Tips for Preparing for XBRL


Continuing on my quest to learn more about eXtensible Business Reporting Language now that the Securities and Exchange Commission will require publicly traded companies to file their financial statements using XBRL data, I spoke with Michael Ohata, a managing director at KPMG's Advisory Services.

Ohata is a particularly valuable source because he previously worked at Microsoft. While there, he led the company's XBRL conversion efforts so that Microsoft could participate in the SEC's voluntary XBRL filing program. As such, he has several recommendations for those trying to prepare for the new requirement.

Most importantly, he says, you need to identify the people within your organization who will be responsible for preparing the XBRL filings. Because it requires so many different kinds of expertise, one person will not be able to handle it alone. Instead, he recommends "a corporate reporting representative, an accountant with external reporting knowledge, and a technologist experienced with XML (Extensible Markup Language), the underlying Internet technology on which XBRL is based."

When those team members are planning the conversion process, Ohata notes that they will need to consider the following:

  1. Training, developing the process and then conducting quality assurance tests will take time, so be sure to allot enough.
  2. Analyzing your current filings in comparison to the existing XBRL U.S. GAAP taxonomy will help to determine where and if custom tags will need to be created.
  3. Understanding the differences between your organization's ASCII/HTML filings and XBRL will be important.

In other words, if the new filing rule applies to you, it's best to start planning now. This isn't something you'll be able to throw together at the last minute. And even if you choose to outsource the work, you still must be a part of the process. You can't outsource your responsibility for the accuracy of the filings.