In this study, we investigate the economic characteristics of bitcoin and similar crypto-assets. Following an introduction to the blockchain protocol, the role of exchanges and of digital wallet providers, we consider the regulatory measures adopted in various jurisdictions. Lastly, we examine the accounting and prudential aspects related to crypto-assets, of which significant uncertainties still remain. The paper provides a taxonomy of crypto-assets, and describes the basic features of the initial coin offerings (ICOs) and related aspects.
The literature shows that bitcoin and similar crypto-assets do not fully fall within the category of money and financial instruments. This class of digital tokens, based on a permissionless distributed ledger technology (DLT), is highly volatile and absent of intrinsic value. The instability of their price must be considered when evaluating these instruments from an accounting and prudential standpoint.