This paper surveys the published work on how blockchain technology will impact accounting in general, but AI-enabled auditing specifically. The purpose is to investigate how blockchain technology can improve transparency and trust in accounting practice and how professionals can use blockchain data to improve decision-making, based on the qualities of immutability, append-only, shared, verified, and agreed-upon (i.e., consensus-driven) blockchain data. The multi-party validation of blockchain protocols adds real-time trusted data for the AI systems used by auditors to improve assurance and efficiency. This review summarizes four themes emerging from the literature focusing on how blockchain technology has changed record-keeping in accounting: event approach to accounting; real-time accounting; triple entry-accounting and continuous auditing. The research interprets the findings using agency theory and stakeholder theory to advance how using blockchain to mitigate information asymmetry and improve stakeholder collaborations is understood. The investigation also summarizes the challenges and clarifies organizations’ reasons to be cautious about adopting blockchain. Lastly, the study suggests that future researchers use this study in two ways that enrich blockchain literature: first, to apply the themes and answer the questions identified within this review to improve the business methods of practitioners and policymakers; and second, to encourage stakeholders such as practitioners, system designers/developers, and policymakers to collaborate in designing blockchain ecosystems that suit accounting and auditing as they transform digitally.
Making companies’ systems digital has enabled them to adopt new technological tools to simplify business processes and transform business models to innovate their operations (Gomber et al., 2018) because they can increasingly access advanced computing power and large databases (de Sousa et al., 2019). Today, the world’s most valuable businesses are Internet-driven and platform-based (Iansiti and Lakhani, 2017). Academics, social media, industries, and governments spend much time attending to the digital forms of technology: blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, the Internet of things (loT), and cloud computing. These innovations change organizations and individuals greatly (Benlian et al., 2018), with blockchain specifically providing the foundation for what Tapscott and Euchner (2019) call an Internet of value that will fundamentally reshape society and its business. Blockchain, now regarded to be the fifth pillar of the IT revolution (Thakkar, 2019) is expected to become the foundational technology as the next-generation Internet (Iansiti and Lakhani, 2017, Shermin, 2017). Since Nakamoto (2008) set the groundwork for what would become blockchain technology in 2008, the banking, financial, insurance, education, health care, and government sectors have been using blockchain technology to the extent that 10 % of the global GDP will be recorded and stored on blockchain by 2027 (World Economic Forum, 2015). PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) (2020) estimates blockchain could boost global GDP by 1.76 trillion US dollars by 2030. Deloitte’s, 2020 global blockchain survey indicates that organizations are more committed than ever to implementing blockchain in their business (Deloitte, 2020). With blockchain’s growing maturity, innovators are discovering new opportunities to create value and enhance trust and resilience to digital transformation by combining blockchain with other technology forms, notably, AI, IoT or cloud computing (Cuomo, 2020).
Conclusion and future research
This study reviews and summarizes four themes marking the changes in recordkeeping in accounting with blockchain technology. This technology can provide shared, verified, and agreed-upon (i.e., consensus-driven) auditable data. Auditing can enhance audit effectiveness with AI tools by using traceable and auditable blockchain data. This review interprets the results using agency and stakeholder theories to explain how blockchain-enabled accounting can avoid information asymmetry and include all stakeholders because blockchain offers new ways of organizing collaboration. However, it is a new, evolving technology that will challenge organizations faced with possible risks from embracing blockchain in accounting. Therefore, more research is needed to explore more cases of using blockchain-enabled accounting. Lastly, this study suggests some questions that future research could seek to answer and thus broaden blockchain literature with empirical research. They could ask: What types of accounting transactions can be recorded on a blockchain, and at what cost? How can blockchain data be synchronized in AI-enabled auditing? What are the data standards that blockchain and AI can reach? How can businesses govern blockchain-based accounting information systems? How can regulations be adjusted to guide and support innovation in blockchain-based accounting information systems and AI-enabled auditing? What different responses and challenges face large accounting and auditing practices and SMPs from adopting blockchain? Blockchain needs to be developed, standardized, and improved to overcome technical, organizational, and regulatory challenges to become truly an integral part of the financial system.