Despite efforts to steer companies away from the creation of custom tags in XBRL exhibits, a recent analysis by the Securities and Exchange Commission shows little movement.
The SEC recently looked at 10-K filings from March 2014 through December 2016 and found the average rate of custom tagging in financial statement line items across all companies has held close to 20 percent. In 2014, the average was 20 percent across all companies, and 20 percent among large accelerated filers. By 2016, the average was only one percentage point lower across all companies at 19 percent, and only two percentage points lower at 18 percent for large accelerated filers.
When preparing their digitally interactive XBRL exhibits for filing with the SEC, companies use the annually updated GAAP Financial Reporting Taxonomy to select the individual tags that precisely define each financial statement line item. When they land on a number or disclosure that they believe is not represented in the taxonomy, they “extend,” or create a custom tag to represent that item.
The whole idea of digitally defining each individual figure in financial statements is to make them easily searchable and sortable for research purposes. When companies make up their own tags for certain data, those figures defined by custom tags are not as readily captured in such research. That reduces comparability, especially if companies are using custom tags for numbers that are indeed directly comparable to data from other companies.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board is responsible for updating the GAAP taxonomy annually, and the board has focused on making the taxonomy easier to use, thus making it less necessary for companies to create extensions. The SEC has also called on companies to improve their use of the taxonomy so as to reduce the need for extensions.
The SEC’s recent analysis shows the rate of custom tagging is pretty comparable across different sizes of companies, although non-accelerated filers tend to create more extensions than most companies, and smaller reporting companies tend to create fewer extensions.
In other XBRL news, the SEC upgraded its EDGAR system to support the 2017 IFRS taxonomy, which is the same taxonomy made available by the International Accounting Standards Board earlier this year. The SEC’s approval of an IFRS taxonomy and its EDGAR upgrade to support it enables companies filing in International Financial Reporting Standards to file in XBRL, and thus have their financial information made available to investors and analysts in the same machine-readable format as GAAP-filed information.
The SEC also updated its interactive test suite to provide new test cases for the IFRS taxonomy. The test suite is meant to assist filers in validating their interactive data before submitting them to the EDGAR system. The SEC is accepting comments on the update to the interactive test suite.