Valuation Methods for Digital Assets: US GAAP vs. IFRS

The world of digital assets and cryptocurrencies presents unique challenges when it comes to valuation. As businesses increasingly operate in a global context, multinational companies must decide whether to adhere to U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for valuing their digital assets. This choice can significantly impact how financial statements are prepared and presented. Here’s a closer look at this decision and the implications for businesses.

Choosing Between US GAAP and IFRS

Multinational companies that operate both in the United States and other countries often find themselves subject to multiple accounting standard regimes. Making a choice between US GAAP and IFRS can significantly reduce the administrative burden and streamline financial reporting processes. Generally, companies should adopt the standards applicable to the country where the business is headquartered or where the most regulatory filings are required.

Consider these factors:

  • Templates for Translation: Develop or have a qualified accounting firm create templates to make necessary adjustments for translating financials to the other set of standards.
  • Software Compatibility: Be aware of the accounting standards your accounting software operates under and how they record transactions.

GAAP (Accrual) vs. Tax Accounting

Digital asset valuation requires understanding the fundamental differences between GAAP (specifically accrual accounting) and tax accounting:

  • Cash Basis Taxes: Tax accounting operates on a “cash basis,” meaning taxes are paid and gains or losses are recognized when the corresponding cash transactions occur.
  • Accrual Accounting: Accrual accounting seeks to present a comprehensive view of all events during a period, including those that do not have a direct cash impact.
  • Regulatory Lag: Tax regulations often precede GAAP standards or accrual accounting guidance by several years.

New business models, revenue recognition methods, and digital assets are often first encountered by smaller entities. It’s crucial for these businesses to understand and navigate the discrepancies between tax accounting and GAAP accounting.

Transition from Cash to Accrual

Most small businesses initially operate on a cash basis without the use of accounting software. As these businesses grow, they may adopt accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero, which are designed for cash-based small businesses. However, crypto-native companies often require specialized accounting subledger software from an early stage.

Businesses usually transition from cash accounting to GAAP accrual accounting under these circumstances:

  • When financial statements or audited financials are required by internal or external stakeholders.
  • When the size and complexity of the operation demand more sophisticated accounting.
  • When companies aspire to be acquired by larger entities.
  • When the cash basis no longer provides a comprehensive view of the entity’s financial health.


US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) is the default accounting standard for companies based in the United States. It is the accounting standard recognized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) publishes and maintains US GAAP, which is also used by some companies in Japan and elsewhere.

On the other hand, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are issued by the IFRS Foundation and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). They are used by many companies globally and are particularly relevant for publicly listed companies in the European Union.

Notably, the U.S. remains separate from IFRS, and the SEC requires domestic companies with listed securities to use US GAAP, making it an essential framework for many U.S.-based firms.

The choice between US GAAP and IFRS can have significant implications for financial reporting, valuation, and financial transparency. Each of these accounting standards has its unique principles, which can result in different valuation outcomes for digital assets and cryptocurrencies.

To make the right choice, businesses must carefully evaluate their needs, consider their international presence, and weigh the specific requirements of each accounting standard. As digital assets continue to play a more prominent role in the global economy, the importance of correct valuation and financial reporting is paramount, and choosing the right accounting standard is a crucial step in this process.