As preparers dig into the recently issued 2014 U.S. GAAP Financial Reporting Taxonomy to use it in completing their next XBRL filing, they should pay close attention to some changes from the August exposure draft, says Louis Matherne, chief of taxonomy development at the Financial Accounting Standards Board. The taxonomy is awaiting final approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but preparers likely are getting up to speed as their next XBRL filing using the new taxonomy is only a few weeks into the new year.
What changes should preparers note as they study the new taxonomy, pending SEC approval?
The first area is in the elements used for modeling maturity schedules. We had added a large number of elements in the 2013 taxonomy release for rolling maturities. Some preparers or filers disclose that information in their 10Qs, even though it is not technically required. We had several requests to include that within the taxonomy, so we did that with 2013 release.
Unfortunately that created a little confusion. Now there are two sets of elements, one for rolling maturities, and another for the fiscal year, which is the more traditional approach. So we clarified in the definitions the elements that should be used for those different scenarios. It's also found in the “frequently asked questions” posted on FASB's website. When you look at the release notes, you'll see approximately 500 definitions or elements were impacted by this. As long as you focus on your particular use case, it's not necessarily that impactful, but it's important to see those differences.
The second area is important to disclosures related to different countries, such as segment disclosures, for example. The SEC has a special taxonomy specifically for countries, and that taxonomy should be used in conjunction with the dimensions and members in the GAAP Taxonomy that would be used to model geographies. If you have a segment disclosure or any sort of disclosure that is intended to communicate information by country, you should be using this particular taxonomy in conjunction with the US GAAP taxonomy. We have seen a lot of extensions for those numbers where extensions were not necessary, so we made sure that the SEC taxonomy, which is included in the US GAAP taxonomy, is highlighted by locating it in a couple different places in the GAAP Taxonomy. The goal is to make it more visible with the hope that it would reduce extension numbers.
We've seen a lot of changes to the GAAP Taxonomy in recent years. How do the changes compare this year?
Overall, the volume of changes is considerably down from the prior three releases. We expect that trend to continue going forward, at least as it relates to common reporting requirements. Obviously we need to address new accounting standard changes, but we are not anticipating a large number of standards in the coming year to have an impact our next release. FASB is focused a great deal on completing its major convergence projects (revenue recognition, financial instruments, leasing, and insurance). For the big convergence projects, their effective dates come in after our next release, probably no earlier than the the 2016 release. We will continue to work closely with the FASB staff to prepare implementation guidance and do some modeling that will enable use to get it out to constituents as early as possible.
So you're already giving thought to the 2015 release? What can we expect?
We are starting to plan for the 2015 release. We want to focus on stability, but it is possible we will need to implement focused changes in certain topics depending on what we see in the data. We spend a considerable amount of time analyzing data and how filers are using the taxonomy. If we see an area where there are particular issues, we will check to see if there is a problem. If it's necessary, we might have to open it up and consider change, but we will balance it carefully with the cost and the benefit.
Are preparers making use of the guides you have provided to help with implementation?
The implementation guides or reference guides have become an important part of our effort to support both preparers and users of the taxonomy. The guides have been well received. We've received a lot of positive feedback. They are meant to help preparers and users understand our modeling intent. It helps them use the taxonomy more effectively, so we will continue with that coming out in the first part of year, and you can expect more in the future.
What else are you doing to address concerns about complexity?
We also are starting an initiative in the first quarter of 2014 to address requests to reduce the complexity of the taxonomy and make it simpler. I'm not going to be so bold as to say I know what that will look like, but we believe it's an important idea that we need to start discussing. We will work with constituents on it and see where that takes us.