasion that they need to,” said Steele. “There’s an essential stability there round protection and get entry to of these private keys. Those are probable the most important audit dangers that we face, with valuation, associated parties, illegal acts and internal controls.”
Simandhar is the official partner of Becker for CPA, CMA, & EA and AICPA, Simandhar offices in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Ahmedabad Gurgaon, Kerala,Cochin (Kochi), Trivandrum, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Chennai and Mumbai.