Crypto accounting

A Guide to Tax & Accounting for NFTs

Unlock the complexities of NFT tax and accounting - market trends, asset classification, and regulatory compliance.

December 4, 2023

We're beyond the point where anyone can disregard NFTs as a fad.

The market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.55%, scaling from $1.6 billion in 2023 to $3.1 billion by 2027.

NFTs are gaining momentum and could be the asset class that will redefine digital ownership in the years to come.

What are NFTs?

NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are blockchain-based digital assets that signify ownership or proof of authenticity of a unique item or piece of content.

Unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, which are fungible and can be exchanged on a one-to-one basis, NFTs have unique attributes that make them distinct.

The keyword here is "unique." Your NFT is one-of-a-kind and verifiable via blockchain, which makes duplication practically impossible.

These unique tokens represent an array of items - intellectual property rights, digital and physical real estate, access to events, and much more.

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What are the different kinds of NFTs?

NFTs are entering the mainstream through various channels, and it's essential to understand their real-world applications:

Art: NFTs provide artists with a platform to sell their work directly to consumers, ensuring authenticity and enabling them to earn royalties on secondary sales.

Music: Musicians can tokenize their work, offering fans unique collectibles and ensuring they earn a fair share from sales and royalties.

Gaming: Gamers can buy, sell, or swap in-game items, enhancing their gaming experience and potentially earning from their in-game assets.

Events and Ticketing: NFTs can transform the ticketing industry by eliminating intermediaries, reducing scams, and providing unique experiences to event-goers.

Beyond collectibles: Enterprise use-cases of NFTs

NFTs hold promise for businesses beyond the art and entertainment sectors. Real estate tokens, supply chain tracking, and intellectual property rights are emerging areas where NFTs could become essential assets.

NFTs are more than just collectibles. For Web3 businesses, NFTs can influence strategies around asset management, governance, and security protocols.

The NFT market is expected to mature, embracing more sustainable and versatile use cases. This transition isn't merely a market trend but an evolutionary step that aligns with broader enterprise goals.

Governance frameworks will need to be adapted to incorporate NFTs, and robust, institutional-grade security measures will be essential to shield against vulnerabilities like hacks, internal mishaps, or even insider threats.

4 Challenges in NFT Accounting

The accounting aspect of NFTs is, to put it mildly, a bit of a conundrum.

The lack of specific guidelines leads to ambiguity, sparking debates and discussions.

Given their unique characteristics, NFTs present substantial difficulties in their accounting treatment. Currently, US GAAP and IFRS lack specific guidance for accounting for NFTs, making it difficult to apply traditional models.

1. Accounting Treatment for NFTs

NFTs, being unique digital cryptographic assets stored on a blockchain, don't fit neatly into traditional accounting categories.

With FASB’s proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU), it’s mandatory to disclose a further disaggregation of inventory and manufacturing expenses into categories of costs incurred.

Under U.S. GAAP, there's no specific guidance for NFTs. They don't qualify as cash, marketable securities, or traditional financial instruments. Instead, they're often likened to indefinite-lived intangible assets, similar to trademarks or goodwill.

Under IFRS, the situation isn't much clearer.  IAS 38 Intangible Assets could be a starting point for classification but the unique nature of NFTs makes it difficult to fit them into any single category neatly.

Impairment accounting and fair value determination are especially challenging without an active market. Furthermore, revenue recognition issues arise under the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) ASC Topic 606, as the nature of NFTs does not always fit neatly into its established categories.

Take, for example, an NFT that represents a user's digital avatar in a metaverse. This NFT could offer a variety of digital rights, including free digital collectibles, loyalty rewards, and VIP access to events in the metaverse (e.g. virtual concerts). Some NFTs may also convey a right to a physical good, such as sneakers or clothes.

Each of these could be considered a separate performance obligation, requiring its own accounting treatment. If multiple performance obligations are identified, you’ll then face the challenge of allocating the transaction price based on the stand-alone selling prices (SSPs) of each obligation.

You’ll also have to assess how the control of each performance obligation is transferred to the customer - whether it’s revenue is recognized at a point in time (eg. license) or over a period of time (eg. hosting service, gaming experience.

2. Reporting NFTs on the Balance Sheet

Typically, NFTs are reported as intangible assets on the balance sheet.

The classification of NFTs as commodities or securities remains a topic of debate.

While they generally fall under the securities category, certain NFTs, especially those designed with an expectation of profit, might be considered commodities. This distinction is crucial as it determines the set of laws and regulations governing the NFT.

3. Valuation of NFTs

Valuing NFTs is tricky because they're unique digital assets.

Generally, they're considered intangible assets with an indefinite life. So for reporting purposes, the value of an NFT is its acquisition cost minus any impairment loss.

To get a good idea of an NFT's value, you need to look at its "fair market value." This is the price it would fetch if sold in an open market.

Both international (IFRS 13) and US (GAAP ASC 820) say that fair value is “the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date”.

Source: Web3CFO Guide

But here's where it gets complicated.

When a company sells an NFT, the transaction price often includes a fixed fee and additional variable consideration, such as usage-based fees. If the customer has resale rights for the NFT, the issuing company may be entitled to royalties on subsequent sales. Thus, the total transaction price for an NFT can comprise multiple revenue streams.

If the NFT is purchased with crypto assets instead of fiat currency (which is the case for most cases), the company must measure this non-cash consideration at its estimated fair value at the time the contract is initiated.

With different exchanges quoting different prices, businesses must maintain a consistent approach to the pricing source of their crypto assets where the greatest volume is being traded. Given markets never close, the recommended practice would be to use the same time for pricing the assets.

4. Tax Implications

NFTs are generally taxed similarly to cryptocurrencies, and treated as property. However, the tax treatment can differ based on jurisdiction.

NFTs, stored and processed across multiple servers and jurisdictions, add a layer of complexity. It becomes almost impossible to pinpoint a single jurisdiction where the transaction occurs, making tax treatment a convoluted issue.

Determining the substance of an NFT transaction often hinges on identifying the legal entities participating in it. This is easier said than done, given that NFTs are commonly traded through anonymous crypto wallets. One potential solution could be for sellers to request customer identification, such as country of residence.

The enforcement of robust anti-money laundering (AML) regulations could offer a way forward. For instance, the European Commission's MiCA regulation and the U.S.'s FATCA could serve as frameworks for compliance. These regulations would mandate the sharing of specific KYC/AML information, thereby providing a more structured approach to identifying parties involved in NFT transactions.

However, this is not standard practice in the NFT market currently.

Using Request Finance for organized NFT accounting

Request Finance is an integrated solution that partners with leading crypto accounting software like Consola Finance. This integration allows you to effortlessly manage your crypto payments, ensuring a seamless accounting experience.

When you combine the capabilities of Request Finance with these robust accounting platforms, it allows you to maintain precise financial records, minimize unnecessary expenditures, and enhance the overall efficiency of your NFT accounting.

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