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Speed Bumps for Early XBRL Filers, Users

FASB is close to overcoming a mismatch between its new codification of accounting standards and data-tagged financials that could have presented communications problems for CFOs.

In that case a user would have to run two programs simultaneously, switching back and forth between an XBRL software reader and the cross-reference tool, which Hannon said could prove somewhat unwieldy when performing robust analyses of financial statements.

Meanwhile, there is another speed bump for the early days of XBRL filings: the SEC’s Edgar filing database will not be ready to accept data-tagged reports using the 2009 taxonomy, containing several FASB rules and interpretations published this year, until July 22.

Any company with a scheduled filing date before July 22 for a quarter ending June 15 or later can opt to file its report using the out-of-date 2008 taxonomy. The SEC, though, is encouraging filers to use the current set of data tags. To accommodate that request, a company with a line item affected by new FASB literature will have to create its own extensions to the core taxonomy. Not only would that require extra effort by companies, but Hannon lamented that “a bunch of rogue XBRL elements” not formed the same way from company to company would inevitably hinder analyses of the effect of FASB’s new pronouncements on financial statements.

But that, he said, would be the “lesser of two evils” compared with another option for companies: taking advantage of a 30-day grace period the SEC is allowing for first-time XBRL filings. In that case, a company would still have to file its periodic report on time but could file the data-tagged version after July 22. The problem is, doing that would require filing an amendment to the original report stating that the data-tagged version has now been filed. “What investor-relations officer wants to have to explain to dozens of callers about why an amended report was submitted to the SEC, even if it’s very explainable?” asked Hannon. “It will always be out there that you amended your report.”

He called it “very strange” that the date when Edgar can accept XBRL filings is coming in the middle of a filing season. “You’d have thought the SEC would have wanted to make sure it happened by June 30,” said Hannon. “Maybe they underestimated the programming changes they’d have to make.”

It’s creating extra work and costs for the companies with filing dates before July 22, even those that choose to write extensions rather than use the 30-day grace period. Not only do they have to file a report with those extensions, but as a practical matter they are also preparing an additional report that they will not turn in.

That’s because most XBRL tags, once set up, are reusable for the next quarter, and most financial-reporting software is likewise set up to roll from one quarter to the next. Therefore, to get ready for the next quarter a company must have already created the XBRL tags for the previous quarter. If Edgar were ready to accept data-tagged submissions earlier, companies would not have to prepare two different reports. “Filers are going crazy with this,” said Hannon.

The SEC did not respond by press time to a request for comment.

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