The Massachusetts Society of CPAs held a local conference in Boston this past Monday with the focus on the real estate industry. We were lucky enough to sponsor the event and got to listen to the extremely informational presentations that took place. We learned about topics from the city of Boston’s construction and real estate plans for the near future, to blockchain technology, and how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s impact on accountants with real estate clients.

The crowd’s consensus seemed to be that the new TCJA left accountants with many questions. Brian Hardy and Jenna Lewis from Ernst & Young were able to shed some light with their overview of the tax reform – both from a corporate perspective and an individual’s. The speakers shared some interesting points that raised a few questions from the audience, which led to a few short discussions amongst speakers and attendees to attempt to fully understand the rather vague changes that have been implemented. It was very clear that there are still unanswered questions within the industry, but people are hopeful that clarification and more answers are coming in the near future.

Another session revolved around the hot topic of blockchain technology. For those unfamiliar with blockchain, it is defined as follows: a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly. The session was run by MIT professor Steve Weikal and a panel of blockchain experts. The presentation started off with a powerful claim to what blockchain will become:
“Blockchain will do for transactions what the Internet did for information.”

We all know how revolutionary the Internet was, and if the credible MIT Technology Review is taking such a stance on blockchain, maybe it is time to start seriously considering how to utilize blockchain in your firm’s operations. Based on the abundance of information presented by the panel, it certainly is possible, and exciting, for blockchain technology to revolutionize how transactions are performed. With many startups that base their operations around blockchain, we may be seeing just how beneficial the technology could be; where does your firm stand when it comes to blockchain?

If you happened to miss the event, some key takeaways are:

  • With the lack of blockchain regulation right now, it may be easy to brush it off, but blockchain is gaining speed and you should try to be ahead of the curve on the new technology.
  • The TCJA changes a lot about how accountants do their work now, but there are still many questions to be answered.
  • GAAP reporting standards have changed, specifically in lease accounting, for the first time since 1976 and now require lease obligations to be in the balance sheet. It is believed that retail businesses will be impacted the most by this change with the increased liabilities.
  • The definition of a “business” has changed and it is very likely that real estate will now be counting more acquisitions as asset acquisitions, rather than a business acquisition.

While the conference was extremely insightful, it is safe to say that there is still a lot of confusion around the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and how it will affect accountants – and not just those with real estate clients. After learning as much as possible from the knowledgeable speakers, it is no secret that the accounting industry is changing in many ways not technologically related. Keeping up with these changes can be taxing and cause headaches. Luckily for you, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs hold regular events throughout the year for CPAs to earn CPE credits and keep up with current topics and trends in the industry.

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