Give (an Endowment Gift) & Receive (a 40% MT Tax Credit)

Ann Deegan, Chair of the MSCPA Legacy Foundation, recently blogged that “It is Better to Give than to Receive.”  However, isn’t it truly best to give AND receive?  If you agree, keep reading!

Please give an endowment gift to the MSCPA Legacy Foundation by 12/31/2019 and receive a 40% MT tax credit on your individual tax return, as well as a net federal tax itemized deduction!  Depending upon your personal tax situation – including your taxable income, tax bracket, filing status, age, and whether you itemize your federal deductions – you could save between 40% and 60% of the charitable amount of the donation!  Isn’t this a darn good payback just for being charitable and giving a gift to support the Montana accounting profession in perpetuity?

After such a great year on Wall Street, if you happen to have appreciated securities in your personal portfolio, you should consider gifting appreciated securities to the MSCPA Legacy Foundation Endowment instead of cash and save additional tax on the appreciation avoided – up to an additional 28% of the capital gain avoided.

Thus, by making an endowment gift by 12/31/2019, you could save between close to 40% — and potentially up to over 80% — of the charitable amount gifted on your 2019 personal taxes.  Of course, the actual tax savings depends upon your personal tax situation.  Please consult your tax advisor – probably you – or let us know if we can run a planning scenario for you so that you can work with real numbers, as all CPAs love to do!

As you are preparing your year-end 2019 contributions, Ann previously asked you to consider helping the MSCPA Legacy Foundation through an affordable cash gift:

  • If you have been a member for 10 years or less—Consider a $25 Donation.
  • If you have been a member 10 years or more—Consider a $50 Donation or more.

 I’m asking you to also please consider an endowment gift of at least $500.  Remember – you’ve got to give to the endowment in order to receive the 40% MT Endowment Tax Credit.  By giving away $500, you can potentially save between $200 and $400 in combined Montana and federal personal income taxes for 2019.  Give today so that future generations of Montana accountants can receive all the opportunities and benefits offered by a CPA credential and a great accounting career.

Cheers & Happy New Year (and New Decade) to All!

The Legacy Foundation Council—Ron, George, Ann, Clem, Walt & Richard

Contact Allen Lloyd to learn more about giving an endowment gift.

It is Better to Give than to Receive

legacy foundation header.PNGAs you are preparing your year-end contributions, we hope you will consider helping the MSCPA Legacy Foundation with our Christmas Wish List—A Simple Request:

  • If you have been a member for 10 years or less—Consider a $25 Donation.
  • If you have been a member 10 years or more—Consider a $50 Donation or more.

Why We Give:

  • To provide scholarships for Students attending our annual MSCPA Conference—breathing new life into our organization providing a great chance to interact with our future CPA’s
  • To support educators through the Accounting Bridges program—reaching out to high school students encouraging them to consider majoring in Accounting as they explore possible career paths
  • To sponsor speakers that inspire us as professionals at the Annual MSCPA Conference and the Industry Conference
  • To sponsor Educators attending our Annual Conference—strengthening our link to the university accounting students encouraging them to establish accounting careers in Montana
  • To Host College Campus Events—Interacting with students at Montana Colleges & Universities offering degrees in Accounting
  • To sponsor Financial Literacy—educating future generations

If all our members will contribute in some way, all our donations will help ensure the Legacy of our Profession for generations.  

In the spirit of “The Season of Giving” we hope you will consider a gift to MSCPA Legacy Foundation.  To learn more about the Legacy Foundation and to donate, click here.

Best Wishes & Happy New Year to All!

The Legacy Foundation Council—George-Ron-Ann-Clem-Walt & Richard

MSCPA Rural Road Show: Four Days. 8 Cities. 1100 Miles.

MapMapAllen Lloyd, Executive Director and Molly Holahan, Communications Director, set out to meet with our rural members and get to know them and the communities they live in.  It was a quick trip, but each stop gave us a unique opportunity to sit down and visit places we might not otherwise get the chance to see.

We enjoyed listening to each of our members talk about what they’re facing in their rural communities. We also learned what they loved about their community. They shared their WHY with us. Why they chose to live there and what makes their town special and unique. The one thing these areas have in common is the strong ties to the community and the way they all support each other.  It was echoed in every visit; it’s the people.

Middle of Nowhere

Montana is a big state and our rural areas are struggling to not only find CPAs, but other professions as well. We heard this common theme throughout the trip.  While I wish we had easy solutions, we are aware of  the problem and trying to help.  We’ve launched an initiative with the MSCPA Young Professionals Group: Raising the BAR to find ways to introduce students to the opportunities in these communities.  The BAR group is visiting a minimum of 10 high schools this year and we’ve started to do career days in middle schools as well.  We know theMiles City earlier students are introduced to the profession, the more likely they are to have interest in it and try classes in high school and potentially select accounting as a major when they enroll in college. We are also exploring different technological avenues to see how remote access is working for firms with remote employees to serve rural communities.



While we may not make this trip for another two years, we’ve added several items to our to do list for next time (including the underground tour in Havre and somehow timing it to see a production at the Fort Peck Theater!).


We really enjoyed meeting those of you that were able to join us while we made stops in your town!  Look for additional information on future trips and visits to your hometown.





5 Questions with Julie Kostelecky, 2019-2020 MSCPA Board President

Julie Kostelecky - UpdatedAbout Julie:

Julie was born and raised in Sidney, Montana. She graduated from Montana State University with her Masters in Accounting in 2003.  Julie is a partner at Rudd & Co and her focus is individual and small business tax, governmental audits, and business valuations. She currently resides in Bozeman with her husband Jason, and their two daughters, Sarah and Sasha.

Did you always want to be a CPA? Or How were you introduced to the profession?

Julie: Yes, I’m one of those nerds that knew since High school what I wanted to do! My mom worked at an accounting office doing data entry and my dad was a banker so the numbers thing seemed to come naturally.  My very first job was actually working in my mom’s accounting office when I was in Middle School.  I would walk down to her office after school and the partners paid me to update their tax research books.  This was back before everything was paperless so it was loads of fun.

How were you introduced to the Montana Society of CPAs?

Julie: A former MSCPA president, Kyla Quintero, was active in the Society when I worked with her. She brought me along to an annual convention one year and I was introduced to all kinds of characters.  (I’m looking at you Jim Gallipeau and Gordy Thompson!)  It was so much fun, I came back with her the next year and then she encouraged me to get involved in a committee.  The more people I met, the more I wanted to be involved so I could see everyone again!

What advice would you give students and young professionals that might be interested in getting involved in the profession and MSCPA?

Julie: It’s the best career choice. There are so many different avenues you can take with an accounting degree.  If you do the really hard work and get the CPA exam passed, there is no limit to the different things you can do with it.  The MSCPA is also a great place to meet people and find someone who can tell you all about their career choice.  The more you get involved, the more amazing people you can get to know.  You never know when those connections will circle back around to help your career, get you set in a new direction or just find you some great friends.

What’s your favorite Montana activity?

Julie: Definitely hiking. My girls and I love going on hikes to waterfalls so we’ve tried to find as many as we can.  We usually drag Jason along too, because someone has to carry the kids on their shoulders when they get tired on the way back out!

What tips do you have for balancing work, family and life in general?

Julie: The biggest thing I would say is that you have to set your own limits. Your priorities will shift and refocus depending on the time of year, the month or the day! It’s way too easy to let work and client demands dominate your life and I’ve learned that I will never be really outstanding at all of those things ALL the time, but if you give yourself a little empathy, set some limits and communicate those to your clients and co-workers, you can determine what matters most in this moment and then give your all to that. Work will always be there and thankfully I have an amazing group of people at my office that will cover for me or anyone else we work with when family and life in general need to take over for a little while. 

Q & A with Maddie Miller

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Maddie Miller, CPA, Wipfli, Bozeman, MT

Maddie attended the 2018 AICPAs Prestigious Leadership Academy and we got the inside scoop.

Q: Did you always want to be a CPA?

A: No, I didn’t. I had originally attended college, at Montana State University, for creative design.  I was exposed to accounting as a career when I took my first accounting class. The class was challenging and when studying the hours would go by and I was sucked in. I knew this was a career path I wanted to pursue.

Q: What’s your favorite part of being a CPA?

A: My favorite part is when I get to operate in a creative space when meeting clients, talking to them and learning about their business. I really enjoy brainstorming ideas on how to grow clients’ businesses.

Q: How were you introduced to the AICPA Leadership Academy, and what was the application process like?

A: Four years ago, I helped put together a Young Professionals track for MSCPA and we hired Joseph Rugger as a speaker, an Academy Alumni.  After meeting him and helping with the logistics of his presentation on the Generation Gap, he reached out to the society for my contact information to refer me into the program. Honestly, I was really scared!  I didn’t know if I would make it in or if I should even try. He lit a fire and pushed me to try.  He helped me with the application process and talked to me about how to set myself up for success.

Q: What was the application process like?

A:  Lengthy. It took almost a year.  The application itself consisted of two essays, of which they had received over 120 applications with only 43 accepted into the program. It was a time commitment, but I’m am appreciative of the supfile-9.jpegport I received from the MSCPA and my firm, Wipfli, LLP.

Q: What are three things you can share about the Academy?

  1. The process really helps you self-reflect on how others perceive you. Before you leave for the Academy, a survey is filled out by yourself, your peers and your supervisors. You receive and review the results before you attend. This survey helped peel back layers and provide insightful perspectives. It also helped me attend the first day of the conference with an open mind ready and ready to learn.
  2. While at the conference we learned about our top 5 values and how they drive our decision making. My Top 5 are – Creativity, Fairness, Bravery, A Love of Learning and An Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. We learned that we all place our values in a different order and understanding how our values can be played as strengths or be limiting helps us lead with an outward mindset and work to achieve goals we didn’t even know we had.
  3. At the Academy we spent time discussing the rapid pace of change the accounting industry is currently experiencing and what it the means for the future of the industry and our young professionals. We learned how to have open conversations about change and how to face it in a proactive manner. I hope to keep this conversation going in my firm and in the MSCPA, and work to make it so that we can be a part of change rather than let change happen to us.

Q: What do you plan to do with the knowledge and experiences from the Leadership Academy?

A: When I came home from the academy what I wanted to do first was reflect on what I learned and find a way to use it a little bit every day. We learned so much, and to tackle it all at once would be un-manageable.  I want to use the self-reflection to help prioritize my career and make sure I focus on areas where I can provide value and can afford the opportunity to create. I hope to help young professionals grow and achieve their goals, and help our team at Wipfli, LLP work together toward common goals.

Q: Have you always considered yourself a future leader?

A: I wouldn’t say I considered myself or looked at myself as a leader. I didn’t know if I would have the opportunity to lead. The Academy taught me what it means to be a leader and helped me understand all the opportunities and different ways we can lead.

Q: Is there a leader who has positively influenced your career for the better, who would it be and why?

A: Sydni Tangaro whom I worked with earlier in my career.  There were times when balancing life and work were too hard and I wanted to quit.  She took the time to talk through the situation, provided solutions and called me out when I was wrong. She just leads by example.

Additionally, I understand more clearly the power of people coming together.  How lucky are we that we have the MSCPA and AICPA to help be a part of our success and a support system? Going through this process and reflecting on it has really helped me understand how valuable these societies are, and I want to continue to find ways to give back.



It’s been a blast!


George Olsen, 2019 George D Anderson Distinguished Service Award Recipient 

George Olsen was born into a ranching family in White Sulphur Springs, MT. His family owned a dairy farm there.  Not long after George was born, his family moved to Deer Lodge where his father opened a hardware store. To say George is tough as nails is an understatement, his family moved to Joplin to farm for eight years when he, his brother and sisters were children. They had to move back to Deer Lodge during the winter months because the home wasn’t suitable for the freezing winter weather, with no indoor plumbing.  Growing up in a farming family served George well throughout his life and career. He has an amazing work ethic, can fix darn near anything and was able to build trust with his ag clients because he knows firsthand what the highs and lows farming and ranching can bring.

George finished high school in Deer Lodge and went on to the University of Montana in Missoula. He had a cousin that went into accounting and George decided “if he can do it, so can I”.  During his high school years, he signed up for bookkeeping and typing classes instead of physics and calculus, which gave him an insight into the profession and made his college courses easier for him to dive into. Following graduation, he interviewed with Galusha, Higgins and Galusha (GHG) in Helena in 1971.  At the time, he didn’t think he’d stay long.  After 41 years with the firm, in 2012, he retired from the same office.

During his tenure at GHG, George’s niches included financial institutions and ag clients as well as small businesses and individuals. George fondly recalls that getting to know people through these client engagements and learning about their businesses and families were his favorite parts of being a trusted adviser. To this day, George treasures these friendships the most when he looks back on his career. In addition, George had some amazing times with his colleagues and peers from other firms around Helena and carries with him fond memories participating on the GAHGZ softball team and even having his elbow broken during an inter-firm basketball game.  George thoroughly enjoyed the comradery amongst competing firms he interfaced with and the friendships he made along the way.

Although he retired in 2012, George is still as busy as ever. In fact, George is still deeply involved with the MSCPAs Legislative Committee and the State and Federal Tax Committee and has been the MSCPA’s voice at the Legislature for years.  In addition, he serves as the board president for the Montana Land Reliance (and has been involved with the Board since 1979), sits on the board of the Ruby Habitat Foundation, and has been serving for the past six years on the Land Trust Alliance Board.  Additionally, George has sat on the MHESAC board since 2011.

When George isn’t at the Legislature for the Society or one of the boards he sits on, he is likely with his wife, Ellen, and his grandchildren.  George is very proud of his children, Kara, who lives in Bozeman, and Brian, who lives in Helena and works at the Department of Revenue.  When talking about the future and where he sees himself in full retirement, George states, “we’ll stay close to Helena to be near our grandchildren”.

The best advice George offers to younger CPAs or those just starting the profession, is to encourage them to look beyond just making money and to focus on the relationships they’ll build and the knowledge they’ll gain from the profession. In addition, George encourages younger members of the profession to become active members on committees and boards with the MSCPA and to not assume some else is going to take on such leadership roles.  You can make a difference by working with the Society through its strength and credibility.  “It’s been a blast”, as he recalled listening and learning from other CPAs, that George now calls friends.  The DC trips for council, “those were an adventure”, as he shook his head with a smile.  Knowing who attends those trips (Gordy Thompson, Ryan Screnar, Jim Galipeau, you know the crew!), we can only imagine the fun times they’ve had!

The Society couldn’t be prouder and more pleased to honor George Olsen with the George D. Anderson Distinguished Service Award.  We cannot thank you enough for your time, service and dedication to the profession, George.

The Impact of Change

Written by Allen Lloyd, MSCPA Executive Director

I am going to ask you to stick with me on this one, I promise this relates to you and accounting but it takes a little side trip to get there.

Tiger Woods won The Masters this weekend.  For those who do not follow golf, this matched the longest time between major tournament wins ever at 11 years.  Many people know Tiger more for his mistakes over those 11 years than for his dominance of golf.  Between 1997 and 2008 he won 14 major tournaments.  He did this in large part by being more physically and mentally fit than his competitors.  If you look at most of today’s top professionals, they follow his formula.  In his prime Tiger was feared by his competitors in large part because once he was in the lead he didn’t look back. leaderboard

This weekend was different, it was the first major he ever won when he was not leading going into the final round.  It was also the first time he went into the final round with a plan to let the others make mistakes and then to capitalize on them.  Watching him navigate the course it was striking that he no longer hit the longest drives and rarely showed any emotion.  In short Tiger changed and found a new way to win.  He used his knowledge of this tournament and his personal history to manufacture a win.  The other contenders grew up watching Tiger when he was dominant, and I guarantee when they looked at the leaderboard and saw him lurking it got in their heads.  Golf tournaments tend to be pretty reserved events, butTiger.png when Tiger plays well the crowds are so loud that everybody knows what is happening.  It is another mental tool that Tiger used to his advantage this weekend.  His win was not easy, he played a great round and fought through some bad holes to win by a single shot.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the win was watching Tiger walk to the clubhouse and hug his kids.  In 1997 when Tiger won his first major, also at The Masters, he walked up the same hill and hugged his dad.  These were two people who dedicated their lives to the game of golf experiencing the highest of possible highs.  Seeing Tiger finally be able to share that same moment with his kids was touching.


At this point you are probably thinking how does this relate to me or accounting and holy cow Allen is a huge Tiger Woods fan.  I will get to the connection shortly but want to admit that I really don’t like Tiger.  For me he never seemed to enjoy what he was doing, when he won it still didn’t look like he was having any fun.

So how does this relate to accounting?  Much like golf, accounting is evolving.  Golfers have become more physically fit and are able to hit the ball much farther than ever before.  Similarly, accountants are doing much more today than they did in the past.  Software leverages what accountants do to help you create more value, much like today’s golf clubs help golfers hit the ball further.  In both cases technology is advancing, but you still need people with the core skills to take advantage of the opportunities.

The Annual Meeting this year is focused on Agents of Change.  As we talk about all the things that are changing and the impact they will have, we also need to remember the core service we provide continues to be trust.  We can use new technology to provide better information, but we must make sure that information is correct.  Golf and accounting have been around for a long time and while they both evolve over time the core remains the same.  In golf you try to put the ball in the hole using the fewest shots, in accounting you provide information and advice that people can trust.

Click here to learn more about the 106th Annual Meeting.

Logo fo Social Media



Uber for CPAs

A common story I have heard from members is they have more work than they have time.  This year at the small firm roundtable everybody was talking about getting rid of some of their clients because they simply didn’t have the time to prepare all the returns.  I hear similar things from firms of every size and from members working in BING (business, industry, non-profit, and government).  MSCPA and the Legacy Foundation are working hard to promote the profession and fill the pipeline, but that takes time.

Another thing I hear from people is they want more flexibility from their employers.  Companies have made strong headway on this over the past decade, but there is always room for improvement.

A couple months ago I heard a story that struck a nerve.  There is a CPA in South Carolina trying to solve both these issues.  His name is Sean Kenny and instead of me telling his story I thought I would let him share his story with you:

“Why can’t we just bring on more people during tax season?” That was a thought I had one late night as our firm struggled to get through the toughest time of year. I thought to myself how cool it would be for a firm to bring on experienced folks when needed – almost like an Uber driver. It seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe it wasn’t out there already. It was this idea — on-demand, flexible help for accounting firms — that changed my life, and hopefully it can change public accounting for the better.

As a CPA working in public, I dread tax season. We all know it: the long hours, the time away from the family, the stress. However, I really love the work. Something I hear over and over from other CPAs is “I love the work, I just hate the lifestyle.”  We need to fix the model.

In the spring of 2017, after the April deadline, I began taking every CPA firm owner who would answer my emails out for coffee or lunch to get their feedback. I learned that these small firms needed more than just help during tax season. They needed help with the complicated stuff too.  They didn’t have a partner’s door to knock on or an extensive network to utilize. They liked the idea of running their problem by an expert. But where are these people?

What I’ve learned over the past year is that there is an overwhelming, I repeat OVERWHELMING, demand for remote, flexible work – even in accounting. It’s an inverse of what’s happening in the traditional economy where firms are struggling to find experienced, full-time talent. Who are they? They’re stay-at-home mothers looking for at-home work, semi-retired folks with no interest in working crazy hours, and people just looking for alternatives (yes, many are Millennials). All of them would love to work with firms, they just don’t want (or aren’t able) to work in the office full-time.

As I was gaining feedback from accountants, I put together the team to build out the solution that would bring together CPA firms and freelance CPAs. One is my wife, Emily, an accomplished designer, and the other, Aaron, a software engineer who worked as the technical lead for a few well-funded startups (note: we are not a well-funded startup). The three of us set out to design, build, and bring this idea of on-demand help to public accounting firms (ideally before the next tax season). Thus, PrepLink was born and we got to work.

Shortly thereafter, the reality of launching a technical product hit. Delays. More delays. 2018 tax season came and went. In fact, it took us another 9 months of development to launch the product (wow, it actually just pained me to write that). But, as of September 2018, we are live and churning — and folks are coming.

As of this writing, there are over 120 freelancers and 100 firms on board. Firms are posting a wide range of work, both hourly and fixed-fee based. They’re getting people to help with tax season, assist with nexus studies, nonprofit questions, and bookkeeping. It’s been an amazing experience watching people connect and work through our platform. In this time, we’ve been listening to users’ frustrations (startups call this feedback), and making adjustments to improve the experience. We’ve learned so much just in the past few months, and there is so much more to accomplish.

And yes, we do have an uphill battle. Folks are constantly reminding us that accountants are slow to adopt new technologies. And no, this is not for everyone. But there are enough folks out there who are sick of the status quo. We just have to find each other.

At first I didn’t know why something like this wasn’t already out there. After a year of nauseating stress, delays, bug fixes, and rejections, I have a better idea of why no one else attempted something so massive and ambitious. The accounting world was just waiting for a fool like me to roll around. Well I’m here, and I ain’t leaving.

If you are interested in learning more, either to find some help to get the work done or to connect with firms looking for flexible talent, please reach out to Sean.  MSCPA isn’t getting a kickback from PrepLink, we just found a solution that might be able to help and wanted to share with you.

Visit their website and watch the video to learn more about PrepLink.

Mondays at 7 am – it’s time for Legislative Updates

Written by Molly Holahan, MSCPA Communications Director

Monday, January 7th kicked off the start off the MSCPAs first Legislative Update of the season.  Being relatively new to the MSCPA and the Legislative Committee, I kept my line on mute and video off to get a feel for how the meetings are ran and what these 7 am calls were all about.

Anyone can join

If you’re the least bit curious or interested in what’s going on this session, don’t hesitate to join the calls.  You can join from your computer, phone, or mobile device.  We use Zoom meetings, and they are user-friendly and only a few clicks to join or call into.  You have opportunities to share your knowledge on the call or be a fly on the wall and listen.


iverson john 2018

John Iverson, Lobbyist, Iverson Consulting

Meet our lobbyist, John Iverson.  John is our boots on the ground.  He will be at the capitol around the clock, checking committee meetings daily and keeping us on track.  However, he can’t do this without our committee.  He will research bills and help guide us, but we are here to support him too!

Committee Makeup

The Legislative & Government Affairs Committee, along with the support and help from the State and Federal Taxation Committees is a group of MSCPA members from across the Montana that are passionate about the accounting profession and keeping an eye on bills that affect clients and rule changes that impact the profession.  Interested in joining the committee, but don’t live in Helena?  Don’t worry, you can send letters\emails (in place of testifying) to legislators to show your supportKey Person Program or opposition on bills and watch most legislative committee and session meetings online.

Stronger in Numbers

This committee works as a team.  It’s a big undertaking to track all of the bills that impact clients and the profession.  With everyone’s eyes on the prize and ears on the ground, we can cover more territory and make sure legislation doesn’t get overlooked.  The more people we have committed to the group, the better off we are as a whole.

Experience Not Needed

I had no idea what I could bring to the group, but they are there to help and want new members.  The first step, is joining a call and learning from those that have been involved for several years.  They were all new to this at one time too!

Our ask

Join at least one call this session!  You’ll learn a lot and see what goes into a legislative session and how hard our committees works!  It’s an interesting process and we hope you’ll enjoy learning from it!

Click on the link below for login information:

Click here to add to your calendar!

Lastly, don’t forget to join our Key Person Program by completing the following form.

Key Person Program

Blockchain Breakdown

Herbold Josh sitting 2014

Josh Herbold 

Written by, Josh Herbold, MSCPA Past President

The number one question I seem to be getting asked a lot lately is, “What the heck is blockchain, and do I need to go and learn a bunch about it?” It’s a fair question, as the distributed ledger technology seems to be showing up in all kinds of places. If you’ve found yourself asking this question, this blog is for you.

If you’re starting your blockchain journey from scratch, a great first step would be to take six minutes and watch this: This is the best “basic” explanation of blockchain and distributed ledgers that I’ve found, and is well worth the time. I’ll wait right here.

The main ideas with blockchain are (1) everyone within the network has a copy of the ledger, and (2) the block that records each transaction also contains elements of previous transactions. Say, for example, I buy inventory from a supplier. The “block” in my ledger to represent that transaction will be mirrored by a block in the supplier’s ledger, and the blockchain software verifies the match. Now say I sell that inventory to you; again, each of our ledgers will have a “block” that represents the transaction. But the code within that block will also contain references to the transaction where I originally bought the inventory, which means that we should be able to trace ownership of that inventory all the way up the supply chain to its creation.

A lot of folks point to the “distributed” part of the “distributed ledger system” as the source of increased information security (because in order to create a fraudulent transaction or change a transaction, you’d have to do so within everyone’s version of the ledger), but the “chain” part of blockchain (the fact that each block contains elements of previous blocks) adds a high degree of security too. Not only would you have to change everyone’s ledger, but you would also have to go back in time and change all of the previous blocks!

I think the best analogy that I’ve heard to explain blockchain is to think about our system for tracking real estate ownership. If you own your house, that ownership is recorded in county records and evidenced by a deed. Those county records trace the deed of ownership all the way back to whenever the first deed was granted. It would be very difficult for someone to “steal” your house and claim ownership, because the official records track such ownership. One of the biggest benefits of Bitcoin (which of course uses blockchain in the background) is that you can trace the ownership of each individual bitcoin all the way back to when it was created.

There’s a great discussion about blockchain’s impact on accounting in the middle of the page here:, under the question, “What is your view of blockchain technology and its potential impact, especially on the accounting profession?” (The rest of the discussion is interesting, but not about blockchain specifically.) As those commenters point out, XML and XBRL had the potential to revolutionize recording and reporting of financial information, but those technologies never went as far as they could have. The same thing could happen to blockchain.

The power of blockchain right now seems to be in limited, private groups called “blockchain consortiums” or “blockchain alliances”. These are small groups of companies that share blockchain ledgers. The ledgers are “public” in the sense that everyone within the group shares ledgers, but not “public” in the sense that anyone in the world has access. A large corporation could set up a blockchain consortium with its suppliers, for example. This is where “smart contracting” is happening. A supply contract could be written that states that payment for goods will be made as soon as the goods physically arrive at the buyer’s location (or as soon as the goods cross state lines, or fifteen days after arrival, or whatever you want to put in the contract…). Goods are scanned upon arrival (or tracking chips in the containers track the location of the goods), and that scan triggers the payment, without having to wait for a human to input anything or hit any buttons. All of these transactions are automatically recorded in the blockchain ledger, and all parties have copies of the parts of the ledger that record their transactions.

My opinion is that blockchain will come to small and medium businesses more as a packaged solution than as something that you will have to program. Some company is going to figure out how to ease transactional frictions (like time to pay/collect, credit risk/trust in the other company, supply chain tracking, etc.) using blockchain, and then sell that to you as a solution. But blockchain is also starting to have an impact on things like the year-end closing process (e.g., I would say that it’s something you should probably start to educate yourself on, but not something that you need to immediately devote a week-long crash course to becoming an expert in (though that’s just my two cents, and it might only be worth that much…). I agree with the panel discussion in the article above that this is likely to be an illustration of Bill Gates’s point that we overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years, and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten years. Blockchain probably won’t change much of your day-to-day work in the next two years, but it could have a significant impact in the next ten.

Some good articles about blockchain within accounting are:

For information about blockchain in general (and the potential uses of blockchain beyond what we’re seeing today), I’d recommend:

  • Fun concept—a blockchain expert discusses blockchain with five different people who have different levels of understanding of blockchain, starting with a child and ending with a history professor who studies blockchain)
  • WIRED magazine’s new guide to blockchain. The intro article itself is great, and then you can spend as much time as you want going down the blockchain rabbit-hole.