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Groups Launch First XBRL GAAP Certification

Tammy Whitehouse | July 10, 2013

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and XBRL US are rolling out a training and certification program that will focus on helping companies produce better XBRL filings, whether they handle the filing internally or outsource it to a third-party service provider.

The AICPA says the certificate program will give finance and accounting professionals the information and training they need to create XBRL-formatted financial statements using any software application or working with any service provider. The training covers understanding the U.S. GAAP Taxonomy, reviewing and validating XBRL documents, building an instance document and creating extensions, transitioning to updated Taxonomies, using the SEC Edgar Filing Manual, creating individual financial statements, and detailed footnote tagging.

The training modules provide tagging simulations that facilitate practical experience, says Ami Beers, senior technical manager of XBRL and business reporting services at AICPA. “It's a fully comprehensive training program, and it starts at the very beginning,” she says. “The only prerequisite is understanding U.S. GAAP financial statements.”

AICPA and XBRL US say there are 9,400 public companies that are required to submit their financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission in XBRL. The majority are smaller companies who have been working in XBRL for only a few years. The SEC's phased implementation allowed companies two years of limited protection from liability to give them time to learn the process, and that expires for the smallest companies this year. Even after several years of filing in XBRL for larger companies, the SEC says errors persist, often in areas such as negative values and excessive use of extensions when there are elements in the Taxonomy that would be appropriate.

“That's one of the reasons we endeavored to develop this program,” says Beers. “There are a lot of mistakes and errors that are caused by not fully understanding the Taxonomy and the requirements. We believe we've addressed many of the issues filers are struggling with today.” AICPA says in a recent survey of more than 1,000 AICPA members, 57 percent said they needed expert or advanced knowledge of XBRL but only 28% said they currently had such knowledge.

The sheer size and complexity of the GAAP Taxonomy requires companies to learn a great deal, said Campbell Pryde, president and CEO of XBRL US, in a statement. “The Certificate program is designed to help filers get the training they need quickly and cost-effectively, and to give them a deeper understanding of best practice and how to apply it,” he said.

The online program consists of multiple modules that require 35 hours to complete, AICPA said.