Shocker: CFOs Avoiding System To Make It Easier To Spot Accounting Problems

from the what-are-they-thinking? dept

Reuters is talking about the wonders of XBRL, the business reporting language that was supposed to make it easier for computerized systems to run through financial filings and spot questionable data. The article notes that XBRL has been around for a while, but it not widely adopted by the industry. Is that really a surprise? The benefit of this technology is that it lets the government spot problems on your corporate filings. Even companies that believe their filings are perfectly legit are going to think twice before making it even easier for a computer to flag their filings for a detailed review. If the government really wants this technology to take off, they need to either mandate it by law, or, at the very least, come up with a better marketing program that shows how it benefits companies, rather than making them more susceptible to a tax audit.

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Comments on “Shocker: CFOs Avoiding System To Make It Easier To Spot Accounting Problems”

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1 Comment
Mark Polino, CPA (user link) says:

Really lousy reporting job here

This comment and to a much lesser extent, the Reuters story, completely misses the point. XBRL was never about fraud detection. XBRL is not being adopted because the benefits of adoption don’t exceed the costs. Specifically,

1) Its not easy. You have to tag every single one of of typically thousands of accounts in a company’s chart of accounts and charts of accounts are unique to each company. Also, you have to keep it up each time an account is added. Current software, as the Reuters’ story correctly pointed out, is difficult to setup and use. There have been some improvements over the past couple of years but its still a pain.

2) The purpose of XBRL was to promote easier comparability of financial statements for INVESTORS (realistically, institutional investors). Given that most companies have a love-hate relationship with analysts there is no incentive from the company side use XBRL. Companies can’t see the benefit of making an analysts job easier.

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