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May 9, 2023
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Crypto Accounting: Accounting Methods for Cryptocurrency

Understand crypto accounting under US GAAP, UK GAAP, and IFRS. Learn how FIFO, LIFO, and other methods impact crypto inventory and taxes.

Table of Contents

Cryptocurrency is treated differently for accounting purposes depending on the accounting standards and jurisdiction followed. Whether you are looking to create a tax report or keep track of your business Ethereum, Bitcoin, or NFT holdings, it is very important as a service tax provider to understand the accounting standards and regulations needed to be in compliance. The most widely used accounting standards are the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP), the UK Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (UK GAAP)) and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), depending on the jurisdiction.

Brief overview of accounting methods for treating cryptocurrency:

1. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles - US GAAP: 

Under US GAAP, crypto isgenerally treated as intangible assets. This means they are recognized at their acquisition cost and subsequently tested for impairment. When impairment is identified, the carrying value of the cryptocurrency is written down to its fair value. Crypto is not subject to amortization, but gains and losses from sales or disposals are recognized in the income statement.

2. International Financial Reporting Standards - IFRS: 

Since its inception, IFRS has been adopted by more than 140 countries, including the European Union, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Under IFRS, crypto does not have a specific accounting treatment. However, they are typically classified as either intangible assets (similar to US GAAP) or as financial assets/instruments, depending on the specific use and circumstances. When treated as intangible assets, crypto follows a similar treatment as under US GAAP. If classified as financial instruments, they would be accounted for under IFRS 9, which allows for fair value measurement, with changes in fair value recognized in the income statement or other comprehensive income, depending on the circumstances.


UK GAAP, or United Kingdom Generally Accepted Accounting Practice, is the body of accounting standards and guidelines that companies registered in the UK must follow when preparing their financial statements. It is overseen by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the UK's independent regulator responsible for promoting transparency and integrity in business.

UK GAAP has increasingly been aligned with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the globally recognized set of accounting standards. In fact, publicly listed companies in the UK are required to adopt IFRS for their consolidated financial statements, whereas UK GAAP is primarily applicable to non-listed companies and small business.

For tax purposes, the accounting methods for cryptocurrency vary by jurisdiction. In most cases, crypto is considered capital assets and are subject to capital gains tax. The specific tax implications depend on factors such as the holding period, the purpose of holding the cryptocurrency (investment, mining, or trading), and the jurisdiction in which the individual or business operates.

Regardless of the accounting standards followed, it is essential to maintain accurate records of cryptocurrency transactions, including acquisition cost, fair value, and disposal details. This helps ensure compliance with tax reporting requirements and provides a basis for financial statement

That said, crypto is treated as an asset, and as such, an inventory valuation method is required.

Inventory Valuation Methods for Crypto Assets:

FIFO (First-In, First-Out) and LIFO (Last-In, First-Out) are inventory valuation methods used in accounting to determine the cost of goods sold (COGS) and the value of the remaining inventory. These methods help businesses and investors manage their crypto inventory costs basis and calculate the loss or profits from crypto transactions, payroll or any services that might have used crypto as the underlying asset.

FIFO (First-In, First-Out): 

Under the FIFO method, it is assumed that the crypto purchased or acquired first are the ones to be sold first. In other words, the oldest inventory crypto items are sold before the newer items. FIFO is commonly used in businesses where inventory items have a limited shelf life or are perishable, as it prevents the accumulation of obsolete or spoiled items. In terms of investments, FIFO is widely used for tax purposes, as it often results in lower taxable gains, particularly during periods of dropping asset prices.

LIFO (Last-In, First-Out): 

In contrast, the LIFO method assumes that the most recently acquired items are the first ones to be sold. This method is typically used in industries where inventory items do not have a limited shelf life and can be stored for extended periods without losing value. LIFO can result in higher taxable gains during periods of rising asset prices, but it may provide a better reflection of current market conditions in the valuation of the remaining inventory.

Both FIFO and LIFO methods are used to calculate the cost of goods sold and the value of the remaining inventory, which are essential components of a company's financial statements. The choice between FIFO and LIFO depends on the nature of the business, the type of inventory items, and the desired impact on financial reporting and tax liabilities.

It is important to note that while both FIFO and LIFO are acceptable under the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP), the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) only allow the use of the FIFO method or a similar method called the Weighted Average Cost method. This is because IFRS considers the LIFO method to potentially distort the financial statements and not provide a fair representation of a company's financial position. The LIFO method may lead to an outdated inventory valuation, as older costs remain on the balance sheet, which could result in a distorted view of a company's profitability and financial health. By favoring FIFO and the Weighted Average Cost method, IFRS aims to present a more accurate and up-to-date reflection of the cost of inventory items, ultimately leading to a clearer understanding of a company's performance and financial standing for investors and other stakeholders.

In addition to FIFO and LIFO, there are other inventory valuation methods used in accounting, such as the Weighted Average Cost method and the Specific Identification method. Here is an overview of these methods:

Weighted Average Cost: 

This method calculates the cost of goods sold and the value of the remaining inventory based on the average cost of all items in the inventory. The average cost is determined by dividing the total cost of goods available for sale by the total number of items available. When an item is sold, the cost of goods sold is recorded at the weighted average cost, which is updated periodically as new items are purchased or produced. The Weighted Average Cost method is more commonly used in industries where inventory items are homogeneous and it is difficult to differentiate between individual units.

Specific Identification: 

This method is used when inventory items can be individually identified and tracked, such as unique or high-value items. Specific Identification requires tracking the actual cost of each item in the inventory, and when an item is sold, its actual cost is recorded as the cost of goods sold. This method provides the most accurate reflection of inventory costs and profits, but it can be administratively burdensome, especially for businesses with large inventories or frequent transactions.

The Specific Identification valuation method is particularly relevant to crypto accounting of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) due to their unique and non-interchangeable nature. Crypto NFTs represent digital assets, such as art, collectibles, or virtual real estate, with each token having distinct characteristics that differentiate it from other crypto tokens.

Since NFTs are unique and cannot be exchanged on a one-to-one basis like fungible tokens or traditional inventory items, the Specific Identification method becomes an appropriate choice for accounting and valuation. This method allows for tracking the cost basis and value of each individual crypto NFT by identifying and maintaining records of their specific characteristics, purchase price, and other relevant information.

Using the Specific Identification method for all crypto NFTs ensures accurate tracking of the cost basis and value of each token in a portfolio. This information is essential for determining gains or losses when an NFT is sold, gifted, or otherwise disposed of, which is crucial for tax reporting and financial management.

In summary, the Specific Identification valuation method is well-suited for crypto NFTs due to their unique and non-interchangeable nature. By employing this method, investors and businesses can accurately track the cost basis and value of their crypto NFT holdings, enabling proper accounting, financial management, and tax reporting.

HIFO (Highest-In, First-Out) 

is another cost basis method that can be applied in the context of investment and asset management, including cryptocurrency accounting. Although it is not as commonly discussed as FIFO and LIFO, it is relevant to the previous statements in the following ways:

Cryptocurrency accounting:

In the context of cryptocurrency transactions, HIFO can be used as an alternative method to track the cost basis of acquiring and disposing of crypto. The HIFO method assumes that the units with the highest cost basis are the first ones to be sold or disposed of, which can result in lower taxable gains compared to other methods like FIFO or LIFO. This may be particularly beneficial in situations where asset prices have increased significantly over time.

Tax reporting:

When reporting gains or losses from cryptocurrency transactions, investors and businesses can choose a cost basis method that best aligns with their tax planning strategy and jurisdictional requirements. HIFO may be an advantageous choice for some individuals or businesses looking to minimize their tax liability, as it typically results in the recognition of lower gains and, consequently, lower taxes. However, it is important to ensure that the chosen method complies with the relevant tax regulations and accounting standards in the specific jurisdiction.

Consistency and compliance:

Regardless of the cost basis method chosen for cryptocurrency accounting, including HIFO, it is crucial to maintain consistency in its application and comply with the regulatory requirements in the specific jurisdiction. Investors and businesses should keep accurate records of their cryptocurrency transactions and consult with tax or accounting professionals to ensure the appropriate method is applied and reported correctly.

HIFO, like other cost basis methods such as FIFO and LIFO, serves as an essential tool in managing cryptocurrency accounting and tax reporting. The choice of a cost basis method depends on various factors, including the investor's or business's tax planning strategy, the nature of the assets, and the specific jurisdictional requirements. By selecting the most suitable cost basis method and consistently applying it to the ledger, investors and businesses can effectively manage their cryptocurrency portfolios, accurately report their gains and losses, and ensure compliance with tax authorities. It is always advisable to consult with a tax or accounting professional to make informed decisions about the most appropriate cost basis method for your specific situation and to stay updated on the latest regulatory developments in the rapidly evolving world of cryptocurrency.

Crypto Assets inventory method comparison by Jurisdiction:

One of the most critical challenges for accountants and businesses is how to account for these digital assets. The nascent nature of crypto and the lack of explicit guidance from regulatory bodies make it a complex issue. Different jurisdictions have different approaches to financial reporting standards, and these variations extend to how they treat crypto assets inventory. 

The United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP), the United Kingdom Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (UK GAAP), and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) offer guidelines that can be applied to inventory valuation methods. However, it's crucial to understand that these principles were initially designed for traditional assets, not specifically for digital or crypto assets.

Here is a brief comparison of the permissible inventory valuation methods under these three major accounting standards: US GAAP, UK GAAP, and IFRS. The comparison can serve as a basic guide for businesses dealing with crypto assets in multiple jurisdictions. It will also emphasize the need for a more harmonized global approach to crypto asset accounting to ensure transparency, accuracy, and consistency.

Crypto Assets treatment under US GAAP

  • Permits the use of "First-In, First-Out" (FIFO), "Last-In, First-Out" (LIFO) and the "weighted average cost" method.
  • Highest-In, First-Out (HIFO) is also an accepted method under US GAAP, which can result in lower reported profits and thus lower taxes during periods of rising prices.

Crypto Assets treatment under UK GAAP

  • Allows the use of FIFO and the weighted average cost method.
  • Unlike US GAAP, UK GAAP does not permit the use of LIFO or HIFO.

Crypto Assets treatment under IFRS

  • Accepts FIFO and the weighted average cost method.
  • Similar to UK GAAP, IFRS does not allow the use of LIFO or HIFO.

It's important to note that while all three standards aim to provide a fair and accurate representation of a company's financial position, differences in the allowable inventory valuation methods can lead to significant variations in reported profits and inventory values. Companies operating in multiple jurisdictions may need to maintain multiple sets of books to comply with different accounting standards.

Final considerations: Cryptocurrency transactions and tax accounting method

As the digital asset landscape continues to evolve, it's essential to keep several considerations in mind when dealing with cryptocurrency transactions and tax accounting methods.

Regulatory Compliance:

Compliance with tax laws and accounting standards is crucial. Regulations vary by country, and in some cases, there may be specific guidelines for crypto. Staying informed about the latest regulatory developments in your jurisdiction can help ensure compliance and avoid potential legal and financial issues.

Accounting Method Choice:

The chosen accounting method can significantly impact the reported income and tax obligations. Whether you choose FIFO, LIFO, or another method, it's vital to understand the implications of your choice and ensure it aligns with your overall business strategy.

Using Software for calculating Crypto Taxes:

Utilizing tax software that can handle cryptocurrency transactions can make the process of tracking and calculating taxes significantly more straightforward. Ensure the software you choose can handle the specific needs of cryptocurrency accounting.

Volatility of Cryptocurrency:

The highly volatile nature of crypto can result in significant fluctuations in value, which can impact the reported profits or losses from cryptocurrency transactions. It's essential to have a robust system in place to track these fluctuations and accurately report them in your financial statements.

Professional Advice:

Given the complexity and rapidly evolving nature of cryptocurrency regulation and accounting, it can be beneficial to seek advisory services from professionals who specialize in this area. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances and help navigate any challenges that may arise, as well as make sure you comply with the law estate.

Record Keeping:

Due to the decentralized nature of crypto, it's crucial to maintain detailed and accurate records of all cryptocurrency transactions. These records will be invaluable when it comes time to prepare financial statements or calculate tax obligations. For example, if you select paying employees in cryptocurrency instead of a cash basis, adds another layer of complexity to accounting and record keeping as some jurisdictions may not acknowledge crypto as a valid form of payment for wage purposes.

In conclusion, as the world of crypto continues to grow and evolve, businesses must adapt their accounting practices to stay compliant and accurately report their gains and financial performance. By keeping these considerations in mind, businesses can better navigate the complexities of crypto transactions while being in compliance with the regulations according to the jurisdictions.


What are the commonly used accounting methods for cryptocurrencies?

The commonly used accounting methods for crypto include US GAAP, UK GAAP, and IFRS standards. Under these, crypto can be classified as intangible assets or financial instruments, depending on the circumstances.

How is cryptocurrency treated under US GAAP, UK GAAP, and IFRS accounting standards?

Under US GAAP, cryptocurrencies are typically treated as intangible assets. IFRS may classify them as either intangible assets or financial instruments. UK GAAP largely aligns with IFRS and is mainly applicable to non-listed UK companies

What are FIFO and LIFO inventory valuation methods and how are they used in cryptocurrency accounting?

FIFO (First-In, First-Out) and LIFO (Last-In, First-Out) are inventory valuation methods used in accounting. FIFO assumes the oldest inventory items are sold first, while LIFO assumes the most recently acquired items are sold first. These methods help calculate the cost of goods sold (COGS) and the value of remaining inventory in the context of crypto.

What inventory valuation methods are accepted under US GAAP, UK GAAP, and IFRS for crypto assets?

US GAAP permits the use of FIFO, LIFO, HIFO and the weighted average cost method for crypto assets. UK GAAP allows FIFO and the weighted average cost method but does not permit LIFO or HIFO. Similar to UK GAAP, IFRS accepts FIFO and the weighted average cost method but does not allow LIFO or HIFO.

Why is the Specific Identification valuation method relevant for Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) in crypto accounting?

The Specific Identification valuation method is relevant for Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) due to their unique and non-interchangeable nature. This method allows for tracking the cost basis and value of each individual NFT, which is crucial for accurate accounting, financial management, and tax reporting.

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