XBRL Gains Interest in New Legislative Proposals

October 13, 2011

The AICPA has long supported the use of eXtensible Business Reporting Language, or interactive data, in financial reporting.  Several bills introduced recently in Congress are encouraging use of XBRL by federal agencies and recipients of federal funds. 

The AICPA supports of H.R. 2146, introduced by Congressman Darryl Issa, a California Republican and Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011,” or “DATA Act,” was introduced earlier this month and was approved unanimously by the committee June 22. 

The Institute believes that users of financial and other information benefit from data tagging because interactive data allows for easier access to and more transparent information.  Importantly, inclusion of XBRL in new legislative proposals demonstrates the growing support for this using XBRL’s data tagging protocol to make financial and other information more transparent.

“The benefits of using data tagging to enhance transparency and to analyze financial and other data have been proved time and time again,” AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, said in a letter to lawmakers.  “XBRL provides a detailed yet customizable approach to gathering data and will provide significant transparency to the Federal government and the American people regarding the use of taxpayer funds.  The legislation would take many of the lessons learned by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, and would expand the reporting from just the recipients of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to essentially all recipients of Federal funds.”

H.R. 2146 includes a provision to require a newly-created Financial Accountability and Spending Transparency Board to collect information from federal agencies, as well as from recipients of federal grants, contracts and loans.  It further requires the FAST Board to designate common data elements and data reporting requirements for the information provided by recipients and agencies.  The legislation specifies XBRL as one possible data reporting language that should be considered to meet the requirement.

A similar bill was introduced by Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, on June 16.

In addition to the DATA Act, Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Congressman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, each introduced bills entitled the “Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Services (JOBS) Act of 2011” (S. 904 and H.R. 1745).  These bills include a provision requiring the U.S. Department of Labor to work with the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the states to designate data reporting standards to govern the reporting required under Titles III and IX of the Social Security Act.  The bills state, “In designating reporting standards under this subsection, the Secretary of Labor shall, to the extent practicable, incorporate existing nonproprietary standards, such as the eXtensible Business Reporting Language.”

More information is available about XBRL on the AICPA advocacy website.