AICPA Encourages Changes to Data Transparency Provisions of Senate DATA Act

December 20, 2012

While supporting the data transparency provisions of S. 3600, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act, the American Institute of CPAs has sent a letter to the bill’s sponsors calling for important changes to strengthen those provisions.  Senators Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, introduced the bill in September. 

Following AICPA’s review of S. 3600, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA on Dec. 18, 2012 sent a letter to Senators Warner and Portman both praising them “for strong leadership in promoting new technologies that will allow users to better understand and compare reported financial information” and asking that they consider making certain modifications to strengthen the data transparency provisions as they think about the bill prior to its reintroduction in January.  Melancon urged that the bill be “modified to include these critically important changes that will require adoption of the best possible data standard.”

AICPA a Staunch Advocate of XBRL

The AICPA has been a long-standing advocate for the use of eXtensible Business Reporting Language, commonly referred to as XBRL, which is the best, currently available non-proprietary data standard for reporting financial and performance data. 

The AICPA believes that, when the DATA Act is enacted, XBRL should be selected as the data standard for the reporting of federal spending as called for in the bill.  

“Ultimately, the benefits of using data standards, such as XBRL, to tag financial data will enhance the accuracy and transparency of financial and performance data,” Melancon said in his letter.  “Data standards like XBRL provide the best detailed yet customizable approach to gathering data.  Finally, by utilizing consistent data standards, the Secretary [of the Treasury] will be able to significantly improve both the Federal government’s and the American public’s ability to analyze information from Federal agencies, providing an unprecedented level of transparency for Federal spending.”

It should be noted that S. 3600 differs from the version passed earlier this year by the House of Representatives, H.R. 2146.  Among the changes made in S. 3600, reporting of federal spending is only required by Federal agencies; it does not require reporting by recipients of Federal funds.

For more information about these bills and the AICPA’s efforts to have the Federal government adopt the use of non-proprietary data standards, such as XBRL, for financial reporting, see the web page dedicated to XBRL in the advocacy area of the AICPA’s website.