Since 2009, organizations have been submitting an interactive data version of its financial statements known as eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). The SEC requires corporations to submit XBRL files with its HTML filings to make company financial data more accessible to investors and regulatory agencies as well as allowing for a more automated disclosure process.
While XBRL has become widely adopted today, the SEC is notifying many companies of errors in XBRL data quality. There errors can be costly and have long-term consequences on an organization’s public standing. Using a random sample of public filings, we discovered three common errors that companies can avoid in their next XBRL filings.
1. Calculation errors.
The most avoidable error in XBRL files is inaccurate math. Calculation errors in XBRL files communicate erroneous financial results. Companies file with these errors when proper validation is not completed or these errors are not effectively communicated for review. When self-filing, verify use of the validation tools. When using an outside provider, ask if calculation errors are present and continuously improve your source document.
2. Calendar errors.
Another recurring error in XBRL files is where data has been associated with the wrong date. Calendar errors in XBRL files distort validity of the information. This is typically the result of human error. Registrants should ensure staff or their outside provider proofreads the source document. Ideally, your or your provider’s software offers advanced validation tools to detect calendar errors.
3. Improper modeling of US GAAP Taxonomy.
An error occurs when the US GAAP Taxonomy isn’t properly reflected in the structure of the XBRL files. Poorly compiled XBRL ineffectively communicates financial information. Preparers of XBRL files need a working knowledge of the US GAAP taxonomy, SEC reporting guidelines and XBRL specifications. When using an outside provider, ensure that your XBRL files are properly prepared and reviewed by taxonomy experts. Several validation tools are available that can detect the most common invalid modeling relationships.
Calculation and calendar errors as well as improper modeling of US GAAP Taxonomy are avoidable issues. If your company uses an outside provider to prepare XBRL files, you should focus on advanced validation tools, taxonomy expertise and open communication to help with the review process. The end results are future filings that are increasingly easier to manage and XBRL files that offer more relevant insights to potential investors.