The AICPA supports the use of Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), or data tagging, for reporting of financial and other data. The Institute believes that users of financial and other business information benefit from data tagging because interactive data allows for easier access to more transparent information.
Both the private and public sectors are working toward implementing XBRL for financial information. The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted final rules in February 2009 requiring public companies to submit financial statements filed in XBRL format including annual and quarterly reports, registration statements and transition reports. Using a phased-in approach based upon market capitalization, as of 2011, all SEC filers that use U.S. generally accepting accounting principles (U.S. GAAP) and foreign issuers that use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are required to submit their reports to the SEC using XBRL. The FDIC also requires bank call reports to be filed using XBRL.
Digital Accountability and Transparency Act Enacted
The “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013” or “DATA Act” was signed by President Obama on May 9, 2014 after passing the House and Senate in April. It was introduced in both the House and Senate in May 2013 by Representatives Darrel Issa, a California Republican, and Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Senators Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican.
The DATA Act will require nonproprietary data standards to be used for the reporting of financial data and other information by federal government agencies. It requires the Secretary of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget “to establish Government-wide financial data standards for Federal funds.” The legislative language is written to specify that the data standard selected must “incorporate a widely-accepted nonproprietary, searchable, platform-independent computer-readable format,” and is “capable of being continually upgraded as necessary.” XBRL meets these and all of the other criteria of the bill.
In early November 2013, S.994 was considered and unanimously passed out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. H.R. 2061 overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 388-1 in mid-November. The Senate and House sponsors worked with the Administration and other stakeholders to reconcile differences in the bill, and the Senate passed the new version of the bill on April 10, 2014. The House then voted on the Senate bill on April 28, 2014.
The AICPA and state CPA societies worked directly with the bill’s sponsors to encourage appropriate language for the data transparency sections of the bills, and wrote letters in support of these sections; see below.
Standard DATA Act
The “Standard Data and Technology Advancement Act” or “Standard DATA Act,” H.R. 948, was introduced by Representative Tom Reed, a New York Republican, on March 5, 2013 with 9 bipartisan cosponsors. This bill would require that the Office of Management and Budget establish an interagency work group to designate nonproprietary data standards, such as XBRL, for any information reported under a number of health and human services programs (amends Social Security Act titles III, IV, IX, XII, XVI, subtitle A of title XX, and section 511). The AICPA supports these data transparency provisions of this bill.
Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act Enacted with XBRL Provision
The “Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act” was enacted on September 30, 2011. Sponsored by Congressmen Geoff Davis, a Kentucky Republican, and Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, and Senators Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, the primary purpose of the legislation is to extend child and family services programs. It calls for data standardization, and specifically requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget to work to establish non-proprietary data standards, such as XBRL, for reporting of information for improved data matching. This marked the first time provisions to require nonproprietary data standards, such as XBRL, were enacted in legislation.
Additional Legislation Incorporating Data Transparency Provisions
There have been numerous legislative proposals in the 111th and 112th Congresses that included provisions requiring federal agencies to use a non-proprietary data-reporting language such as XBRL. This trend indicates that there is growing support for making financial information more transparent. None of these initiatives passed both the House and Senate by the time Congress adjourned its second year session, so new bills would need to be introduced in order to initiate any new Congressional action.
Digital Accountability and Transparency Act
There were numerous legislative proposals in the 111th and 112th Congresses that included provisions requiring federal agencies to use a non-proprietary data-reporting language such as XBRL. The trend indicated growing support for making financial information more transparent. None of these initiatives passed both the House and Senate by the time Congress adjourned its second year session, so new bills had need to be introduced in order to initiate new Congressional action.
Standard DATA Act
The “Standard DATA Act,” H.R. 3339, was also put forth in the 112th Congress by Representative Geoff Davis, a Kentucky Republican, and Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat. Davis has since retired from the House, and Doggett remains an original cosponsor of the bill in the 113th Congress.
Also in the 112th Congress, 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). Each of these bills included a provision requiring the 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 stated, “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.”
In the 111th Congress there were numerous proposals calling for XBRL reporting. Among them were H.R. 2392, the “Government Information Transparency Act,” which passed in the House in 2009, and H.R. 6038, the “Financial Industry Transparency Act,” introduced by Congressman Issa. The provisions of H.R, 6038 were offered originally as amendments to H.R. 4173, which eventually became the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, but were later dropped. A third bill, S. 303, the “Federal Financial Assistant Management Improvement Act of 2009,” was introduced by Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Democrat. That bill passed in both chambers but in differing versions that were never reconciled.
Copy of Legislation
Copies of bills are available on the Library of Congress’s THOMAS website.
AICPA Letters and Issue Papers
December 2, 2014 Letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding it hearing, "Transforming Federal Spending: Implementing the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act"
November 18, 2013 Letter to House of Representatives re H.R. 2061
November 4, 2013 Letter to Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee re S. 994
May 22, 2013 Letter in Support of S. 994, the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013”
May 21, 2013 Letter in Support of H.R. 2061, the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013”
March 12, 2013 Letter in Support of Federal Government Data Transparency
December 18, 2012 Letter in Support of the Data Standards Provisions of S. 3600, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act"
September 20, 2011 AICPA Letter in Support of H.R. 2883, the "Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act"
September 20, 2011 AICPA Letter in Support of S. 1542, the "Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act"
AICPA Issue Paper Supporting H.R. 2146 and S. 1222: the "Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011"
June 20, 2011 AICPA Letter in Support of H.R. 2146, the "Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011"
September 17, 2010 AICPA Letter in Support of H.R. 6038, the "Financial Industry Transparency Act"
April 9, 2009 AICPA Comment Letter to the SEC on the Proposed Roadmap to U.S. Adoption of IFRS
AICPA Press Releases
January 15, 2010, AICPA Webcast to Guide Public Companies on Furnishing XBRL Data to SEC
December 17, 2009, U.S. SEC Releases Final Rule Mandating Companies to Report Financial Statements Using XBRL, Interactive Data Format
October 20, 2008, AICPA Hails New Framework by WICI for Enhanced Business Reporting
Diana Huntress Deem
Director, Congressional and Political Affairs