XBRL Gains Support in 113th Congress

July 18, 2013

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has long supported expanding the use of Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), or data tagging, in financial reporting both in the government and the private sector.  The Institute believes that users of financial and business information benefit from its use as it allows for easier access to more transparent information.  With the 113th Congress we have seen the reintroduction of key bills that would expand the use of XBRL in multiple government agencies.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013, or “DATA Act,” was introduced in both the House and Senate in May 2013.  Representatives Darrel Issa, a California Republican, and Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cosponsored the House legislation, H.R. 2061.  The Senate version, S. 994, is cosponsored by Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican.

The DATA Act would require nonproprietary data standards to be used for the reporting of financial data and other information by federal agencies.  It would also require the Secretary of the Treasury “to establish Government-wide financial data standards for Federal Funds.”  While XBRL is not specifically mentioned, it meets all the criteria the bill has set in place.

The Senate and House versions of this bill are essentially the same.  The House version is expected to be considered by the full House in the near future, having been marked up favorably by voice vote in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee shortly after introduction. 

AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, wrote letters in support of the DATA Act to both the House and Senate cosponsors in May that stated the bill “appropriately specifies a financial data reporting standard that Federal agencies can implement using a currently available nonproprietary computer language...By utilizing consistent data standards, the Secretary 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.”

The AICPA supports the data transparency efforts of both these bills, and supports the continued efforts of members of Congress to expand the use of XBRL in the reporting of financial information by government agencies.  The reintroduction of these bills affirms that XBRL continues to gain congressional support for enhanced transparency for federal spending and programs.