The consortium advocating digital financial reporting has exposed for public comment guidance and  proposed voluntary validation rules that would help companies improve the quality of the data they submit in XBRL.

The Data Quality Committee of XBRL US is developing guidance and validation rules that can prevent or detect inconsistencies or errors in XBRL data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The committee is looking for ways to improve data quality so as to help make the data submitted through XBRL more useful for analysis.

The committee approved validation rules in November that help detect errors related to element values, context dates, blog tag dates, negative values, document period end data, and others. Those helped decrease errors by more than 60 percent in the first quarter compared with the same quarter a year earlier, says Mike Starr, committee chair who is a vice president at Workiva. “There was a big impact in having those rules available,” he says.  

The newest set of proposed validation rules help identify where an axis has an inappropriate member, and they help zero in on more specific problems with negative and positive values. They can point out when a deprecated, or retired, element is used inappropriately in a filing, and they call out other more specific problems with axes and members. XBRL US says an analysis by the committee shows use of the proposed rules would have identified potential errors in more than 800,000 data points submitted to the SEC in the last year. 

The committee is not a regulatory body, so its rules are not compulsory for public companies. However, the committee’s members represent software providers, data aggregators, institutional investors, the accounting profession and academia, who are living on the front lines of XBRL use and trying to make it more useful by improving the quality of data. The committee is asking those in the XBRL community to review the proposed validation rules and answer questions about whether they are useful, how they might be revised, and how the revision suggested might make data even more usable or reliable.

Comments will be accepted through August, the committee says, and will be evaluated for incorporation into the final rules. Those will be made freely available and will be contributed to the open-source Arelle XBRL platform, XBRL US says. Developers can download the open-source code to incorporate into their own software, if they wish, enabling use as a reference implementation against their software and to provide feedback.

Depending on feedback, the committee may extend the comment period, says Starr, but the goal is to assure the rules will be ready for use by the first quarter of 2017, he says. “In terms of when they likely will be publicly available, that’s October or November, in plenty of time to make the necessary changes as a result of having those rules to detect errors,” he says.