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FASB Kicks Off XBRL Guidance Series

Tammy Whitehouse | February 11, 2013

The Financial Accounting Standards Board has issued some proposed new guidance meant to help companies over some rough patches in their submission of financial statements formatted in XBRL.

The U.S. GAAP Financial Reporting Taxonomy Implementation Guide -- Subsequent Events is the first in a planned series of XBRL implementation guides meant to help users of the taxonomy understand how certain disclosures are structured within the taxonomy. The guide demonstrates the modeling of disclosures required about subsequent events, or those that occur after the end of a reporting period but before the financial statements for that period are finalized.

FASB says the modeling has been completed using elements in the taxonomy to provide some examples of how such disclosures might be tagged. The guide covers four common subsequent event disclosures, including the declaration of dividends and issuance of common stock after the end of a reporting period, the repurchase of common stock, and a new credit facility entered after the end of a reporting period, and a business acquisition which also follows the end of a period.

Louise Matherne, chief of taxonomy development for FASB, says he and his staff consulted a number of XBRL experts to get feedback on the new guidance, but the staff is still open to accepting further feedback through April 12 to refine it as necessary. "Since this is the first in a series, we are very interested in getting initial reaction," he says. "It will form how we develop others going forward." FASB is planning further implementation guides addressing segments and other comprehensive income, and addressing credit risk and reinsurance for the insurance sector.

The examples provided in the guide aren't meant to dictate the appearance of structure of a company's XBRL document, FASB says, nor are they intended to encompass all possible modeling configurations. The guide focuses on detail tagging only, so it does not include tags for text blocks, policy text blocks, or table text blocks.

FASB also published what it intends to be the first in a series of style guides. Definition Components & Structure is the first piece in the FASB U.S. GAAP Financial Reporting Style Guide Series, intended primarily for FASB staff to  help steer their creation of useful and consistent element definitions. The guide can also act as a reference for taxonomy users, FASB says, to provide additional insight into design criteria.

The style guide is not intended to serve as a tutorial, but rather as a reference source for both FASB staff and taxonomy users to clarify the meaning and support consistent use of the taxonomy. In the guide, FASB says the purpose of an element definition is to describe the financial reporting concept that the element represents in a way that helps users select the most appropriate element in the taxonomy. The board also says elements should be clear and concise, should be written in plain English, and should only include information that is helpful to the taxonomy user. FASB concedes its current taxonomy doesn't entirely conform to such standards, but the guide is meant to help keep FASB staff on course in the future as they continue creating element definitions.

Staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission have told public companies to improve the accuracy of their XBRL-formatted financial statements. The staff has especially called on companies to do a better job of making element selections from the taxonomy, to make financial statements more accurate and more comparable across capital markets. "Both the implementation guides and the style guides will be useful tools to help drive consistency in the use of the taxonomy," says Matherne.