Quality Group Proposes New XBRL Rules to Reduce Errors

July 7, 2016

The consortium advocating digital financial reporting has exposed for public comment guidance and proposed voluntary validation rules that would help companies improve the quality of the data they submit in XBRL.

The Data Quality Committee of XBRL US is developing guidance and validation rules that can prevent or detect inconsistencies or errors in XBRL data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The committee is looking for ways to improve data quality so as to help make the data submitted through XBRL more useful for analysis.

The committee approved validation rules in November that help detect errors related to element values, context dates, blog tag dates, negative values, document period end data, and others. Those helped decrease errors by more than 60 percent in the first quarter compared with the same quarter a year earlier, says Mike Starr, committee chair who is a vice president at Workiva. “There was a big impact in having those rules available,” he says.

The newest set of proposed validation rules help identify where an axis has an inappropriate member, and they help zero in on more specific problems with negative and positive values. They can point out when a deprecated, or retired, element is used inappropriately in a filing, and they call out other more specific problems with axes and members. XBRL US says an analysis by the committee shows use of the proposed rules would have identified potential errors in more than 800,000 data points submitted to the SEC in the last year.

The committee is not a regulatory body, so its rules are not compulsory for public companies. However, the committee’s members represent software providers, data aggregators, institutional investors, the accounting profession and academia, who are living on the front lines of XBRL use and trying to make it more useful by improving the quality of data.

Depending on feedback, the committee may extend the comment period, says Starr, but the goal is to assure the rules will be ready for use by the first quarter of 2017, he says. “In terms of when they likely will be publicly available, that’s October or November, in plenty of time to make the necessary changes as a result of having those rules to detect errors,” he says.

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