Modern financial accounting is based on a double entry system. Described simply, double entry bookkeeping allows firms to maintain records that reflect what the firm owns and owes and also what the firm has earned and spent over any given period of time. Double entry bookkeeping revolutionized the field of financial accounting during the Renaissance period. Whereas simple ledgers had long been the standard for record keeping for merchants, the church and state treasuries, the growth of long distance trade and creation of the first joint stock companies resulted in firms whose records were too voluminous and complicated to provide any assurance of accuracy to their users.
The double entry system solved the problem of managers knowing whether they could trust their own books. However, these same companies were now expected to share their records with outside stakeholders, such as investors, lenders and the state. This created the problem of how outsiders could trust the company’s books. Thus came the independent public auditor, whose role was (and is) to serve as an independent guarantor of financial information. Stakeholders placed their trust not in a firm’s management, who had a vested interest in presenting the rosiest of pictures to all who cared to ask, but in the auditors retained by management to vouch for them. It doesn’t take an attorney to see how a problem of agency is created by this arrangement. Do auditors work for the managers who hire and pay them or for the public that relies on their integrity in order to make decisions?
Financial statements are inherently representative of certain assertions by a firm’s management to the users of those financial statements. Among these are:
Existence. That the assets and liabilities reflected on the balance sheet are true and accurate as of the balance sheet date.
Completeness. That the financial statements represent all of the firm’s activities during the time period in question.
Valuation. That the amounts on which the financial statements are based are correct or reasonable under the circumstances.
Rights and Obligations. That what is owned and owed as reflected by the balance sheet is true and correct.
Presentation and Disclosure. That the items in the financial statements are valued and described in the proper way.
Each of the preceding assertions is basically a problem of trust, which audits are designed to resolve. As an accountant, I am disappointed to admit that, all too often of late, my colleagues have failed in this respect. Not only have auditors failed to manage public expectations by honestly and openly communicating the limitations of assurance work, but in many cases they have also, through collusion, corruption, incompetence, or simple laziness, failed to properly do their jobs. This problem is even worse outside the US and EU member states, where lax enforcement of existing regulations creates opportunities for easy manipulation of financial statements. If a firm’s management is willing to issue inaccurate financial statements and capable of organizing a conspiracy to support them, then it is very likely that auditors will fail to detect the associated misstatements (assuming that the firm’s auditors were not colluding with the firm outright).
Production of bogus financial statements is a delicate affair. Merely falsifying revenue or recording it early doesn’t work on its own, because it throws the books out of balance. For example, a credit to the sales revenue account must be matched with a debit to an asset account (usually cash or accounts receivable). For fraudulent accounting records to stand up to any kind of scrutiny, they usually must be backed by a “legend” consisting of altered or falsified documentation. Bearing this in mind, Generally Accepted Auditing Standards require testing of all aspects of the financial statements and also that auditors obtain “sufficient, appropriate” evidence to support them. As one can imagine, the cost of completing the work ranges from obscene to astronomical. It is not uncommon for the cost an annual audit of a moderately sized company to run into the tens of thousands of dollars. However, the cost to the public of relying on faulty financials can be many times more.
1.2 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Triple entry accounting is an enhancement to the traditional double entry system in which all accounting entries involving outside parties are cryptographically sealed by a third entry. These include purchases of inventory and supplies, sales, tax and utility payments and other expenses. Placed side by side, the bookkeeping entries of both parties to a given transaction are congruent. A seller books a debit to account for cash received, while a buyer books a credit for cash spent in the same transaction, but in separate sets of accounting records. This is where the blockchain comes in: rather than these entries occurring separately in independent sets of books, they occur in the form of a transfer between wallet addresses in the same distributed, public ledger, creating an interlocking system of enduring accounting records. Since the entries are distributed and cryptographically sealed, falsifying them in a credible way or destroying them to conceal activity is practically impossible.
The companies using triple entry bookkeeping would derive two immediate benefits from adoption: First, since auditors could quickly and easily verify a large portion of the most important data behind the financial statements, the cost and time necessary to conduct an audit would decline considerably. Audits would still be necessary, but auditors could spend more time on higher risk areas such as internal control. Second, the integrity of a company’s financial statements would be essentially unassailable. Revenue and expense transactions could not be falsified if they required the encrypted signature of the counterparty in order to be accepted as valid. In the case of Bitcoin, transactions only occur when wealth is transferred, so there is no incentive and considerable cost associated with spurious activity. Taken together, both of these effects would have a strong positive effect on stock prices, borrowing rates, and a variety of other fundamentals.
It isn’t difficult think of ways to manipulate even a highly reliable system like the one described. Schemes like off balance sheet arrangements, improper valuations, disguised self-dealing, etc. would still be possible under a triple entry model, so new regulations would be necessary to mitigate some of the new sources of risk. These could be totally voluntary or only required for publicly listed companies, though companies of all sizes stand to benefit from better financials. For example, US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles could adopt the stance that, if it isn’t on the blockchain then it does not exist / didn’t happen and cannot be included in the financial statements. Rather than being created at random, financial wallet addresses could be assigned by a trusted third party such as the SEC or some yet to be created private organization in order to guard against abuse. It is true that new regulations would require firms to share some amount of proprietary information, but probably not more than they are currently required to disclose, just in a different form. The standard of privacy enjoyed by public firms in the United States is already quite low.
Triple entry is possible using existing Bitcoin infrastructure (with minor modifications) and highly desirable for both companies and outsiders. Its adoption would enhance the credibility of the financial statements of participants. Further, triple entry would empower smaller enterprises and create opportunities for growth by offering a very low cost way to prove economic activity to outside stakeholders, such as banks or angel investors. Triple entry accounting doesn’t address every financial statement assertion or totally take risk off the table, but its adoption would contribute greatly to the safety and stability of securities markets
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
A transaction of what one would regard as “simple” has now grown to be complex due to the introduction of digital currencies. Instead of paying with cash, cheque, or with plastic (i.e. debit or credit card), the customer can now initiate a payment to the vendor while the vendor hands them their purchase, be it a virtual item in a game, tokens to be used to purchase tunes, or an exchange to digital coinage.
The cryptocurrency bitcoin is now in the spotlight due to its decentralized nature, relieving users of transaction fees. However, its ability to provide anonymous transactions has made it an ideal currency for illicit transfers due to its ease in convertibility between bitcoin and real currency.
As discussions about regulating digital currencies become more prominent, some users have already started to counter their attempts, with software and applications like the Dark Wallet, where its main function is to launder bitcoins. Governments are cautious in quickly providing a response; while it is important to ensure that the risks relating to the usage of digital coinage are reduced, they also need to consider what users value from the currency: privacy. The concern on privacy raises issues on whether governments should regulate a currency that is intangible and not belonging to any jurisdictions, yet may have an effect on the economy.
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The intentions of this research work are:
To evaluate the impact of triple entry on financial reporting.
To determine how secure the bitcoin network is to hacking and fraud.
To determine if bitcoins are being regulated against use in fraudulent businesses.
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. What impact does triple entry has on financial reporting?
Is the bitcoin network secured against hacking and fraud?
Is the bitcoins network regulated by external bodies against use in fraudulent businesses?
1.6 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
The following hypotheses were developed
Ho: Triple entry accounting has not had a positive impact on financial reporting
H1: Triple entry accounting has had a positive impact on financial reporting.
Ho: The bitcoin network is not secured against hacking and fraud
H1: The bitcoin network is secured against hacking and fraud.
Ho: The bitcoin network is not regulated by external bodies
H1: The bitcoin network is regulated by external bodies
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study is important in the following ways:
It will help prospective investors in the blockchain to know what exactly it is and how to enter and derive maximum benefits.
To accountants, the concept of triple entry accounting will be laid bare and greater understanding will be gotten.
Researchers and students will gain more knowledge to aid in further research.
The government and other regulatory bodies will be made aware of the blockchain system and on ways to prevent money laundering and tax declarations.
It will be useful as a basis for further study.
1.8 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Bitcoin usage growing in quantum leaps everyday worldwide. The study will cover the entire blockchain network, focusing on bitcoins, the concept of bitcoins and its relevance to the world today.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
ACCOUNTING: Accounting is the systematic and comprehensive recording of financial transactions pertaining to a business, and it also refers to the process of summarizing, analyzing and reporting these transactions to oversight agencies and tax collection entities. Accounting is one of the key functions for almost any business; it may be handled by a bookkeeper and accountant at small firms or by sizable finance departments with dozens of employees at large companies.
TRIPLE ENTRY ACCOUNTING: Momentum accounting and triple-entry bookkeeping is an alternative accountancy system developed by Yuji Ijiri and is the title of the 1989 monograph that he wrote. It is a proposed alternative to double-entry bookkeeping, the method currently favored by the worldwide financial accounting system.
BITCOINS: Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.
BLOCKCHAIN: A blockchain is a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. It is constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks are added to it with a new set of recordings. The blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order. Each node (computer connected to the Bitcoin network using a client that performs the task of validating and relaying transactions) gets a copy of the blockchain, which gets downloaded automatically upon joining the Bitcoin network. The blockchain has complete information about the addresses and their balances right from the genesis block to the most recently completed block.
BOOK-KEEPING: Bookkeeping is the recording of financial transactions, and is part of the process of accounting in business. Transactions include purchases, sales, receipts, and payments by an individual person or an organization/corporation. There are several standard methods of bookkeeping, such as the single-entry bookkeeping system and the double-entry bookkeeping system, but, while they may be thought of as “real” bookkeeping, any process that involves the recording of financial transactions is a bookkeeping process.
CRYPTOCURRENCY: A digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank. “decentralized cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin now provide an outlet for personal wealth that is beyond restriction and confiscation”